Alvin: From Old School to New School

Alvin this week will begin a 40 million dollar overhaul.  The biggest retrofit in its 40 years of diving. Improvement include:

  • A  new personnel titanium sphere with improved ergonomics will be integrated into Alvin’s modified frame. The new 6,500 meter-depth-rated sphere is the biggest technical challenge of the Alvin upgrade project. It must be able to withstand immense pressure – about 650 times that felt on the surface of the Earth. The sphere, which is close to completion, has 3-inch thick titanium walls and tests have shown it is an almost perfect sphere.  Its interior volume has been increased by nearly 20 percent and has been redesigned – with input from more than 110 biologists, geologists, microbiologists, geochemists, and engineers – for greater scientific efficiency and a bit more comfort. Instead of crouching on the floor of the sphere, scientists will now have adjustable benches giving observers the option of sitting, kneeling, or lying flat.  And rather than just three viewports, the new sphere has five larger viewports, with overlapping fields of view enabling better observations, communication and coordination among those in the sub.
  • Increased fields of view with five viewports instead of three, and complete overlap with the pilot’s field of view
  • Improved illumination and imaging systems
  • Improved data collection, logging, and interface capability• Increased payload for Alvin’s basket for carrying samples and equipment
  • As funding becomes available and as lithium ion battery technology matures, the changes necessary to increase the working time and extend the depth rating of the submarine will be completed

Hat tip to  gCaptain- A Maritime & Offshore News Blog.

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.