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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

What is the future of submersibles after Titan implosion?

July 5, 2023

#GalápagosDeep2023

March 31, 2023

A NERC and NSF-funded trip to study the biology, geology, and climate history of the Galápagos seafloor

Humans can dive deeper into the world’s oceans than ever before with Alvin

October 24, 2022

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

July 14, 2022

News Releases

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 San Francisco, CA. Upgrade Project Principal Investigator Susan Humphris, a WHOI geologist, will provide details of the improvements to the sub’s capabilities and its value to the U.S. scientific community.

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 community.

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 be used by the U.S. scientific community. The contract has an option for subsequent construction of the RHOV once the initial design is completed and the project is approved to move forward.

First-Ever Call from Alvin Submersible to International Space Station

January 24, 2007

Listen to the first call between ocean explorers and astronauts.

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