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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 21,325 feet (6,500 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

The Oldest Crewed Deep Sea Submarine Just Got a Big Makeover

January 4, 2021

In an age of autonomous machines, the Deep Submergence team explains the enduring value of crewed submersibles

Meet the Alvin 6500 Team: Lane Abrams

December 22, 2020

Lane Abrams talks about designing electronics for the bottom of the ocean and project management of Alvin’s electrical updates for the 6500 meter overhaul.

Meet the Alvin 6500 Team: Francis Elder

December 16, 2020

An interview with Francis Elder, lead mechanical engineer for the Alvin Group. Find out how the team has designed a new pump to take Alvin to 6,500 meters.

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.

News Releases

New Study: Deep Sea Sensor Reveals That Corals Produce Reactive Oxygen Species

December 4, 2023

A new sensor on the submersible Alvin discovered reactive oxygen species for the first time in deep-sea corals, broadening our understanding of fundamental coral physiology 

 

Woods Hole, MA – Just like us, […]

Scientists Aboard R/V Atlantis Discover Deep-Sea Coral Reefs in the Galápagos

April 17, 2023

Observations using the newly upgraded human-occupied vehicle Alvin are the first of a deep-water coral reef in the Galápagos Marine Reserve.
The reefs are located at depths between 400-600 m, atop previously unmapped seamounts.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution honored with IEEE Milestone for Technical Innovation and Excellence

October 27, 2022

HOV Alvin recognized as one of world’s most important deep-sea scientific instruments

Human-occupied vehicle Alvin successfully completes science verification

August 23, 2022

After three weeks in the Puerto Rico trench and Mid Cayman Rise, Alvin is certified to return to research with its new max depth of ~4 miles

WHOI in the News

Oceanus Magazine

Robots to the Rescue

May 31, 2023

How the next generation of ocean robots will help solve the planet’s most pressing problems

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

 

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