Image courtesy of Mark Spear

From: Eric Simms
East Pacific Rise, February 1, 2007

Diving to the Deep

Greetings once again, from the East Pacific Rise!

One of the most useful tools that scientists have for exploring the deep sea is the Alvin research submersible. Here's a postcard showing the submersible just before it begins its dive.

The original Alvin was built in 1964, and since then different versions of the sub have completed over 4300 successful dives to the ocean floor all around the world. Alvin can take a pilot and two scientists to depths of 4500 meters (14,625 feet) – a typical dive lasts eight hours, but at least half of that time can be spent just getting down to the bottom and back depending on the bottom depth. Once on the bottom, manipulator arms controlled by the pilot can collect samples of rocks and organisms to be brought back to the surface. Scientists also leave equipment and location markers on the seafloor to conduct experiments, and cameras on the sub collect photographs and video of each dive.

On this cruise, Alvin is being used to observe how the seafloor has changed since the January 2006 eruption, and to collect samples of the water, rocks and organisms found at the new vent sites. Be sure to check out our cruise log on the SEAS website.

For more information on the Alvin submersible visit

Postcards from the Field: Deep Sea

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