Currently Alvin is in San Francisco undergoing sea trials testing with the dry portions of that testing scheduled to be completed by the end of this week: Friday 9/20. Further sea trials testing cannot proceed until all relevant NAVSEA design reviews are complete. Currently, WHOI has received NAVSEA approval for the majority of system designs and documentation and NAVSEA review is also nearing completion on the life support system, operational manual, and maintenance manual. Final approval for these items was anticipated this week (week of 9/16), but with the recent tragic event at the Navy Yard delays may be experienced. We have been in contact with the majority of Alvin project related personnel and confirmed their safety and our sympathies go out to the NAVSEA community and all the families affected. Because we did not have those final approvals in place already, Alvin sea trials will now be continued in October-November following a forthcoming Jason & Sentry cruise scheduled aboard RV Atlantis with Dave Valentine (UCSB) as cruise PI.
Independent of the above issues which are impacting the timing of NAVSEA certification, the Alvin upgrade program has also experienced two material issues which are actively being resolved;
a) The Alvin lift tee was repaired after inspections revealed rejectable weld indications. These repairs and re-testing are now complete and the results are being evaluated by NAVSEA. NAVSEA approval of this repair is required prior to manned lifts of the submersible aboard RV Atlantis.
b) The other issue relates to window cracking/crazing experienced during recent pressure testing of a set of Alvin windows. The windows tested experienced non-critical cracking on the low pressure face. The window design is being evaluated to correct this issue. The currently installed windows were satisfactorily tested and show no signs of crazing or cracking. Technical evaluation of the windows by WHOI and NAVSEA has determined that the currently installed windows are acceptable for use through sea trials.
Following successful completion of all sea trials, the first Alvin activity after reinstatement of certification will be an NSF funded Science Verification Cruise.