‘Alvin’ goes to great depths

Alvin is a remarkable technological achievement, allowing up to three scientists to travel to...
Alvin is a remarkable technological achievement, allowing up to three scientists to travel to more than 4000m below the sea surface. It is equipped with cameras, computers, and even a sampling arm.
People have tried to navigate the deep sea for a long time. Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea (1870) invented the special submarine Nautilus for his characters, and both the military and marine scientists have developed various kinds of submersible craft. But your ordinary submarine can only go 200m-300m deep before running into trouble. They can’t explore the deepest seas.

In the late 1960s, deep ocean science was transformed by Alvin, the first DSV (deep submergence vessel). Alvin was named for the scientist who devised and pushed it: Allyn Vine, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Massachusetts.

Alvin was launched in 1964. Capable of operating at depths of 4000m, Alvin has cameras, remotely operated arms, and room for three scientists aboard. It is deployed from the support vessel Atlantis. In 1977 and 1979, Alvin visited and documented the first hydrothermal vents, discovering life at great depth. Still going strong after more than 5000 dives, Alvin famously photographed the sunken Titanic in 1986, and helped to characterise damage to the seafloor after the Deep Water Horizon oil disaster in 2014.

By the way, a league is about 4.8km, and the maximum depth of the sea, in the Marianas Trench, is a bit more than two of them, at 10.9km.

Add a Comment

Local journalism matters - now more than ever

As the Covid-19 pandemic brings the world into uncharted waters, Otago Daily Times reporters and photographers continue to bring you the stories that matter. For more than 158 years our journalists have provided readers with local news you can trust. This is more important now than ever.

As advertising drops off during the pandemic, support from our readers is crucial. You can help us continue to bring you news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter