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Special equipment is required to visit these extreme depths, which is why less than 5% of this area has been explored and charted.
The deep-sea submersible Alvin has brought explorers to extraordinary places for more than 50 years. Now, as Alvin is poised to continue its revolutionary scientific work, a new set of upgrades will take it deeper than ever before. A coproduction with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Submarines can descend thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean, but to do so, they have to deal with an enormous amount of pressure. NPR caught up with WHOI’s Bruce Strickrott, Group Manager and Chief Pilot of the Deep Submergence Vehicle Alvin, who explains some of the fundamental engineering principles that allow submarines to dive so deep without imploding under the pressure, and shares updates on Alvin’s overhaul and future dives.
Human Occupied Vehicle (HOV) Alvin is part of the National Deep Submergence Facility (NDSF). Alvin is one of the most recognized deep submergence vessels in the world and the only one in the U.S. capable of carrying humans into extreme ocean depths. The sub has completed 5,065 successful dives, more than all other submersible programs worldwide combined. When Alvin relaunches next fall, the iconic sub will have the ability to dive to 6500 meters (21,325 feet)—almost 4 miles deep and 2,000 meters deeper than Alvin’s current maximum depth of 4500 meters (14,800 feet). The upgrade will also give the sub access to 99% of the ocean floor.
Soule talks to Physics World’s James Dacey about doing science in the Alvin submersible vehicle, which is currently be refurbished to allow it to reach the astonishing depth of 6.5 km.
Alvin has been ashore getting a major upgrade at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, which operates the submersible on behalf of the US Navy. By the time Alvin’s makeover is wrapped up in late 2021, the storied submarine will rank among the most capable human-rated deep sea submersibles in the world.
Increased depth range and the ability to explore 99% of the ocean floor, including the abyssal region—one of the least understood areas of the deep sea—are just some of the upgrades underway for the iconic human-occupied Vehicle (HOV) Alvin that were unveiled today at the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Fall Meeting 2020.
Mr. Dalio was thinking of buying the Alucia when a team of WHOI experts used the vessel and an undersea robot to find the shattered remains of Air France Flight 447, which in 2009 had vanished over the South Atlantic with 228 passengers. Other search teams had failed, and Mr. Dalio saw the 2011 success as an indication of the field’s exploratory promise.
Dr Virginia Edgcomb heads a laboratory at WHOI in the US. She spent three months on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean conducting research as part of a quest to find evidence of microbial life within the lower oceanic crust.