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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

Stay up-to-date with all things Alvin on the NDSF Blog

July 14, 2022

We interrupt this blog: A dive in Alvin a lifetime in the making

December 23, 2021

WHOI director of research communications, Ken Kostel, recounts his first dive in HOV Alvin

HOV Alvin temporarily halts engineering test dives

November 15, 2021

Test dives for Alvin’s 6500 meter certification have been postponed, a day after the sub reached a record 5338 meters (17,513 feet)

Deep sea submersible Alvin reveals mysteries hiding on the ocean floor

October 12, 2021

After an 18-month overhaul and upgrade, Seeker shares how HOV Alvin is almost ready for its deepest dive yet – to 6500 meters

News Releases

WHOI Scientists Contribute to Study on Impact to Coral Communities from Deepwater Horizon Spill

March 26, 2012

Six scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have contributed to a new report finding “compelling evidence” that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has impacted deep-sea coral communities in the…

Alvin Upgrade Project Featured at American Geophysical Union Meeting

December 15, 2010

The multi-million dollar upgrades to the storied deep-diving research submersible Alvin will be the focus of a press conference on December 15 at the 2010 American Geophysical Union meeting in…

Lockheed Martin Successfully Completes Preliminary Design Review for New Scientific Research Mini-Sub

January 7, 2008

Lockheed Martin recently completed a Preliminary Design Review for the Replacement Human Occupied Vehicle (RHOV), a next generation three-person Deep Submergence Vehicle that will be used by the U.S. scientific…

WHOI Awards Lockheed Martin $2.8 Million Contract to Design Submersible Replacement Human Occupied Vehicle

August 1, 2007

WHOI has awarded Lockheed Martin a $2.8 million contract for the initial design of the Replacement Human Occupied Vehicle (RHOV), a next generation three-person Deep Submergence Vehicle (DSV) that will…

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…

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