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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 2,500 researchers on more than 4,800 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 4,500 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, completed in 2013, 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.

Currently rated to 4,500m, which gives researchers in-person access to about 2/3 of the ocean floor, the most recent upgrade increased the depth rating of many of the vehicle’s systems, making it just steps away from having a depth rating of 6,500m, or approximately 98% of the seafloor.  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

Follow our deep-diving submersibles with new NDSF newsletter

June 3, 2021

Meet the Alvin 6500 Team: Drew Bewley

March 31, 2021

Alvin engineer and pilot Drew Bewley on what best prepared him to work on a one-of-a-kind submersible and the overhaul that will take Alvin to 6500 meters.

Meet the Alvin 6500 Team: Danik Forsman

January 21, 2021

Interview with Danik Forsman, Alvin Pilot and mechanical section leader on rebuilding Alvin for 6,500-meters and mentorships that helped him become a pilot.

ALVIN: Ocean Discovery at New Depths

January 20, 2021

Hear from a volcanologist, a marine biologist, and Alvin’s senior pilot about how the iconic sub enables scientific discovery in the far reaches of Earth’s ocean. Next on Ocean Encounters, Wed., April 28, 7:30 p.m. EDT

News Releases

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…

WHOI to be Featured in Upcoming BBC Program ‘Blue Planet Live’

March 20, 2019

Scientists, engineers, vehicle operators, and ship crew from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will be a featured part of the upcoming BBC program, Blue Planet Live, which will air over four nights beginning March 24. The series will include two live broadcasts from the research vessel Atlantis showing launch and recovery of the human-occupied submersible Alvin.

Alvin Submersible Makes 5,000th Dive

November 26, 2018

Alvin, the country’s only deep-diving research submersible capable of carrying humans to the sea floor, reached another milestone in its long career on Nov. 26, 2018, when the sub made its 5,000th dive during an expedition to the Guaymas Basin in the Gulf of California.

WHOI in the News

Alvin Pilot Is Guest Speaker For Supper Club Series

March 31, 2021

A Quick Dive Into How Submarines Work

March 17, 2021

Submarines can descend thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean, but to do so, they have to deal…

Quantum-enabled scanner will boost our understanding of brain function, doing research 6.5 km under the ocean’s surface

February 18, 2021

Soule talks to Physics World’s James Dacey about doing science in the Alvin submersible vehicle, which is currently be refurbished to…

The Oldest Crewed Deep Sea Submarine Just Got a Big Makeover

December 22, 2020

By the time Alvin’s makeover is wrapped up in late 2021, the storied submarine will rank among the most capable human-rated deep sea submersibles in the world.

Oceanus Magazine

While Oil Gently Seeps from the Seafloor

May 14, 2009

I investigate what happens to oil spilled into the ocean—with an eye toward finding better ways to “engineer” cleanups. But…

Building the Next-Generation Alvin Submersible

November 10, 2008

Three times geologist Adam Soule has climbed inside the deep-diving submersible Alvin and headed to the seafloor. Geochemist Susan Humphris…

The Spiral Secret to Mammal Hearing

September 17, 2008

Happy as a (Newly Discovered) Clam

April 10, 2008

Aboard a research ship in 1997, Janet Voight was amazed when she examined a small log that researchers just happened…

 

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