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Media Advisory 04-22

New Deeper-Diving, Human-Occupied Submersible to Replace Current Alvin; Subject of Briefing by NSF, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Scientists

August 4, 2004

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.


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.


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


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


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


National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Blvd., Suite 375
Arlingon, VA 22230
(Metro Orange Line, Ballston Stop)
For Directions, see




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

Media Contacts
Cheryl L. Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2022 budget of $8.8 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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