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HOV Alvin

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Alvin during its 2014 science verification cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. The submersible has safely transported over 3,000 researchers on more than 5,000 dives to depths of 14,764 feet (4,500 meters). (Photo by Chris Linder, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Human Occupied Vehicle (HOV) Alvin is part of the National Deep Submergence Facility (NDSF). Alvin enables in-situ data collection and observation by two scientists to depths reaching 6,500 meters, during dives lasting up to ten hours.

Commissioned in 1964 as one of the world’s first deep-ocean submersibles, Alvin has remained state-of-the-art as a result of numerous overhauls and upgrades made over its lifetime. The most recent upgrades, begun in 2011 and completed in 2021, saw the installation of a new, larger personnel sphere with a more ergonomic interior; improved visibility and overlapping fields of view; longer bottoms times; new lighting and high-definition imaging systems; improved sensors, data acquisition and download speed.  It also doubled the science basket payload, and improved the command-and-control system allowing greater speed, range and maneuverability.

With seven reversible thrusters, it can hover in the water, maneuver over rugged topography, or rest on the sea floor.  It can collect data throughout the water column, produce a variety of maps and perform photographic surveys.  Alvin also has two robotic arms that can manipulate instruments, obtain samples, and its basket can be reconfigured daily based on the needs of the upcoming dive.

Alvin's depth rating of 6,500m gives researchers in-person access to 99% of the ocean floor.  Alvin is a proven and reliable platform capable of diving for up to 30 days in a row before requiring a single scheduled maintenance day.  Recent collaborations with autonomous vehicles such as Sentry have proven extremely beneficial, allowing PIs to visit promising sites to collect samples and data in person within hours of their being discovered, and UNOLs driven technological advances have improved the ability for scientific outreach and collaboration via telepresence

Alvin is named for Allyn Vine, a WHOI engineer and geophysicist who helped pioneer deep submergence research and technology.

Recent News

Overhaul to take Alvin to greater extremes

July 7, 2020

The Human Occupied Vehicle (HOV) Alvin returned to Woods Hole, Mass. this spring for the final phase of an overhaul that will allow the submarine to dive to 6,500 meters.

Lessons on Small Space Living from a Submarine Pilot

May 13, 2020

After over 80 research trips and 380 deep-sea dives in submersible HOV Alvin, pilot Bruce Strickrott has learned a thing or two about living in confined spaces. Here are his tips on living a healthy life for all of us quarantined at home.

Alvin: Plunging into the final frontier

April 13, 2020

An $8 million upgrade to the submersible powerhouse Alvin will allow WHOI researchers nearly unprecedented access to some of the most inaccessible corners of the world’s deepest waters, helping us once again to remember what it means to be amazed.

The “sub” text of 45 years at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

October 30, 2019

Rick Chandler is a senior submersible engineer and administrator for the Alvin Group at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he’s worked for more than 45 years.

News Releases

Human-occupied submersible Alvin makes historic dive

July 21, 2022

World’s most successful research submersible reaches 6,453 meters, its deepest dive ever Woods Hole, MA – Today, the human-occupied submersible Alvin made history when it successfully reached a depth of 6,453 meters (nearly 4 miles) in the Puerto Rico Trench, north of San Juan, P.R. This is the deepest dive ever in the 58-year history…

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution co-produces Emmy award-winning program

February 3, 2022

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has been awarded an Emmy as a co-producer, along with South Florida PBS (WPBT & WXEL) for Changing Seas: “Alvin: Pioneer of the Deep” . The 2021 Suncoast Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Emmy Awards announced the honor in December, for the category “Environment/Science – Long…

WHOI reveals upgrades to iconic submersible Alvin

December 10, 2020

One of the world’s most prolific research submersibles will put 99% of the ocean floor within reach of science community when it relaunches in 2021

WHOI Scientists Make Woods Hole Film Festival Appearance

July 17, 2020

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists appear in two shorts and a feature film at this year’s Woods Hole Film Festival (WHFF). In addition, scientists will also participate in Q&A sessions connected to three of the festival’s feature-length, ocean-themed entries. The short films, “Divergent Warmth” and “Beyond the Gulf Stream” are part of a program…

WHOI in the News

The First U.S. Human-Operated Submersible Changed the Course of Oceanography Alvin was built by researchers at Woods Hole

December 21, 2021

Thanks to Alvin, scientists were able to study the effects of pressure on seafloor microbes and discovered hydrothermal vents that help regulate ocean chemistry and support ecosystems.

Exploring the Undiscovered Country: The Deep Ocean

August 23, 2021

Special equipment is required to visit these extreme depths, which is why less than 5% of this area has been explored and charted.

Alvin: Pioneer of the Deep

June 30, 2021

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.

Alvin Pilot Is Guest Speaker For Supper Club Series

March 31, 2021

Oceanus Magazine

Who is Alvin and what are sea trials?

July 12, 2022

If you like the deep sea and exploring for science, you’re going to love Alvin!

7 Places and Things Alvin Can Explore Now

May 17, 2022

With its new depth rating of 6500 meters (4 miles), WHOI’s human-occupied vehicle (HOV) Alvin is set to take scientists places they’ve never explored in person

The story of “Little Alvin” and the lost H-bomb

November 19, 2021

How the famed submersible found a lost hydrogen bomb in the Mediterranean Sea during the height of the Cold War

Meet the Alvin 6500 Team: Lisa Smith

October 21, 2021

Alvin Certification Coordinator Lisa Smith on working with Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to get HOV Alvin cleared for diving.

 

Duke University Stories

August 2017

Two Duke Scientists Go To Sea with Alvin

For two weeks last summer, a pair of marine scientists joined the venerated submarine to explore the ocean shelf off Massachusetts

Journal of Ocean Technology

May 2017

The Deep Submergence Vehicle Alvin

An Advanced Platform for Direct Deep Sea Observation and Research