DSV Alvin

Alvin (DSV-2) is a manned deep-ocean research submersible owned by the United States Navy and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The vehicle was built by General Mills' Electronics Group[2] in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Named to honor the prime mover and creative inspiration for the vehicle, Allyn Vine, Alvin was commissioned on 5 June 1964. The submersible is launched from the deep submergence support vessel RV Atlantis (AGOR-25), which is also owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by WHOI. The submersible has made more than 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, as well as exploring the wreck of Titanic. Research conducted by Alvin has been featured in nearly 2,000 scientific papers.

Alvin in 1978, a year after first exploring hydrothermal vents. The rack hanging at the bow holds sample containers.
Alvin in 1978, a year after first exploring hydrothermal vents. The rack hanging at the bow holds sample containers.
United States
Name: Alvin
Namesake: Allyn Vine
Operator: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Builder: Litton Systems
Acquired: 26 May 1964
In service: 5 June 1964
Status: in active service, as of 2018
General characteristics [1]
Type: Deep-submergence vehicle
Tonnage: 17 t (17 long tons)
Length: 7.1 m (23 ft 4 in)
Beam: 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in)
Height: 3.7 m (12 ft 2 in)
Draft: 2.3 m (7 ft 7 in)
Speed: 2 knots (3.7 km/h; 2.3 mph)
Range: 5 km (3.1 mi)
Endurance: 72 hours with 3 crew
Test depth: 6,500 m (21,300 ft)
Capacity: 680 kg (1,500 lb) payload
Crew: 3 (1 pilot, 2 scientific observers)


Alvin (DSV-2) drawing3
Emergency separation
Alvin (DSV-2) drawing2
General layout

Alvin was designed as a replacement for bathyscaphes and other less maneuverable oceanographic vehicles. Its more nimble design was made possible in part by the development of syntactic foam, 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 4,500 meters (14,800 ft). The submersible features two robotic arms and can be fitted with mission-specific sampling and experimental gear. The plug hatch of the vessel is 0.48 m (1 ft 7 in) in diameter and somewhat thicker than the 2-inch (51 mm) thick titanium sphere pressure hull;[1] it is held in place by the pressure of the water above it.

In an emergency, if Alvin were stuck underwater with occupants inside, the outer body, or cladding, of the submersible could be released and discarded using controls inside the hull. The titanium sphere would then rise to the surface uncontrolled.

Harold E. Froehlich was one of the principal designers of Alvin.[3]


Early career

Alvin, first of its ship class of deep submergence vehicle (DSV), was built to dive to 2,440 meters (8,010 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 (NOAA), with the others staying with the United States Navy.

Alvin's first deep sea tests took place off Andros Island, the Bahamas, where it made a successful 12-hour, unmanned tethered 7,500-foot (2,300 m) test dive. On 20 July 1965 Alvin made its first 6,000-foot (1,800 m) manned dive for the Navy to obtain certification.[2] On 17 March 1966, Alvin was used to locate a submerged 1.45-megaton hydrogen bomb lost in a United States Air Force midair accident over Palomares, Spain. The bomb, found resting nearly 910 m (2,990 ft) deep, was raised intact on 7 April. On 6 July 1967, the Alvin was attacked by a swordfish 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 2,000 feet (610 m) below the surface. The fish was recovered at the surface and cooked for dinner.[2] During Dive 209, on 24 September 1968 Alvin found an F6F Hellcat, #42782, 125 miles southeast of Nantucket.[4] The aircraft had ditched 30 September 1944 during carrier qualifications; the pilot survived.[2]


Alvin after sinking
The sunken Alvin on the ocean bottom in June 1969, photographed by USNS Mizar (T-AGOR-11).

Alvin, aboard the Navy tender ship Lulu, was lost as it was being transported on 16 October 1968. Lulu, a vessel created from a pair of decommissioned U.S. Navy pontoon boats with a support structure added on, was lowering Alvin over the side when two steel cables snapped. There were three crew members aboard Alvin at the time, and the hatch was open. Situated between the pontoons with no deck underneath, Alvin hit the water and rapidly began to sink. The three crew members managed to escape, but Alvin flooded and sank in 1,500 m (4,900 ft) of water in the Atlantic Ocean at approximately 39°53′30″N 069°15′30″W / 39.89167°N 69.25833°W, about 88 nautical miles (101 miles; 163 km) south of Nantucket Island.[5]

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 Alvin's size had ever been recovered from a depth of 5,000 feet (1,500 m), recovery was "deemed to be within the state of the art". In August 1969, the Aluminaut, a DSV built by Reynolds Metals Company, descended to Alvin but had trouble attaching the required lines, and side effects from Hurricane Camille 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 Alvin, and wrapped a prefabricated nylon net around its hull, allowing it to be hauled up by Mizar. Alvin was towed, submerged at 40 feet (12 m), at a speed of 2 knots (3.7 km/h), back to Woods Hole.[5]

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.

Mid-Atlantic Ridge

With a new stronger pressure hull Alvin could now reach the floor of the rift valley of this seafloor spreading center. In the summer of 1974 American and French scientists joined in Project FAMOUS to explore the creation of new sea floor at this spreading center.[6][7] The French provided submersibles Archimède and CYANA. A total of forty-four dives were completed that succeeded in defining the crustal accretion zone[8] in the floor of the rift valley.[9]

Hydrothermal vents

Marine geologists using Alvin in the Pacific Ocean discovered deep-sea hydrothermal vents and associated biologic communities during two expeditions to ocean spreading centers. In 1977 scientists in Alvin discovered low temperature (~20° C) vents on the Galapagos spreading center east of those same islands.[10] During the RISE expedition in 1979 scientists using Alvin discovered high temperature vents (380° C) popularly known as ‘black smokers’ on the crest of the East Pacific Rise at 21° N.[11] These discoveries revealed deep-sea ecosystems that exist without sunlight and are based on chemosynthesis.[10]

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 RV Atlantis II, she carried Dr. Robert Ballard and two companions to the wreckage of the great liner. Titanic sank in 1912 after striking an iceberg while crossing the North Atlantic Ocean on her maiden voyage.

Alvin, accompanied by a small remotely operated vehicle (ROV) named Jason Jr., was able to conduct detailed photographic surveys and inspections of Titanic's wreckage. Many of the photographs of the expedition have been published in the magazine of the National Geographic Society which was a major sponsor of the expedition.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution team involved in the Titanic expedition also explored the wreck of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589), a Skipjack-class submarine armed with nuclear torpedoes, which sank off the coast of the Azores in 1968 in uncertain circumstances. Alvin obtained photographic and other environmental monitoring data from the remains of Scorpion.

Recent overhauls

Alvin (DSV-2) gets refitted with new personal sphere
Alvin during refit of the personnel sphere

Over the years, 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.[12] 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.[13] The new sphere was designed, and then forged, from solid titanium ingots, in two equal halves, at Ladish Forge, Cudahy, Wisconsin, and then the 15.5 tonnes of titanium was machined and assembled, utilizing five view ports (instead of the current three) and is designed for depths of over 6,000 m (20,000 ft), where Alvin's constructed depth limit was 4,500 m (14,800 ft).[14] This, along with a general upgrade of support systems, instruments and materials, will allow Alvin to reach 98% of the ocean floor.[15] After one last dive to assess damage to the Gulf of Mexico's seafloor after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Alvin was refitted starting January 2011, with an expected return to the ocean in 2012 and full depth potential achieved in 2014.[16]

2014 overhaul

In early 2014, an extensively refitted Alvin started verification testing in the Gulf of Mexico. Featuring new cameras, lighting, and a larger titanium personnel sphere, this new Alvin is the result of a three-and-a-half year effort to bring the sub to new depths.[17] In March and April 2014, Alvin was used to explore the site of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.[18]



Alvin uses four 208-pound (94 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.[19][20]

ALVIN Panorama
The DSV Alvin on the fantail (stern) of the R/V Atlantis following a dive. On the right side of the photograph the A-frame crane can be seen that lowers Alvin into the water and on the left, Alvin's hangar.

See also

Alvin-class DSV

Other deep submergence vehicles


  1. ^ a b "Alvin Specifications". Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 2012. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "History of Alvin". Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 1 December 2005. Retrieved 11 November 2017.
  3. ^ Pearce, Jeremy (26 May 2007). "Harold Froehlich, 84, Dies; Designed Deep-Sea Minisub". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  4. ^ "F6F 42782 - Luftwaffe and Allied Air Forces Discussion Forum". forum.12oclockhigh.net. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  5. ^ a b Anonymous, SALVOPS 69, Washington, D.C.:Department of the Navy Naval Ship Systes Command, 1969, pp. 1–18. Archived 24 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Heirtzler, J. R.; Van Andel, Tjeerd H. (1 April 1977). "Project FAMOUS: Its origin, programs, and setting". GSA Bulletin. 88 (4): 481–487. doi:10.1130/0016-7606(1977)882.0.CO;2. ISSN 0016-7606.
  7. ^ Heirtzler, James R.; Le Pichon, Xavier (1 June 1974). "FAMOUS: A Plate Tectonics Study of the Genesis of the Lithosphere". Geology. 2 (6): 273–274. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(1974)22.0.CO;2. ISSN 0091-7613.
  8. ^ Luyendyk, Ken C.; Macdonald, Ken C. Bruce P. (1 June 1976). "Spreading center terms and concepts". Geology. 4 (6): 369–370. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(1976)42.0.CO;2. ISSN 0091-7613.
  9. ^ Moore, James G.; Fleming, Henry S.; Phillips, Joseph D. (1 September 1974). "Preliminary Model for Extrusion and Rifting at the Axis of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 36°48′ North". Geology. 2 (9): 437–440. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(1974)22.0.CO;2. ISSN 0091-7613.
  10. ^ a b Corliss, John B.; Dymond, Jack; Gordon, Louis I.; Edmond, John M.; von Herzen, Richard P.; Ballard, Robert D.; Green, Kenneth; Williams, David; Bainbridge, Arnold (16 March 1979). "Submarine Thermal Springs on the Galápagos Rift". Science. 203 (4385): 1073–1083. doi:10.1126/science.203.4385.1073. ISSN 0036-8075.
  11. ^ Spiess, F. N.; Macdonald, K. C.; Atwater, T.; Ballard, R.; Carranza, A.; Cordoba, D.; Cox, C.; Garcia, V. M. D.; Francheteau, J. (28 March 1980). "East Pacific Rise: Hot Springs and Geophysical Experiments". Science. 207 (4438): 1421–1433. doi:10.1126/science.207.4438.1421. ISSN 0036-8075.
  12. ^ "Human Occupied Vehicle Alvin". Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 2012. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  13. ^ Broad, William J. (26 August 2008). "Forging a new sphere". The New York Times. p. F1.
  14. ^ Borel, Brooke, "Alvin Redux", Popular Science, March 2013
  15. ^ Hsu, Jeremy (16 December 2010). "Upgraded Sub Could Reach 98 Percent of Ocean Deep". OurAmazingPlanet.com. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  16. ^ Amos, Jonathan (16 December 2010). "Ocean science giant Alvin set for upgrade". BBC News. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  17. ^ Lippsett, Lonny (13 March 2014). "Not Your Grandfather's Cadillac". Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
  18. ^ Juhasz, Antonia (1 April 2014), "The Deepwater Horizon Spill, Four Years On", Harper's
  19. ^ deGruy, Mike (18 November 1999). "Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center – Expedition Log". marinetech.org. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  20. ^ Nevala, Amy E. (3 August 2005). "Alvin's Pilots". Oceanus. Retrieved 5 August 2012.


External links


Aluminaut (built in 1964) was the world's first aluminium submarine. An experimental vessel, the 80-ton, 15.5-metre (51 ft) manned deep-ocean research submersible was built by Reynolds Metals Company, which was seeking to promote the utility of aluminium. Aluminaut was based in Miami, Florida, and was operated from 1964 to 1970 by Reynolds Submarine Services, doing contract work for the U.S. Navy and other organizations, including marine biologist Jacques Cousteau.

Aluminaut is best known for helping recover a lost unarmed U.S. atomic bomb in 1966 and recovering its smaller fellow deep-submergence vehicle, DSV Alvin in 1969, after Alvin had been lost and sank in the Atlantic Ocean the previous year. After retirement, Aluminaut was donated to the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, where it is on permanent display.


Alvin may refer to:

Alvin (given name)In places:

Alvin, British Columbia, Canada

Alvin, Colorado

Alvin, Georgia

Alvin, Illinois

Alvin, Michigan

Alvin, Texas

Alvin, Wisconsin, a town

Alvin (community), Wisconsin, an unincorporated communityIn other uses:

Alvin (crater), a crater on Mars

Alvin (digital cultural heritage platform), a Swedish platform for digitised cultural heritage

Alvin (horse), a Canadian Standardbred racehorse

13677 Alvin, an asteroid

DSV Alvin, a deep-submergence vehicle

Alvin, a fictional planet on ALF (TV series)

Alvin Seville, of the fictional animated characters Alvin and the Chipmunks

"Alvin", by James from the album Girl at the End of the World

Tropical Storm Alvin


The Alvinellidae are a family of small, deep-sea polychaete worms endemic to hydrothermal vents in the Pacific Ocean. Belonging to the order Terebellida, the family contains two genera, Alvinella and Paralvinella; the former genus contains two valid species and the latter eight. Members of the family are termed alvinellids.

The family was first described in 1979 after discoveries made off the Galápagos Islands by the crew of the DSV Alvin. The ship subsequently lent its name to the family and genera within it.

The worms build mucus tubes and extend red feathery gills. Members of the Alvinellidae are noted for their exceptional heat tolerance: one species, the Pompeii worm (Alvinella pompejana), is thought to be the most heat-tolerant complex organism on Earth. Mitochondria start to break down at temperatures of 122–131 °F (50–55 °C), apparently providing an upper limit for eukaryotes. Under laboratory conditions, in a pressurized aquarium with a heat gradient, worms of the species Paralvinella sulfincola, chose water heated to 122 °F (50 °C) and made brief forays into water as hot as 131 °F (55 °C). Unlike other (chemosynthetic) vent-dwelling worms, alvinellid worms possess a digestive tract. However, they do rely on an episymbiotic relationship with thermophilic bacteria; hair-like growths of the bacteria living on the worm's back are thought to offer thermal protection to the worm.


Alvinocarididae is a family of shrimp, originally described by M. L. Christoffersen in 1986 from samples collected by DSV Alvin, from which they derive their name. Shrimp of the family Alvinocarididae generally inhabit deep sea hydrothermal vent regions, and hydrocarbon cold seep environments. Carotenoid pigment has been found in their bodies. The family Alvinocarididae comprises 7 extant genera.


The bathyscaphe Archimède is a deep diving research submersible of the French Navy. It used 42,000 US gallons (160,000 l) of hexane as the gasoline buoyancy of its float. It was designed by Pierre Willm and Georges Houot. In 1964, Archimède descended into "what was then thought to be the deepest part of the Puerto Rico Trench", which the NY Times reported as 27,500 feet (8,400 m). On 21 December 2018, a dive by Victor Vescovo in the DSV Limiting Factor found the "true bottom" of the Atlantic Ocean to be 27,480 feet (8,380 m), in the first manned descent to the deepest "verified bottom" of the Atlantic Ocean.

Archimède was christened on 27 July 1961, at the French Navy base of Toulon. It was designed to go beyond 30,000 yards (27,000 m), and displaced 61 tons. In October 1961, Archimède passed its first dive tests, diving to 5,000 feet (1,500 m) unmanned. On 27 November 1961, Archimède achieved a speed of 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph), over a distance of 4.5 miles (7.2 km) at a depth of 7,870 feet (2,400 m) in the Mediterranean Sea.On 23 May 1962, Archimède descended to 15,744 feet (4,799 m) off Honshu, Japan, in the Pacific, at the Japan Deep. On 15 July 1962, Archimède descended to 31,350 feet (9,560 m) into the Kurile-Kamchatcha Trench, making it the second deepest dive ever, at that point in time, second only to the Bathyscaphe Trieste dive on the Challenger Deep. On 12 August 1962, Archimède descended to 30,511 feet (9,300 m) in the Japan Deep south of Tokyo.Archimède explored the Mid-Atlantic Ridge jointly with the submarine Cyana and submersible DSV Alvin, in Project FAMOUS (French-American Mid-Ocean Undersea Study) in 1974.Archimède operated until the 1970s. As of 2008, it is on operational reserve, at Toulon. Archimède was honoured with a stamp in Palau.

Axial Seamount

Axial Seamount (also Coaxial Seamount or Axial Volcano) is a seamount and submarine volcano located on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, approximately 480 km (298 mi) west of Cannon Beach, Oregon. Standing 1,100 m (3,609 ft) high, Axial Seamount is the youngest volcano and current eruptive center of the Cobb–Eickelberg Seamount chain. Located at the center of both a geological hotspot and a mid-ocean ridge, the seamount is geologically complex, and its origins are still poorly understood. Axial Seamount is set on a long, low-lying plateau, with two large rift zones trending 50 km (31 mi) to the northeast and southwest of its center. The volcano features an unusual rectangular caldera, and its flanks are pockmarked by fissures, vents, sheet flows, and pit craters up to 100 m (328 ft) deep; its geology is further complicated by its intersection with several smaller seamounts surrounding it.

Axial Seamount was first detected in the 1970s by satellite altimetry, and mapped and explored by Pisces IV, DSV Alvin, and others through the 1980s. A large package of sensors was dropped on the seamount through 1992, and the New Millennium Observatory was established on its flanks in 1996. Axial Seamount received significant scientific attention following the seismic detection of a submarine eruption at the volcano in January 1998, the first time a submarine eruption had been detected and followed in situ. Subsequent cruises and analysis showed that the volcano had generated lava flows up to 13 m (43 ft) thick, and the total eruptive volume was found to be 18,000–76,000 km3 (4,300–18,200 cu mi). Axial Seamount erupted again in April 2011, producing a mile-wide lava flow. There was another eruption in 2015.

Bathymodiolus thermophilus

Bathymodiolus thermophilus is a species of large, deep water mussel, a marine bivalve mollusc in the family Mytilidae, the true mussels. The species was discovered at abyssal depths when submersible vehicles such as DSV Alvin began exploring the deep ocean. It occurs on the sea bed, often in great numbers, close to hydrothermal vents where hot, sulphur-rich water wells up through the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

Biremis blandi

Biremis blandi is a species of marine polychaete worm and the only species in the genus Biremis. It was first described by Polloni, Rowe, and Teal in 1973. The species was discovered in 1971 during a dive by the research submersible DSV Alvin at 635 m (2,083 ft) in the Tongue of the Ocean in the Bahamas. It is named for Alvin pilot Edward L. Bland, Jr., who first observed it.Biremis blandi is described as a terebellid worm with an enlarged tentacular lobe with numerous long tentacles, prominent longitudinal muscular ventral ridges, thoracic segments lacking chaetae, and abdominal segments with pinnules bearing uncini. The worm lacks eyes and gills. It has been observed swimming and resting on the ocean floor.


Bisquick is a pre-mixed baking mix sold by General Mills under its Betty Crocker brand, consisting of flour, shortening, salt, and baking powder (a leavening agent).

Deep-sea exploration

Deep-sea exploration is the investigation of physical, chemical, and biological conditions on the sea bed, for scientific or commercial purposes. Deep-sea exploration is considered a relatively recent human activity compared to the other areas of geophysical research, as the depths of the sea have been investigated only during comparatively recent years. The ocean depths still remain a largely unexplored part of the planet, and form a relatively undiscovered domain.

In general, modern scientific Deep-sea exploration can be said to have begun when French scientist Pierre Simon de Laplace investigated the average depth of the Atlantic ocean by observing tidal motions registered on Brazilian and African coasts. He calculated the depth to be 3,962 metres (12,999 ft), a value later proven quite accurate by soundings measurement. Later on, with increasing demand for submarine cables installment, accurate soundings was required and the first investigations of the sea bottom were undertaken. The first deep-sea life forms were discovered in 1864 when Norwegian researchers obtained a sample of a stalked crinoid at a depth of 3,109 m (10,200 ft). The British Government sent out the Challenger expedition (a ship called HMS Challenger) in 1872 which discovered 715 new genera and 4,417 new species of marine organisms over the space of four years.The first instrument used for deep-sea investigation was the sounding weight, used by British explorer Sir James Clark Ross. With this instrument, he reached a depth of 3,700 m (12,139 ft) in 1840. The Challenger expedition used similar instruments called Baillie sounding machines to extract samples from the sea bed.In 1960, Jacques Piccard and United States Navy Lieutenant Donald Walsh descended in the bathyscaphe Trieste into the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world's oceans, to make the deepest dive in history: 10,915 m (35,810 ft). On 25 March 2012, filmmaker James Cameron descended into the Mariana Trench and, for the first time, is expected to have filmed and sampled the bottom.Navy Lieutenant Matthew Maury to aid installation of the first trans-continent telegraph cables in 1858, and a few examples of deep marine creatures.From 1872 to 1876, a landmark ocean study was carried out by British scientists aboard HMS Challenger, a sailing vessel that was redesigned into a laboratory ship. The Challenger expedition covered 127,653 kilometres (68,927 nmi), and shipboard scientists collected hundreds of samples, hydrographic measurements, and specimens of marine life. They are also credited with providing the first real view of major seafloor features such as the deep ocean basins. They discovered more than 4,700 new species of marine life, including deep-sea organisms.Deep-sea exploration advanced considerably in the 1900s thanks to a series of technological inventions, ranging from sonar system to detect the presence of objects underwater through the use of sound to manned deep-diving submersibles such as DSV Alvin. Operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Alvin is designed to carry a crew of three people to depths of 4,000 m (13,123 ft). The submarine is equipped with lights, cameras, computers, and highly maneuverable robotic arms for collecting samples in the darkness of the ocean's depths.However, the voyage to the ocean bottom is still a challenging experience. Scientists are working to find ways to study this extreme environment from the shipboard. With more sophisticated use of fiber optics, satellites, and remote-control robots, scientists one day may explore the deep sea from a computer screen on the deck rather than out of a porthole.

Denson Seamount

Denson Seamount is a submarine volcano in the Kodiak-Bowie Seamount chain, with an estimated age of 18 million years. It lies at the southern end of the chain near the Canada–United States border. It was one of the underground volcanic extrusions investigated by the 2004 Gulf of Alaska Seamount Expedition. The expedition's goal was:

"Our goal was to gain an understanding of the geologic histories of the five previously unexplored seamounts in the Gulf of Alaska. To achieve this we created a full-coverage swath bathymetry map of each seamount and its surroundings, and we collected rock samples at all possible depths." -Randy Keller, Oregon State University

On August 6, 2004, the DSV Alvin dropped down near the Denson Seamount and collected basaltic rock to try to determine the age of the seamount. The search was difficult because the salty water had altered the volcanic rock over time, but they determined in lab tests that the Denson Seamount was about 18 million years old. The team used bathymetric mapping to render three-dimensional images of the Denson Seamount and its counterparts.

Eptatretus strickrotti

Eptatretus strickrotti, commonly known as Strickrott's hagfish, is a hagfish of the genus Eptatretus, found in the depths of the Pacific Ocean south of Easter Island. The hagfish was found in March 2005 by DSV Alvin pilot Bruce Strickrott, and a year later was determined by scientists to be a new species. It is the first hagfish recorded from a hydrothermal vent.

Green Seamount

Green Seamount is a small seamount (an underwater volcano) off the western coast of Mexico. It and the nearby Red Seamount were visited in 1982 by an expedition using DSV Alvin, which observed the seamount's sedimentary composition, sulfur chimneys, and biology. Thus, Green Seamount is well-characterized for such a small feature.

Jack Corliss

John B. ("Jack") Corliss is a scientist who has worked in the fields of geology, oceanography, and the origins of life.

Corliss is a University of California, San Diego Alumnus, receiving his PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the 1960s. As part of his doctoral work under Jerry van Andel, he analyzed samples of basaltic rock from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Chemical traces in these rocks showed evidence of hot water circulation, suggesting the existence of undersea hot springs known as hydrothermal vents.

Following the completion of his PhD, Corliss became a researcher at Oregon State University. In 1977, Corliss, Richard von Herzen, and Robert Ballard lead a project using the DSV Alvin submersible to look for the presumed hydrothermal vents near the Galápagos Islands. Corliss, Tjeerd van Andel, and pilot Jack Donnelly were the crew of the Alvin to first discover the vents and the unexpected community of living creatures—giant tube worms, clams, shrimp, etc.—around them.

The discovery of the hydrothermal vent ecosystems caused Corliss to significantly shift his research, from geochemistry to the origins of life. He proposed that the earliest life on Earth began in deep sea vents. In 1981, he, John Baross, and Sarah Hoffman published a paper entitled "An Hypothesis Concerning the Relationship Between Submarine Hot Springs and the Origin of Life on Earth." In 1983, he moved to Budapest to continue working independently on this hypothesis.

In 1988, Corliss joined the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's high-performance computing division. There he began using massively parallel computers (the Goodyear MPP and later MasPar MP-1) for cellular automata simulations of evolutionary systems.

In 1993, he became Director of Research at Biosphere 2 in Arizona.

He was hired to bring rigor and openness to the project, following conflicts that had resulted in the mass resignation of the project's scientific advisory board.

In 1996, he returned to Budapest to found and direct the Central European University's Center for Complex Adaptive Systems (a.k.a. the Systems Lab).His daughter Julie Corliss is a well-known science writer.

Jason Jr.

Jason Junior, also called JJ, was a small remotely operated vehicle (ROV) designed and built by the Deep Submergence Laboratory at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). Jason Jr. was a prototype for a larger, more capable ROV named Jason, which was being developed to complement the Argo unmanned undersea video camera sled.

Jason Jr. was first used in the exploration of the wreck of the RMS Titanic in 1986, during which it was attached to and controlled from aboard the DSV Alvin, a United States Navy manned deep-ocean research submersible operated by WHOI. The ROV was connected to the submersible by a 300 feet (91 m) fiber optic cable, and allowed scientists to explore and photograph areas of the shipwreck that the submersible could not access. The ROV was deployed from a metal cage attached to the front of Alvin, and controlled remotely by a pilot inside the submersible.

Jason Jr. was lost at sea in late 1991, when a barge carrying it and other equipment to the Galápagos Islands sank in the Pacific Ocean during the Jason III expedition.

MV Dolores Chouest

The MV Dolores Chouest is a specifically built surrogate ship, to DSV Alvin class submersibles and other military rescue ships. She provides surface support for special warfare exercise missions, submarine sea trials/deep dives, mine recovery operations (inert mines only) and unmanned vehicle operations and mother ship support for submarine rescue chamber operations. The contract was valued at $19.9 million for four years if all options are exercised. The Dolores Chouest is based in Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek–Fort Story, Virginia to help support emergency roles in the Atlantic ocean. These ships serve emergency needs in the case that a submarine experiences catastrophic failure while underway. These ships are also used for scientific surveys and have been used in various salvage operations. The Dolores Chouest can support all the submersibles and divers while other cargo craft are nearby to transfer raised goods.

Patton Seamount

Patton Seamount is a prominent seamount (underwater volcano) in the Cobb–Eickelberg Seamount chain in the Gulf of Alaska. Located 166 nmi (307 km; 191 mi) east of Kodiak Island and reaching to within 160 m (520 ft) of the ocean surface, Patton is one of the largest seamounts in the Cobb–Eickelberg Seamount chain. It was originally created near the coast of Oregon by the Cobb hotspot 33 million years ago, and was moved to its present location by tectonic plate movement. Patton is one of the most well-understood seamounts, as a major expedition using DSV Alvin in 1999 and another in 2002 helped define the scope of the seamount's biological community. Like other large seamounts, Patton acts as an ecological hub for sea life. Dives have revealed that the volcano is heavily encrusted in sea life of various forms, including sea stars, corals, king crabs, demersal rockfish, and other species.

RV 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 (UNOLS) fleet. She is the host vessel of DSV Alvin. She is named for the first research vessel operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, R/V Atlantis for which the Space Shuttle Atlantis is also named.

RV Atlantis II

RV Atlantis II is a research vessel formerly operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The ship was built in 1962. She was used as the support vessel for the Alvin submersible for many years, and retired from Woods Hole service in 1996. After a period of inactivity in New Orleans she was transferred to the travel adventure company Outlander Expeditions in 2006. In 1986 she was used by Dr. Robert Ballard as mother-ship to DSV Alvin when Ballard and team surveyed the RMS Titanic wreck for the first time. The Titanic expedition was sponsored by National Geographic.

The following seafloor features have been named for RV Atlantis II:

Atlantis II Seamounts in the North Atlantic 38.38°N 62.93°W / 38.38; -62.93

Atlantis II Fracture Zone in the Indian Ocean 32.88°S 57.01°E / -32.88; 57.01

Ocean zones
Sea level
Ships and vehicles of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Other incidents


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