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.
Test dives for Alvin’s 6500 meter certification have been postponed, a day after the sub reached a record 5338 meters (17,513 feet)
After an 18-month overhaul and upgrade, Seeker shares how HOV Alvin is almost ready for its deepest dive yet – to 6500 meters
In 2002, researchers diving in the submersible Alvin returned to the Galápagos Rift, a mid-ocean ridge about 250 miles from the Galápagos Islands in the eastern Pacific Ocean where hydrothermal vents and exotic organisms were first found in 1977. They discovered that seafloor lava had paved over a hydrothermal vent site called Rose Garden, named…
Arlington, VA –After 40 years of scientific research that led to the discovery of new life forms, helped confirm the theory of plate tectonics, and enthralled schoolchildren around the world with seafloor images and video, the research submersible Alvin will be replaced by a new, deeper-diving vehicle. The National Science Foundation (NSF) will provide funding…
WHOI in the News
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.
Special equipment is required to visit these extreme depths, which is why less than 5% of this area has been explored and charted.
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.
Duke University Stories
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
An Advanced Platform for Direct Deep Sea Observation and Research
Dive Deeper: Alvin Takes You There
Explore the sub, meet the scientists, and learn how Alvinenables ocean exploration and research
Special Multimedia Feature
Inside the Alvin sphere
Take a 360 tour inside the sphere where researchers and the Alvin pilot sit while exploring the deep sea.
Alvin Around the World
Alvin Dive Sites (1988 to present)
See where Alvin has been and what it has found. (Requires Google Earth)