New deeper-diving, human-occupied submersible to replace current Alvin

07/29/04

Subject of briefing by NSF, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientists

Note: Reporters may call in at 877-407-5717; passcode 224446

Arlington, Va.--After 40 years of scientific voyages, the research submersible Alvin will be replaced by a new, deeper-diving submersible, known as a human-occupied vehicle (HOV). Studies from Alvin have resulted in the discovery of new life forms, led to confirmation of the theory of plate tectonics, and stimulated and enthralled schoolchildren around the world with seafloor images and video.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will provide funding for the new vehicle through a cooperative agreement with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). A 2004 National Research Council report, Future Needs of Deep Submergence Science, indicated that an HOV with more capability than Alvin was a high priority. A merit-based review of an unsolicited proposal led to a cooperative agreement with WHOI for the first phase of construction.

The new vehicle will be capable of reaching more than 99 percent of the seafloor, peering into ocean depths of 6,500 meters (21,320 feet), and conducting a broader range of research projects around the world. When completed in 2008, it will be the most capable deep-sea research vehicle in the world. Alvin, which has undergone nearly continuous upgrades since its launch in 1964, dives to 4,500 meters (14,764 feet).

NSF and WHOI officials will discuss the capabilities of the new vehicle. The design of the replacement HOV for Alvin is the result of more than 10 years of discussions and input from the scientific community. Although Alvin was the first human-occupied vehicle in routine use in the deep sea, HOVs operated by Japan, Russia and France now have capabilities that surpass those of Alvin, and China is building its first deep-diving HOV. All can dive deeper, carry heavier payloads, remain submerged longer, and have more passenger space than Alvin.

Available at the briefing will be still images and video of the current Alvin, an animation of the new HOV and background information on both vehicles.

    Who: * Arden Bement, Acting Director, NSF
    * Margaret Leinen, Assistant Director for Geosciences, NSF
    * James Yoder, Ocean Sciences Division Director, NSF
    * Robert Gagosian, President and Director, WHOI
    * Robert Detrick, Vice President for Marine Facilities and Operations, WHOI

    What: Briefing on new 6,500-meter depth-capable human-occupied submersible

    When: Friday, August 6, 2004, 10:30 a.m.

    Where: National Science Foundation
    4201 Wilson Blvd., Suite 375
    Arlington, VA 22230
    (Metro Orange Line, Ballston Stop)
    For directions, see http://www.nsf.gov/home/visit/visitjump.htm

For more information and to arrange for a visitor pass, please call the media contact above.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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