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 (1720 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.