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Alvin Submersible Retired After 40 Years Work

CowboyNeal posted more than 9 years ago | from the that'll-do-sub dept.

Science 85

An anonymous reader writes "The legendary deep-sea manned submersible Alvin is retiring after 40 years of scientific work. Alvin has taken 12,000 people on over 4,000 dives, helping to confirm plate tectonics and continental drift. It discovered hydrothermal vents, salvaged a hydrogen bomb from the Mediterranean Sea and explored the Titanic. Alvin will be replaced by a larger vehicle that will come into service in 2008."

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85 comments

Keep Both (4, Interesting)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609196)

Is there any reason not to keep Alvin going along with its replacement? I'm sure some country or foundation is willing to run it. There's nothing top-secret in it, is there, considering that it is forty years old.

It is useful for a lot of research. Even though it is not as good as a new one, why not keep in it action?

Parts (4, Insightful)

nounderscores (246517) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609223)

I'd hate to think of how much it would cost to replace some of the heavily fatigued major components that have been compressed and decompressed so many times.

And who is willing to make another alvin hull?

Might be better to build 2 of the next generation once it is proven, or build 20 of the original alvins from scratch, than to try and extend the service life of a sub that's given more than its due.

Re:Parts (4, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609610)

I'd hate to think of how much it would cost to replace some of the heavily fatigued major components that have been compressed and decompressed so many times.
Such replacement has been done incrementally over many years. No part currently installed in Alvin is original, or (IIRC) any older than about 10-15 years.
And who is willing to make another alvin hull?
Any number of the firms around the globe who are currently involved in building deep submersibles. Alvin was the first, and is far from unique. (In fact the Navy has two Alvin type submersibles (built from spare hulls) in mothballs in San Diego (Sea Cliff and Turtle).)

Re:Parts (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10611468)

They are no longer in mothballs. the Turtle was retired several years ago, and is now in a museum on the east coast. the Sea Cliff was retired just a few years ago, and WHOI got first crack at seeing if any of the Sea Cliff equipment could be borrowed for the Alvin. After looking into it, they decided that it would cost less to just build a new Alvin replacement than to alter the existing one.

Re:Keep Both (4, Insightful)

TAGmclaren (820485) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609243)

It is useful for a lot of research. Even though it is not as good as a new one, why not keep in it action?


At a guess, after 40 years of the pressure it's been subject to it may be cheaper to replace that guarantee structural integrity.

Anyway, I hope "retire" is accurate and not a euphemism for scrap (which unfortunately happens sometimes). It deserves a pastures in a museum somewhere, at the very least.

Re:Keep Both (1)

nounderscores (246517) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609263)

good point about the museum. Is there a "wet smythsonian"?

Re:Keep Both (3, Interesting)

jrp2 (458093) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609482)

Is there a "wet smythsonian"?

I certainly agree, but why would they need a "wet Smithsonian"? Get it close on a ship and truck it to the site.

Here in Chicago we have a big-ass WWII German submarine [msichicago.org] on land in a museum. Yes, it is near Lake Michigan (several hundred meters), but it is definitely on land, now indoors.

I have no idea how it got from the lake to the museum, but this was done 50 years ago, and it is much, much larger than Alvin. I am quite confident Alvin could be dropped on a flatbed and trucked to the main Smithsonian (or whatever museum) quite easily (at least relatively easy compared to the German sub). It is definitely a "wide load", but not much more than one of those pre-fab houses you see on the highway occasionally, and D.C. is accessible to the ocean via the Potomac so you can get darn close by ship and truck it the last several kilometers.

Re:Keep Both (3, Interesting)

ScottyUK (824174) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609622)

I don't think he meant wet as in "seaborne", more wet as in "National Marine Museum", akin with National Air and Space Museum. A museum dedicated to "wet stuff" - marine equipment/history.

Re:Keep Both (1)

fisgreen (568052) | more than 8 years ago | (#10610401)

I haven't been there in a few years, and realize it's closed for renovation now, but I recall they had small section in the exhibit that showed the cross-country movement from the lake. I believe they used tractors and a series of rollers to move it from the shore, through the park, and to the museum. Pretty cool.
Awsome exhibit and terrific museum, BTW. Definitely a must-do when in Chicago!

Re:Keep Both (1)

nyekulturniy (413420) | more than 8 years ago | (#10610408)

To answer your question parenthetically, Admiral Daniel Gallery, commander of the task force that captured U-505, said that they took the sub on a large truck, carefully manuvering the truck and using drawbridges.

Howto put submarine on cinder blocks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10611451)

Get the book U505 by Dan V. Gallery

It's the story of U505. he writes like a drunken sailor, but its an intesting yarn.

Re:Keep Both (2, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609782)

Yes, the Navy Museum in Washington, DC. They already have the Trieste (the ship which reached the bottom of the Marianas Trench) there, it would be quite cool to have the two most famous submarines in the same place. Alvin WAS used for Navy operations (as were two sister ships) so it should qualify.

Re:Keep Both (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10613167)

Yeah, good point. Maybe they don't want it to end up being somebody's liability, like those former submarines Canada bought from the UK! [I do mean *former* submarines.]

Condidering Alvin's illustrious career, the Smithsonian does seem like a good place to go.

By the way, anyone know what happened to the Trieste? Why was it mothballed after just a trip or two, when it was tough enough to do the Marianas Trench?

Keeping both is a waste of money (5, Interesting)

October_30th (531777) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609346)

It is useful for a lot of research.

In the life of every scientific instrument comes the time when its capabilities are so much overshadowed by the more contemporary technology and its maintenance is such a drain on the funds that it simply must be retired. Sure you can do research with it, but it's low grade. They simply are not useful for good research anymore and maintaining them will take away funds from more important, new fields.

Personally, as a scientist, I don't much care what happens to what is essentially scrap metal at that point. In fact, I personally dismantled the equipment I did my PhD Thesis on in order to build another, better one. No tears shed there.

Re:Keeping both is a waste of money (0, Redundant)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609936)

Given its history, I'd want it put in the Smithsonian or some other prestigious museum. Just sending it to be melted down would seem to belittle how much that sub has advanced our understanding of Earth.

Re:Keep Both (2, Insightful)

mikael (484) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609347)


It is useful for a lot of research. Even though it is not as good as a new one, why not keep in it action?


Undersea exploration is like space travel. You can get more capabilities by eliminating the human factor; the space/energy requirements for
manned submersibles can be reused for retrieved scientific samples, more powerful propulsion, longer exploration times, or greater depth (longer tethers).
You can now get little itty-bitty ROV vehicles that can go down to 300 etres (1000 feet) [videoray.com] .

These can be scaled up in order to go down to greater depths; manned submersibles are limited to 6000 metres.
Remotely Operated Vehicles can go down to 7500 metres and beyond.

Re:Keep Both (1)

UniverseIsADoughnut (170909) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609891)

this isn't true. Manned subs have been on the deepest spot of the ocean. So there isn't a real limit.

The real differance is it is way cheaper to make a unmanned sub to do the same.

Re:Keep Both (2, Informative)

mikael (484) | more than 9 years ago | (#10610055)

Yes, but there is a subtle difference in the types of technology. The manned submarines [demon.co.uk] that reached the deepest part of the ocean were thick skinned vessels with no manipulators or propulsion. Alvin [noaa.gov] was submersible with a large glass window, manipulators, and self-propelled, allowing the ability to examine specimens.You can see how the technology has evolved; lighting and propulsion migrate to the sides to maintain a hydrodynamic shape. The visual field expands to 180 degrees at each end.

Re:Keep Both (1)

BLAG-blast (302533) | more than 8 years ago | (#10610276)

The manned submarines(link to trieste) that reached the deepest part of the ocean were thick skinned vessels with no manipulators or propulsion.

The Trieste was fitted with a manipulator in 1964. There is no technical reason that prevent submersibles operating in depths of over 6000meters. The only reason you don't see more submersibles going deeper than 6000meters is that the average depth of the oceans is 6000meters, so paying extra just to explore a few canyons isn't too apealing to everybody.

The two main reason for using an ROV over a man Submersible is, cost, and safety (i.e. something is too dangerous for people to get close to, toxic waste, caves, ship wrecks with high entanglment risk, etc.).

Re:Keep Both (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10609434)

Since Alvin is now painted a lovely navy blue and is sitting on a concrete slab in front of the Naval Oceanographic Office in Mississippi I think it's a bit late to be wondering if we can keep it running.

Re:Keep Both (2, Funny)

cvdwl (642180) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609918)

Someone better tell WHOI, they have 97 dives [uri.edu] planned for 2005 and 19 dives [uri.edu] left this year! At the end of the first link, there's a reference to an Alvin "overhaul", not retirement, overhaul.

Re:Keep Both (2, Interesting)

Fallen Andy (795676) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609614)

OK, so it *isn't* really 40 years old. There can't be much except the outer shell which hasn't been
replaced over the years. But, when it was made, it was made a little too small. You can't change that. Also, the new (competition) replacements
can dive deeper and thus explore much more of
that almost unknown world.

Most of the expertise and folklore (care and feeding if you will) needed to babysit it are pretty
much locked up in extraordinary dedicated folk who have spent most of their *life* playing with this wondrous toy.

Don't look for an owners manual. There isn't one.
Jokes about Buses aside, the competition is better, so it's time to move on.

(It would be *really* dangerous to hand this over to some other institution. Consider the ongoing problems with the decomissioned UK diesel subs and
Canada - some poor scientist in XXX country could
*die* if you just hand over Alvin without thought). Better to give it to the Smithsonian...

(But I think it's a safe guess the Wood's Hole folks will have a wake...).

Re:Keep Both (5, Informative)

axioein (540940) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609719)

To me, this is old news. As I worki at WHOI, we have been tossing around ideas for a new Alvin for a long time.

To correct a few other posts, on fatigue: the factor of saftey of Alvin is incredibly high. Meaning the operating depth is incredibly low for the hull. You can check the ASME boiler code. No one actually knows the crush depth of the sphere. They re-wrote the book when they built the spere. They built three spheres from the get go. One to be tested to failure. Instead of failing it caused the pressure chamber to explode. The rapid decompression also did nothing to the hull.

Related to that there are only two original pieces of Alving left: the name and the robotic arm. The rest has been replaced. Many times.

As many others have said cost is another factor. Sea Cliff, Alvin's sister sub, is housed at WHOI. I thought, wouldn't it be great to get two subs going? Looking over the systems it would take a lot to overhaul the entire system. The cost of operating Alvin is also climbing each year, as key compenents are harder to find. Our budget is also quite limited. Operating two submarines would be impossible. We would need a second support ship to be able to handle the second submarine, and no one would be willing to convert WHOI's two other Deep Sea ships to handling a submarine. As they do valuble research on their own using other tools. To convert Atlantis to handling a second sub, would be near impossible with out overhauling the entire ship. Lab space on ships is quite precious and I doubt any one would want to give it up. As the two subs will be different an many if not all aspects, they would not beable to share parts, doubling the inventory on the ship taking away even more room. Also Alvin's view ports aren't set up the best. Since the sub was experimental they didn't know what would work out best. It has about 180 degrees of view, but only one person can see any one third of that. Meaning the scientist can't see what the pilot sees with out displacing him. As some one else said: scrab the obsolete. It costs somwhere in the neighbor hood of one to two million dollars to run the sub each year. We deffinately don't have the resources to deal with twice that. We are stretched to the limits already. WHOI gets minimal amount of Goverment funds already. The cost that a scientist will pay for a trip in the submarine doesn't actually cover the entire dive.

If you want to read more on Alvin I suggest Water Baby. An excellent tale of a submarine and it's life.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail /-/0195 061918/qid=1098555276/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-829162 3-6347207?v=glance&s=books

million with an M? (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 8 years ago | (#10610570)

That seems incredibly cheap to run, given the US budget and some of the other dubious things that the "m" word gets used on, let alone the "b" word. Shame ya'all can't squeeze out a few more shekels. Offer rides to tourists as an adjunct, like the private spaceships will charging, just not as much? I'm sure you guys thought of that already though...

Re:Keep Both (1)

DLR (18892) | more than 9 years ago | (#10613018)

For the same reason that it was impractical to keep MIR in orbit. On any complex system things start to break down after a time. The more systems there are the more likely they are to break at once. In any situation where human life depends on the integrety of the entire device failure of any critical system is unacceptable. You can get a second opinion from any scuba or sky diver that happens to post in here if you want to, but I rather suspect they'll agree with me.

Simon, Theodore to continue on (5, Funny)

egg troll (515396) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609199)

I'll miss that rascally little Chipmunk and his whimsical adventures.

Re:Simon, Theodore to continue on (2, Funny)

lxt (724570) | more than 9 years ago | (#10610133)

Do you think he'll form a splinter group, possible called "Sea Wings" or similar?

DSV-2 (4, Informative)

Pan T. Hose (707794) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609204)

For those who don't know, DSV Alvin is better known as DSV-2 in most of serious historical documents.

USN DSVs (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10609695)

"DSV-0" Trieste - the bathyscathe that reached Challenger Deep, retired 1966, also called X1
DSV-1 Trieste II - an updated bathyscathe design, retired 1984, also called X2
DSV-2 Alvin - a deep diving sub, reaching only half as deep as the two Triestes
DSV-3 Turtle - Alvin's identical sibling, retired 1998, USN
DSV-4 Sea Cliff - another Alvin class DSV sub, retired 1998, USN
DSV-5 Nemo - another Alvin class DSV sub, retired 1998, USN

Interesting... (3, Funny)

Stevyn (691306) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609236)

But what about Simon and Theodore? [tvtome.com]

The terrorists have already won (0, Offtopic)

tepples (727027) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609279)

The Chipmunks are dressed like Arabs, with shirts that come down to their feet. If this isn't evidence that the terrorists had already won long before Bush stepped into office, I don't know what is ;-)

Keep it going until the replacement? (3, Insightful)

xanthines-R-yummy (635710) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609237)

Why not keep it going until at least its replacement has been proven to work reliably? It would suck to keep Alvin in mothballs and then find out its replacement craps out after 2 months! Is there any reason not to keep it going until then? You know, kind of like Hubble and its replacement?

Re:Keep it going until the replacement? (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609283)

The reason is called "operating cost". Vehicles like Alvin cost a bundle every day, even (especially, I should say) when it doesn't dive.

In short, 2 vehicles == twice the cost. Not sure they want to pay for it...

Re:Keep it going until the replacement? (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609368)

After 40 years of under going immense pressurization/depressurization cycles, it's probaby not as safe as it should be. This is a manned submersible after all.

Re:Keep it going until the replacement? (1)

cvdwl (642180) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609872)

Submersibles don't "crap out", without loss of life and international news. They may need to work out some bugs, and there will be a testing period of several months to a year, but this thing will be at least as overdesigned as the space shuttles... Ok, bad example, but you get my drift.

Presumably, Alvin will be used for a few more years, as eliminating the research platform for most deep sea oceanography is going to leave a gaping hole. At some point the tender ship, the Atlantis (III :-) ), will need to be pulled out of service to refit for a new sub, or a new tender ship built from scratch.

What I wonder is, does WHOI get the new one?

BTW, for anyone who hasn't seen it, this guy [slashdot.org] knows more than the rest of us put together.

Re:Keep it going until the replacement? (1)

axioein (540940) | more than 8 years ago | (#10610335)

They are. The linked article doesn't mention anything of the retirment date. As another poster mentioned there are still dives planned for next year. And my boss was on NPR (there is a link further down the page) that talks about the plans. She will remain active until the new Alvin is completed.

That's four million dollars, to you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10613204)

The WHOI person who posted here, says Alvin costs $2 million per year. So if they just decommission it right now, they save that much per year towards the replacement.

Theoretically. Dunno if that's really how their budgeting works.

Alvin is great and all, but (3, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609245)

and explored the Titanic. ...if only it could have missed the Titanic, we would have been spared some DiCaprio acting, and more importantly, 3:30 minutes of ear-pearcing Celine Dion.

But aside from that, good work Alvin, and good retirement!

Re:Alvin is great and all, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10609366)

Alvin didn't find it. Even if it did, some other sub would have... sadly, the girly allure of DiCaprio is so great not even the pressure of the ocean at 4,000 meters can hold back the screaming hoards. (and sound travels better in water.. :> )

Re: Celine Dion (1)

lxt (724570) | more than 9 years ago | (#10610137)

Even better, the music from Titanic is set as a major exam topic for A-Level Music here in the UK (God, I've had to watch that film twenty times now, and it's STILL JUST AS PAINFUL!)

Re:Alvin is great and all, but (2, Funny)

vsprintf (579676) | more than 8 years ago | (#10610563)

...if only it could have missed the Titanic, we would have been spared some DiCaprio acting, and more importantly, 3:30 minutes of ear-pearcing Celine Dion.

At least in Titanic, DiCaprio was somewhat fitting for the part. In Gangs of New York, using DiCaprio was like casting Tinker Bell for Captain Hook's role.

Heartbreaking... (1)

skaffen42 (579313) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609253)

... but do you have to keep on telling [slashdot.org] us about it?

40 years ago... (2, Insightful)

statebelt (561259) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609290)

...cars still had fins and we hadn't gone to the moon yet. C programming was still way in the future (but LISP already existed). What an amazing piece of machinery to have had a useful life of 40 years. One can only dream that something that we build lasts that long. -Thomas

Re:40 years ago... (2, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609328)

Programmers and nerds are weird. The only things that amazes then from the year 1964 are that:

* we hadn't been on the moon yet (granted, that's a landmark in human history)

* C was way in the future

* LISP already existed

Well hmm, I guess it's all a matter of personal perspective...

Alvin and its contribution to geology (2, Informative)

thedogcow (694111) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609324)

I've always been fascinated by discovery of hydrothermal vents via Alvin.
Hydrothermal vents are located on divergent plate boundaries (i.e. the Atlantic Rift in the middle of the Atlantic).
Here exist these vents (black smokers) warming the very cold water to around 400C.
The fact that life (tubeworms) is sustainable in these highly toxic environments is simply short of amazing.

Re:Alvin and its contribution to geology (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 8 years ago | (#10610376)

"The fact that life (tubeworms) is sustainable in these highly toxic environments is simply short of amazing."

Damn by your reckoning we are REALLY going to have to work hard to make the Amazing mark eh?

For me the bar is a tad lower, I find that a clear night sky makes the "simply" amazing mark for me. Life in highly toxic environments is beyond the simply amazing mark, hardly falling short of it ;)

4 year gap? (1)

HunterZ (20035) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609334)

Are they retiring Alvin now, or when the new DSV is finished? The article doesn't seem to say.

Pondus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10609364)

You can find more information about Pondus [dagbladet.no] somewhere.

Why (1)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609381)

Why are they retiring Alvin now, 4 years before it's successor is planned to come into service (never mind any possible delays?) This makes as much sense as NASA's hubble retirement plan.

Re:Why (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 8 years ago | (#10610473)

Look UP on the thread and read axioem's comment.

You've got the money, honey -- then they've got the time....

Alvin, submersible, dead at 40 (1)

crucini (98210) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609387)

I just read some sad news on slashdot - scientific submersible Alvin was found dead in his home at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contribution to oceanography. Truly an American icon.

hmmm. (2, Funny)

say__10 (768448) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609427)

Please tell me they are going to name the successor 'Simon' or 'Theodore'.

I also vote for keeping alvin alive, or elsewhere (2, Interesting)

multi-flavor-geek (586005) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609478)

I live right on the shore od lake Superior, and although only 1300 feet deep, there is strange stuff down there, and there are other places like Lake Tanganika, and Lake Baikal, that are incredibly deep, freshwater, and largely unexplored. Lake Tanganika may actually be an excellent research location considering that Africa happens to be ripping in half at that point.
How many people vote fo keeping Alvin alive as a more mobile research vessel, to research places other than the oceans, but some of the more confined bodies of water.

Re:I also vote for keeping alvin alive, or elsewhe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10611957)

Thats a great idea.

Only one problem though, it needs a large tender ship.

How are you going to get *that* on isolated freshwater lakes?

oopps...

I remember Alvin (3, Interesting)

Mr. Protocol (73424) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609502)

One of the best columns I ever wrote, and certainly one of the most fun to write, I wrote inside the Alvin. Not, I hasten to add, at the bottom of the ocean. It was in drydock down at Scripps Institute in San Diego at the time. I learned a lot about all sorts of things on that trip, including things like the esoteric outer reaches of battery charging, when you've got tons and tons of lead and acid to charge.

The magazine in which the column appeared was offered the opportunity to take Mr. P. on a dive, an opportunity which he would have accepted in a New York minute (hey, after all, he went for a boat ride on Grand Prismatic Spring: 160 degrees and no life jackets - what would be the point?), but as the trip would have cost the magazine the entire budget for publishing an issue, Mr. P. stayed sadly dry.

Alvin was an envelope-pusher from day one. The two halves of the titanium sphere that was the crew compartment were held together by one of the hardest titanium welding jobs ever done. The "penetrators" that carried the electronic wiring through the hull were always a concern. The inside of the sphere was unheated, so it "sweated" for the whole 12-hour dive. The pilot would check things out by wiping some of the "sweat" off the seam of a penetrator, if it looked like a "lot" of water, and would taste it for salt. Salt would have been a very, very bad sign.

Alvin did have an emergency ascent capability. Explosive bolts would shear the sphere clear of the boat-shaped outer chassis which contained the ballast, batteries and engines, allowing the sphere, a giant bubble, to race to the surface. The conning tower, though, was permanently attached, which meant that the sphere would spiral vigorously during the entire ascent, which would take twenty minutes or so. It was expected that the crew, under the best of circumstances, would be violently ill by the time they reached the surface, but they'd be alive.

This capability was never used, thank heavens.

Mr. Protocol wishes to thank Tom T. Tengdin for that golden opportunity.

Re:I remember Alvin (4, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609655)

Alvin was an envelope-pusher from day one. The two halves of the titanium sphere that was the crew compartment were held together by one of the hardest titanium welding jobs ever done.
That's both true and false. Alvin's first two hulls were steel, not titanium. While she was unique in her role, she didn't particularly press the envelope with them.

The titanium hull was not installed until she had been in service many years.
Alvin did have an emergency ascent capability. Explosive bolts would shear the sphere clear of the boat-shaped outer chassis which contained the ballast, batteries and engines, allowing the sphere, a giant bubble, to race to the surface.
Incorrect.

Alvin has not one but *three* emergency ascent capabilities.
  • Electromagnetic release of ballast plates. (Also used to initate a normal ascent.)
  • Electromagnetic release of the battery tubs.
  • *Manual* seperation of the sphere and forward chassis from the remainder of the submarine. (No one is certain if this will work.)
Lastly, Alvin also has the ability to shed her arms and the experiment rack/ROV garage. This is used both if they get entangled or if they need to shed weight.

Where's the undersea tourism? (1)

LiberalApplication (570878) | more than 9 years ago | (#10610091)

Although it's too bad that you weren't able to visit the ocean depths due to budget constraints, I still envy you.

On that note though, why isn't there any rush to undersea tourism? The seabeds are certainly more interesting places than the areas immediately outside the atmosphere, aren't they? They're teeming with unusual lifeforms (much of which would seem to qualify for sci-fi blockbuster film fare), you get a longer stay, and you aren't exposed to radiation. I'm sure the physical requirements are less stringent as well, and I'd imagine that serving beer onboard wouldn't be entirely out of the question.

Personally, I'd rather stare out of a porthole into the maw of an angler than into the void of space. Well, at least for the number of dollars that would be involved. What exactly is the cost of an Alvin dive, anyways, and how would it compare to the projected cost of a flight on Virgin Galactic?

Well, If you're looking for me.. (1)

sokoban (142301) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609577)

You'd better not look under the sea.

How will I ever... (1)

sokoban (142301) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609600)

recover my happycake oven.

It's not a toy. It makes real cupcakes with a 40 watt bulb, and ther's icing packets, but the secret ingerdient is love, damnit.

Have to hide my dirty sheets, Michael Caine would be so ashamed of me.

Age concerns (2, Interesting)

Fortran IV (737299) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609660)

Check out the history of Alvin [whoi.edu] at the Woods Hole site and you'll see that concerns about fatigue in a 40-year-old pressure hull are misplaced. Alvin has been repeatedly overhauled, with pressure hull and other components replaced. The vehicle has undergone recertification by the U.S. Navy every few years, most recently in 2002. In fact, Alvin has gone deeper in recent years; until 1994 the DSV was only certified to 4000m, not the present 4500m.

However, the next Alvin will be larger (27 more cubic feet in the pressure sphere, adding about the volume of a good-sized coffin!) and have greater range, both horizontally and vertically. As "Rosco" pointed out above, operating two DSV's at once would be much more expensive. And frankly, any lesser facility than Woods Hole that can afford to operate a DSV would probably prefer to build their own.

Still, I'm sad to hear Alvin will be retired. Alvin was the first name I learned in deep-sea research as a child, as Jacques Cousteau was the first for shallower waters. A long and brilliant career, averaging (even with overhauls and most of one year stuck on the sea floor) better than a dive every four days for forty years.

Aluminaut is retired, too (2, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609804)

Aluminaut [smv.org] , the other deep-diving research submersible from the 1960s, is also retired.

They're all gone now, the record-holding vehicles of the 1960s. The Concorde, the SR-71, the Saturn V, Alvinn, the Aluminaut. All gone, with the will to replace them gone as well.

Re:Aluminaut is retired, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10609870)

They're all gone now, the record-holding vehicles of the 1960s. The Concorde, the SR-71, the Saturn V, Alvinn, the Aluminaut. All gone, with the will to replace them gone as well.

* Concorde - 70's (record holder?)
* Trieste - 50's (Challenger Deep!)

They're not all from the 60's.

The F-104 is still in service is some countries (low altitude speed record holder)

Re:Aluminaut is retired, too (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#10610311)

The Concorde first flew on 2 March 1969.

Re:Aluminaut is retired, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#10611072)

Do not ever forget the XB-70 Valkyrie [labiker.org] ! A thing the size of a 747 that flew as fast as a SR-71 for longer ranges! Man I get goosebumps [labiker.org] and a tear to my eye just to think about it!

Re:Aluminaut is retired, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#10611083)

Do not ever forget the XB-70 Valkyrie [labiker.org] ! A thing the size of a 747 that flew as fast as a SR-71 for longer ranges! Man I get goosebumps [labiker.org] and a tear to my eye just to think about it!

Re:Aluminaut is retired, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#10611090)

Do not ever forget the XB-70 Valkyrie [labiker.org] ! A thing the size of a 747 that flew as fast as a SR-71 for longer ranges! Man I get goosebumps [labiker.org] and a tear to my eye just to think about it!

Re:Aluminaut is retired, too (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 9 years ago | (#10612278)

Nah, the Aluminaut lives on, it's just called the NR-1.

Re:Aluminaut is retired, too (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10612849)

re:Aluminaut is retired, too (Score:1)
by Animats (122034) on Saturday October 23,
>>They're all gone now, the record-holding vehicles of the 1960s. The Concorde, the SR-71, the Saturn V, Alvinn, the Aluminaut. All gone, with the will to replace them gone as well

Actually the recordholder for DSV's is Trieste II which got the ultimate record in 1960 of 37800 feet. There is nowhere deeper. FWIW, I don't think anyone's been back since.

She's at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, Washington.

The original Alvin is long gone... (1)

The Breeze (140484) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609854)

Actually, Alvin has been modified so many times that there is nothing left of the original craft launched in the sixties - they were constantly upgrading it and changing it, and in the late eighties during a refit they realized that once they removed a certain component, there would be nothing left of the original Alvin, as all the other parts had slowly been upgraded and replaced.

Alvin is kind of like a living organism, I guess. It recycled all its parts from birth.

For mroe details, check out Charles Pellegrino's book Her Name, Titanic, where he talks about how Alvin was constantly being upgraded - especially after she sunk and spent a year at the bottom of the ocean.

Smithsonian Institute (1)

chaffed (672859) | more than 9 years ago | (#10609895)

I would like to see it go on display at the Smithsonian Institute. The vehicle has such an extended and storied history that one could make an entire exhibit around its exploits.

Re:Smithsonian Institute (1)

craw (6958) | more than 8 years ago | (#10610646)

A scaled mockup of the Alvin used to be on display in the Smithsonian National History Museum. IIRC, this exhibit featured the exotic life found at the undersea hydrothermal vent fields.

Woods Hole Oceanographics Announcement (2, Informative)

OctaneZ (73357) | more than 9 years ago | (#10610066)

Suprised no one has alinked to the actual WHOI announcement [whoi.edu] .

There was also a very good NPR Science Friday Discussion [sciencefriday.com] on this back in August.

Ahh good memories... (1)

oneiron (716313) | more than 9 years ago | (#10610085)

I remember, when I was a 4th grader, there was a contest to name NASA's Discovery Shuttle. I think it was Discovery, anyway. The contest was to choose a submarine name and make a case for it being the name of the next shuttle. I chose Alvin for obvious reasons. Not surprisingly, it didn't win. Alvin doesn't sound all that catchy, I guess...

A classmate of mine chose nautilus. I thought that one was a good one...

The next best thing to being there (2, Interesting)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 9 years ago | (#10610240)

I feel almost like I've taken a dive on Alvin myself... I work for an ocean conservation group [oceana.org] , and this summer one of our staff scientists got the chance to go along on a NOAA expedition that used Alvin to dive on some Alaskan seamounts (mountains at the bottom of the ocean).

Before he left for the trip, I talked him into keeping a journal of it for our organizational blog [oceana.org] . Each time he made a new entry, he would e-mail it to me from Alvin's mother ship in the Gulf of Alaska, and then I would post it to the site in as close to real-time as possible. (He wanted to post the entries directly, but we were lucky to get e-mail access for him aboard ship, much less a reliable Web connection.)

You can read the archived journal here: Jon's Journal [oceana.org]

(The software defaults to showing the journal entries in reverse chronological order, so the one on top is the last one. Scroll to the bottom and read up to start from the beginning.)

We both just kind of figured it would be something interesting to try, but the result was really cool -- he did a great job describing what it's like to be on an Alvin expedition.

It was actually near the end of his trip that I first heard that Alvin was slated for retirement. From a mechanical perspective, it makes sense; she's seen a lot of wear under some of the most demanding conditions imaginable. It's that very history that makes it hard to imagine seeing her put to pasture, I guess. Here's hoping that we as a people have the vision and commitment to keep exploring the paths down which Alvin took those first tentative steps.

Re:The next best thing to being there (1)

gears5665 (699068) | more than 8 years ago | (#10610587)

...and then I would post it to the site in as close to real-time as possible

someone needs to study up on automation techniques, procmail, and $programming_language

This is a one line program if you know what you're doing.

Slightly incorrect statistics (1)

MilenCent (219397) | more than 8 years ago | (#10610596)

Alvin has taken 12,000 people on over 4,000 dives,....

That should be amended to "12,000 people, plus two lab mice bent on taking over the world."

Rescued hydrogen bomb? (1)

upside (574799) | more than 8 years ago | (#10610616)

This one caught my eye: "Alvin's achievements are far-ranging. It rescued a hydrogen bomb from the Mediterranean Sea at just two years old."

Anyone have a clue about this?

I remember Alvin from some National Geographic article I read as a wee kid. Great stuff.

Re:Rescued hydrogen bomb? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#10610747)

January 16, 1966, Palomares, Spain.

A B-52 carrying four H-bombs collided with a KC-135 tanker above the coast of Spain. The tanker exploded; both aircraft were wrecked. Four of the seven B-52 crew managed to parachute to safety.

Three of the four H-bombs crashed on land near the village of Palomares. The last one landed about five miles offshore.

After some searching, Alvin located the last H-bomb in March. An initial attempt to lift the bomb failed, and it slid into deeper water. Alvin relocated the bomb. An unmanned submersible (CURV) got tangled in the parachute lines of the bomb (deliberately, by one story, as part of a rivalry between manned and unmanned programs) and was hauled to the surface with bomb dangling below.

Of the three bombs that hit land, two detonated their high explosive components, creating a ten-foot crater and scattering plutonium (and less interesting bits) over about a square mile. Approximately 1400 tons of soil and vegetation were excavated and removed to the US for disposal at the Savannah River Plant. The third bomb did not detonate, and was recovered more or less intact.

Re:Rescued hydrogen bomb? (2, Informative)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 8 years ago | (#10611035)

Sure; it was in January 1966. A B-52 collided with the tanker it was refueling from over the coast of Spain. The airplane disintegrated and dropped four thermonuclear bombs. One landed intact near the town of Palomares, two burst open on impact and scattered radioactive debris, and one fell in the ocean. It took three months of underwater operations to find and recover the sunken bomb, and a huge cleanup effort to get rid of the radiation on land.

The film "Men of Honor" opens with Carl Brashear, the first Black diver in the Navy, losing a leg in the recovery effort.

rj

From the article: (1)

dabigpaybackski (772131) | more than 8 years ago | (#10611007)

"When the new Alvin comes into service in 2008, it may even have the power to transmit real-time images of the ocean floor to your TV."

Incredibly cool. I hope they actually do this, perhaps via the new all-science channel. [slashdot.org] Get a tv-friendly oceanographer to provide some running commentary (time permitting) as the crew goes about it's business, the result being good PR, a more educated public, and perhaps additional funding.

I'd watch that.

Titanic (1)

BigBadBus (653823) | more than 9 years ago | (#10611420)

Well, rather than talk about Dr.Robert "me me me me me me me me I found it first me me me me me me me me!" Ballard, have a look here:
http://www.btinternet.com/~dr_paul_lee/titanicfoun d.htm

Makes Perfect Sense - NOT! (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 9 years ago | (#10611851)

Alvin will be replaced by a larger vehicle that will come into service in 2008.

So what happens if we lose another H-Bomb between now and then? Why not overlap? And not just for H-Bomb reasons.

Do you really expect me to believe that there is so little to see down deep in our oceans that one vehicle at a time is enough to satisfy all the requests for its services?

Re:Finding lost bombs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10612758)

There is still NR-1.

http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/factfile/shi ps /ship-nr1.html

Re:Makes Perfect Sense - NOT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10613190)

That H-bomb was down there for years, wasn't it? And nobody cared until they started worrying that somebody else might get to it first.

Didn't they also recover an H-bomb from some place off Georgia recently? I remember reading that it had been in a B-47 that had a mid-air collision. Being a B-47, that would be way back.

Christmas Submerged (1)

cpopin (671433) | more than 9 years ago | (#10612024)

Okay Simon?
Okay.

Okay Theador?
Okay.

Okay Alvin?
Alvin?
  • Alvin!?!
Okay!

Christmas, Christmas time is near.
Time for toys and time for cheer.

We've been good, but we can't last.
Hurry, Christmas, hurry fast!

Want a plane that loops the loop.

Me, I want a hula hoop.
We can hardly stand the wait.
Please, Christmas, don't be late.
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