Monday Afternoon: Virtual Diving at a Pre-Conference Conference

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The Alvin sub samples deep-sea tubeworms
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The Framegrabber site lets you accompany Alvin as the sub drops to the sea bottom and explores hydrothermal vents and other sights of the deep. (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The most frequent question I got from friends when I moved to Woods Hole was “When do you get to dive in Alvin?” I checked the schedule, but the prospects didn’t look good -- not for a non-scientist with no grant funding and no research objective.

Fortunately for the rest of us in the general public, you can go on a virtual Alvin dive on the Web. WHOI’s two “framegrabber” sites offer still images of the deep ocean taken by Alvin and by Jason, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that is connected to the ship by a cable, which conveys commands, power, and data. And it’s not just a few select images, either: the site lets you scroll through images and data recorded nearly continuously throughout each dive, including one on the Galápagos hydrothermal vents that featured lots of weird deep-sea life (click on dive no. 4120).

WHOI associate scientist Maurice Tivey (the outgoing chief scientist of the National Deep Submergence Facility) introduced the Framegrabber sites on Sunday at a meeting of the Deep Submergence Science Committee, a sort of pre-conference conference. A companion project, called Shipgrabber, gives immediate access to more than a dozen standard measurements - water temperature, salinity, etc. - that research vessels take while underway on a cruise.

Rounding out the Webcam opportunities for the moment, have a look at Alvin as the sub undergoes its once-every-four-years stripping and overhaul. Alvin is scheduled to be back in the water, in the Gulf of Mexico, by next April. Until then, check the Webcam to catch Alvin in various states of undress (right now, the sub is down to bare metal tubes).


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Last updated December 9, 2005
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