Today, scientists are making exciting discoveries about the ocean, thanks to deep-sea submersibles such as Alvin.
Owned by the U.S. Navy and operated for the national ocean science community by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, this three-person sub, known officially as a "deep submergence vehicle," made its first dive in 1964. Since then, Alvin has made more than 4,200 dives. With a maximum diving depth of 4,500 meters (about 3 miles), the sub has the capabilty to reach over 62% of the ocean floor.
Alvin has conducted a wide variety of research missions, from discovering giant tubeworms on the Pacific Ocean floor near the Galápagos Islands, to exploring the wreck of RMS Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean.
Alvin has met some amazing life on its travels, but so far it has not encountered one of the deep sea's most mysterious inhabitants the elusive giant squid. However, Alvin once was attacked by a swordfish, which became trapped between two pieces of the sub's fiberglass skin. The fish was brought back to the surface and cooked for dinner!
A new Alvin is now being constructed. The new sub, projected to be completed in 2011, will descend to 6,500 meters (over 4 miles), opening 99% of the ocean floor to potential study.