DSV Alvin
Overview
 
Alvin is a manned deep-ocean research submersible
Submersible
A submersible is a small vehicle designed to operate underwater. The term submersible is often used to differentiate from other underwater vehicles known as submarines, in that a submarine is a fully autonomous craft, capable of renewing its own power and breathing air, whereas a submersible is...

 owned by the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, nonprofit research and higher education facility dedicated to the study of all aspects of marine science and engineering and to the education of marine researchers. Established in 1930, it is the largest independent oceanographic research...

 (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Woods Hole is a census-designated place in the town of Falmouth in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States. It lies at the extreme southwest corner of Cape Cod, near Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands...

. The vehicle was built by General Mills
General Mills
General Mills, Inc. is an American Fortune 500 corporation, primarily concerned with food products, which is headquartered in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. The company markets many well-known brands, such as Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Colombo, Totinos, Jeno's, Pillsbury, Green...

' Electronics Group in the same factory used to manufacture breakfast cereal-producing machinery in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis , nicknamed "City of Lakes" and the "Mill City," is the county seat of Hennepin County, the largest city in the U.S. state of Minnesota, and the 48th largest in the United States...

. Named to honor the prime mover and creative inspiration for the vehicle, Allyn Vine
Allyn Vine
Allyn C. Vine was a physicist and oceanographer who was a leader in developing manned submersible vessels to explore the deep sea.-Projects:...

, Alvin was commissioned on 5 June 1964. The submersible is launched from the deep submergence support vessel R/V Atlantis (AGOR-25)
R/V Atlantis (AGOR-25)
R/V Atlantis is an oceanographic research vessel operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as part of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System fleet. It is the host vessel of DSV Alvin...

, which is also owned by the U.S.
Encyclopedia
Alvin is a manned deep-ocean research submersible
Submersible
A submersible is a small vehicle designed to operate underwater. The term submersible is often used to differentiate from other underwater vehicles known as submarines, in that a submarine is a fully autonomous craft, capable of renewing its own power and breathing air, whereas a submersible is...

 owned by the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

 and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, nonprofit research and higher education facility dedicated to the study of all aspects of marine science and engineering and to the education of marine researchers. Established in 1930, it is the largest independent oceanographic research...

 (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Woods Hole is a census-designated place in the town of Falmouth in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States. It lies at the extreme southwest corner of Cape Cod, near Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands...

. The vehicle was built by General Mills
General Mills
General Mills, Inc. is an American Fortune 500 corporation, primarily concerned with food products, which is headquartered in Golden Valley, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. The company markets many well-known brands, such as Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Colombo, Totinos, Jeno's, Pillsbury, Green...

' Electronics Group in the same factory used to manufacture breakfast cereal-producing machinery in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis , nicknamed "City of Lakes" and the "Mill City," is the county seat of Hennepin County, the largest city in the U.S. state of Minnesota, and the 48th largest in the United States...

. Named to honor the prime mover and creative inspiration for the vehicle, Allyn Vine
Allyn Vine
Allyn C. Vine was a physicist and oceanographer who was a leader in developing manned submersible vessels to explore the deep sea.-Projects:...

, Alvin was commissioned on 5 June 1964. The submersible is launched from the deep submergence support vessel R/V Atlantis (AGOR-25)
R/V Atlantis (AGOR-25)
R/V Atlantis is an oceanographic research vessel operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as part of the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System fleet. It is the host vessel of DSV Alvin...

, which is also owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by WHOI. The submersible has made over 4,400 dives, carrying two scientists and a pilot, to observe the lifeforms that must cope with super-pressures and move about in total darkness. Research conducted by Alvin has been featured in nearly 2,000 scientific papers.

Alvin was designed as a replacement for bathyscaphe
Bathyscaphe
A bathyscaphe is a free-diving self-propelled deep-sea submersible, consisting of a crew cabin similar to a bathysphere, but suspended below a float rather than from a surface cable, as in the classic bathysphere design....

s and other less maneuverable oceanographic
Oceanography
Oceanography , also called oceanology or marine science, is the branch of Earth science that studies the ocean...

 vehicles. Its more nimble design was made possible in part by the development of syntactic foam
Syntactic foam
Syntactic foams are composite materials synthesized by filling a metal, polymer or ceramic matrix with hollow particles called microballoons, "syntactic" meaning "put together"...

, which is buoyant and yet strong enough to serve as a structural material at great depths. The vessel weighs 17 tons. It allows for two scientists and one pilot to dive for up to nine hours at 4500 metres (14,763.8 ft). The submersible features two robotic arms and can be fitted with mission-specific sampling and experimental gear. The hatch of the vessel is 0.48 metres (1.6 ft) in diameter and somewhat thicker than the 2 inches (5.1 cm) thick titanium sphere pressure hull, and held in place by the pressure of the water above it (it is tapered, narrower inward). As explained during its search of the Titanic, in an emergency if Alvin is stuck underwater with occupants inside, the outer body of Alvin is able to come apart and the titanium sphere would then rise to the surface uncontrolled. It is unknown however if one could survive the trip to the surface in this way.

Early career

Alvin, first of its class of Deep Submergence Vehicle
Deep Submergence Vehicle
A Deep Sea Submergence Vehicle is a deep diving manned submarine that is self-propelled. The term DSV is generally one used by the United States Navy, though several navies operate vehicles that can be accurately described as DSVs...

 (DSV), was built to dive to 2440 metres (8,005.2 ft). Each of the Alvin-class DSVs have different depth capabilities. However Alvin is the only one seconded to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , pronounced , like "noah", is a scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere...

 (NOAA), with the others staying with the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

.

Alvin's first deep sea tests took place off Andros Island, the Bahamas " where they made a successful 12-hour, unmanned tethered 7500 feet (2,286 m) test dive. Alvin now had two pilots, Rainnie and Marvin McCamis, and on July 20, 1965 they made their first 6000 feet (1,828.8 m) dive for the Navy to obtain certification."
On 17 March 1966, Alvin was used to locate a submerged 1.45-megaton hydrogen bomb lost in a United States Air Force
United States Air Force
The United States Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the American uniformed services. Initially part of the United States Army, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947 under the National Security Act of...

 midair accident over Palomares
Palomares, Almería
Palomares is an agricultural, fishing and tourist village on the Mediterranean Sea in the Almería province of Andalusia, Spain. It is about 20 meters above sea level...

, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. The bomb, found resting nearly 910 metres (2,985.6 ft) deep, was raised intact on 7 April. On July 6, 1967, the Alvin was attacked by a swordfish
Swordfish
Swordfish , also known as broadbill in some countries, are large, highly migratory, predatory fish characterized by a long, flat bill. They are a popular sport fish of the billfish category, though elusive. Swordfish are elongated, round-bodied, and lose all teeth and scales by adulthood...

 during dive 202. The swordfish became trapped in the Alvin's skin, and the Alvin was forced to make an emergency surface. The attack took place at 2000 feet (609.6 m) below the surface. The fish was recovered at the surface and cooked for dinner.

Sinking

The Alvin, aboard the Navy tender ship Lulu, was lost as it was being transported in October 1968. The Lulu, a vessel created from a pair of decommissioned US Navy pontoon boat
Pontoon (boat)
A pontoon is a flotation device with buoyancy sufficient to float itself as well as a heavy load. A pontoon boat is a flattish boat that relies on pontoons to float. Pontoons may be used on boats, rafts, barges, docks, floatplanes or seaplanes. Pontoons may support a platform, creating a raft. A...

s with a support structure added on, was lowering Alvin over the side when two steel cables snapped, while Alvin had three crewmembers aboard and the hatch open. Situated between the pontoons with no deck underneath, the Alvin hit the water and rapidly started to sink. The three crewmembers managed to escape, but Alvin flooded and sank in 1500 metres (4,921.3 ft) of water.

Severe weather prevented the recovery of Alvin throughout late 1968, but it was photographed on the bottom in June 1969 by a sled towed by USS Mizar. Alvin was found to be upright and appeared intact except for damage to the stern. It was decided to attempt recovery; although no object of Alvins size had ever been recovered from a depth of 5000 feet (1,524 m), recovery was "deemed to be within the state of the art". In August 1969, the Aluminaut
Aluminaut
Aluminaut was built in 1964 and was the world's first aluminum submarine. The 80-ton, 51 foot manned deep-ocean research submersible was built by Reynolds Metals Company, which was seeking to advertise the utility of aluminum...

, another DSV built by Reynolds Metals
Reynolds Metals
Reynolds Group Holdings is an American packaging company with its roots in the Reynolds Metals Company, was the second largest aluminum company in the United States, and the third largest in the world...

 Aluminum Company, descended to Alvin but had trouble attaching the required lines, and side effects from Hurricane Camille
Hurricane Camille
Hurricane Camille was the third and strongest tropical cyclone and second hurricane during the 1969 Atlantic hurricane season. The second of three catastrophic Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the United States during the 20th century , which it did near the mouth of the Mississippi River...

 were producing worsening weather, causing the team to return to Woods Hole to regroup. The second attempt started on August 27, and Aluminaut was able to secure a line and safety slings on the Alvin, and wrapped a prefabricated nylon net around its hull, allowing it to be hauled up by the Mizar. Alvin was towed, submerged at 40 feet (12.2 m), at a speed of 2 knots (3.9 km/h), back to Woods Hole.

Alvin was so intact that lunches left on board were soggy but edible. This incident led to a more comprehensive understanding that near-freezing temperatures and the lack of decaying bacteria or fungi at increased depths prevented biological decay. Researchers found a cheese sandwich which exhibited no visible signs of decomposition, and was in fact eaten. This event led researchers to examine decay at extreme environments (Smith et al. 1998) . The Alvin required a major overhaul after the incident.

Post-sinking career

In 1973, Alvin's pressure hull was replaced by a newer titanium pressure hull. The new hull extended the submersible's depth rating.

Black smokers

In 1977, during an expedition led by Robert Ballard
Robert Ballard
Robert Duane Ballard is a former United States Navy officer and a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island who is most noted for his work in underwater archaeology. He is most famous for the discoveries of the wrecks of the RMS Titanic in 1985, the battleship Bismarck in 1989,...

 and sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration , pronounced , like "noah", is a scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce focused on the conditions of the oceans and the atmosphere...

 (NOAA), Alvin discovered and documented the existence of black smokers around the Galapagos Islands
Galápagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, west of continental Ecuador, of which they are a part.The Galápagos Islands and its surrounding waters form an Ecuadorian province, a national park, and a...

. Existing at a depth of more than 2000 metres (6,561.7 ft), black smokers emit a strong flow of black, smoky water, superheated to over 400 °C (752 °F). Alvin was able to sample the water from a black smoker. Alvin discovered that the pH
PH
In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a pH close to 7.0 at . Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline...

 was roughly 2.8.

Exploration of RMS Titanic

Most famously, Alvin was involved in the exploration of the wreckage of RMS Titanic in 1986. Launched from her support ship R/V Atlantis II
RV Atlantis II
RV Atlantis II is a research vessel formerly operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The ship was used as the support vessel for the Alvin submersible for many years, and retired from Woods Hole service in 2008.- External links :* * *...

, she carried Dr. Robert Ballard
Robert Ballard
Robert Duane Ballard is a former United States Navy officer and a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island who is most noted for his work in underwater archaeology. He is most famous for the discoveries of the wrecks of the RMS Titanic in 1985, the battleship Bismarck in 1989,...

 and two companions to the wreckage of the great liner. RMS Titanic sank in 1912 after striking an iceberg
Iceberg
An iceberg is a large piece of ice from freshwater that has broken off from a snow-formed glacier or ice shelf and is floating in open water. It may subsequently become frozen into pack ice...

 while crossing the North Atlantic Ocean on her maiden voyage
Maiden voyage
The maiden voyage of a ship, aircraft or other craft is the first journey made by the craft after shakedown. A number of traditions and superstitions are associated with it....

.

Alvin, accompanied by a small remotely operated vehicle
Remotely operated vehicle
A remotely operated vehicle is a tethered underwater vehicle. They are common in deepwater industries such as offshore hydrocarbon extraction. An ROV may sometimes be called a remotely operated underwater vehicle to distinguish it from remote control vehicles operating on land or in the air. ROVs...

 (ROV) named Jason Jr., was able to conduct detailed photographic surveys and inspections of the Titanic's wreckage. Many of the photographs of the expedition have been published in the magazine of the National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society , headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical...

 which was a major sponsor of the expedition.

Of note, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute team involved in the Titanic expedition also managed to locate the wreck of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)
USS Scorpion (SSN-589)
USS Scorpion was a Skipjack-class nuclear submarine of the United States Navy, and the sixth ship of the U.S. Navy to carry that name. Scorpion was declared lost on 5 June 1968 with 99 crew members dying in the incident. The USS Scorpion is one of two nuclear submarines the U.S...

, a nuclear armed Skipjack class submarine which sank off the coast of the Azores in 1968. The Alvin was able to obtain photographic and other environmental monitoring data from the remains of the Scorpion.

Recent overhauls

Over the years, the Alvin has undergone many overhauls to improve its equipment and extend its lifetime. In 2001, among other equipment, motor controllers and computer systems were added. The current Alvin is the same as the original vessel in name and general design only. All components of the vessel including the frame and personnel sphere have been replaced at least once. Alvin is completely disassembled every three to five years for a complete inspection. A new robotic arm was added in 2006.

Current work

In June 2008 construction started on a stronger and slightly larger personnel sphere which may be used to upgrade Alvin (for use from 2011), before being used in an entirely new vehicle. The new sphere, forged out of 15.5 tonnes of titanium, has five view ports (instead of the current three) and is designed for depths of over 6000 metres (19,685 ft) (Alvin's constructed depth limit was 4500 metres (14,763.8 ft)). This, along with a general upgrade of support systems, instruments and materials, will allow Alvin to reach 98% of the ocean floor. After one last dive to assess damage to the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

's seafloor after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Alvin will be refitted starting January 2011, with an expected return to the ocean in 2012 and full depth potential achieved in 2015.

A possible replacement

On 6 August 2004, the National Science Foundation
National Science Foundation
The National Science Foundation is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health...

 announced the creation of a new Human Occupied Vehicle (HOV) to replace the aging Alvin. The new vehicle is being designed to dive deeper, up to 6500 metres (21,325.5 ft) as opposed to Alvin's 4500 metres (14,763.8 ft) and use new scientific equipment. The personnel sphere will be larger and it is expected that the battery capacity will be greatly increased enabling longer bottom times. The new deep sea submarine is in the preliminary manufacturing phases and is expected to be completed as early as the end of 2011. Some components of the current Alvin are anticipated to be used in the new Alvin replacement vehicle. Due to export laws, the vehicle cannot be sold to parties outside of the United States. The fate of the Alvin when this new submersible arrives is unknown, but due to the limited market for sale and stripping of components for use on the new vehicle, it will likely be placed in a museum.

Contrary to a BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 article published in October 2004, the Alvin has not yet been retired from service.

Operation

Alvin uses four 208 pounds (94.3 kg) steel weights (~1.7 cubic feet of steel) to provide negative buoyancy for the trip to the ocean floor. Alvin contains a ballast and trim system, but the steel weights allow deep dives to be achieved more rapidly. These weights are jettisoned on each dive and left at the bottom.

See also

  • Black smoker
  • hydrothermal vent
    Hydrothermal vent
    A hydrothermal vent is a fissure in a planet's surface from which geothermally heated water issues. Hydrothermal vents are commonly found near volcanically active places, areas where tectonic plates are moving apart, ocean basins, and hotspots. Hydrothermal vents exist because the earth is both...

  • Deep submergence vehicle
    Deep Submergence Vehicle
    A Deep Sea Submergence Vehicle is a deep diving manned submarine that is self-propelled. The term DSV is generally one used by the United States Navy, though several navies operate vehicles that can be accurately described as DSVs...

  • Oceanic ridge

Alvin class DSV

  • Alvin (DSV-2)
  • Turtle (DSV-3)
  • Sea Cliff (DSV-4)
  • Nemo (DSV-5)

Other deep submergence vehicles

  • Aluminaut
    Aluminaut
    Aluminaut was built in 1964 and was the world's first aluminum submarine. The 80-ton, 51 foot manned deep-ocean research submersible was built by Reynolds Metals Company, which was seeking to advertise the utility of aluminum...

  • Avalon (DSRV)
  • Trieste
    Bathyscaphe Trieste
    The Trieste is a Swiss-designed, Italian-built deep-diving research bathyscaphe with a crew of two, which reached a record maximum depth of about , in the deepest known part of the Earth's oceans, the Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench near Guam, on January 23, 1960, crewed by Jacques Piccard ...

  • Trieste II
    Bathyscaphe Trieste II
    Trieste II ' was the successor to Trieste — the United States Navy's first bathyscaphe purchased from its Swiss designers. The original Trieste design was heavily modified by the Naval Electronics Laboratory in San Diego, California and built at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard...

  • DSRV-1 Mystic
    DSRV-1 Mystic
    DSRV-1 Mystic is a Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle that is rated to dive up to 1500 metres. DSRV1 was built by Lockheed for the U.S. Navy and launched 24 January 1970....

  • NR-1
  • MIR 1 and MIR 2
    MIR (submersible)
    Mir is a self-propelled Deep Submergence Vehicle. The project was initially developed by the USSR Academy of Sciences along with Design Bureau Lazurith. Later two vehicles were ordered from Finland...

  • Nautile
    Nautile
    The Nautile is a manned submersible owned by Ifremer, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea. Commissioned in 1984, the submersible can be operated at depths of up to ....

  • Pisces class DSV
    Pisces class DSV
    Pisces class submersibles are three person research deep-submergence vehicles designed and built by Hyco International Hydrodynamics of North Vancouver in British Columbia with a maximum operating depth of 2,000 m . The vehicles have multiple view ports, sample collecting, environmental sensing,...

  • Sea Pole class bathyscaphe
    Sea Pole class bathyscaphe
    The Sea Pole class bathyscaphe is a class of little known bathyscaphe of the People's Republic of China , capable of diving up to 7,000 metres, covering 99.8% of the oceanic floor of the world...

  • Dragon class bathyscaphe
  • Harmony class bathyscaphe
  • Shinkai 6500 and Shinkai 2500

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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