The US Navy's manned deep-ocean research submersible, Alvin, has successfully completed a $41m phase one modernisation programme and set sail off to Astoria, Oregon, to undergo trials.
Following completion of the major refit programme, the submersible was loaded onto the enhanced Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)operated Thomas G Thompson-class oceanographic research vessel, R/V Atlantis (T-AGOR-25), to transfer to Astoria.
Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and WHOI, upgrades to the system included installation of titanium personnel sphere, which has been designed to improve observations and collaboration in selecting sampling sites for pilot and scientists.
Additional phase one upgrades to the submersible involved integration of new syntactic foam, providing buoyancy and improved command and control system.
To improve visibility and provide overlapping fields of view, five viewports have been fitted to the system, in addition to installation of new lighting and high-definition imaging systems as part of the overhaul programme.
Launched in 1964, Alvin is the longest-operating submersible operated by the WHOI and has been designed to benefit the entire ocean science community for the US.
Capable of accommodating two scientists and a pilot, Alvin submersible features six reversible thrusters to hover, manoeuvre in rugged topography, or rest on the sea floor.
Improvements to the R/V Atlantis vessel included A-frame, used to launch and recover the sub, as well as modifications to the hangar where the sub is stored when not in use.
Alvin submersible is scheduled to undergo navy certification process in September 2013, off Monterey, California, making a series of progressively deeper dives.
After the completion of certification process, the submersible will undergo science verification cruise in November to validate its scientific systems and is expected to enter service in December 2013.
Image: Upgraded Alvin submersible aboard the R/V Atlantis. Photo: courtesy of Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.