Milestone-Proposal talk:ALVIN: Deep-Sea Research Submersible, 1964-1965

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First assessment of the proposal by Prof. Van Dover -- John Vardalas (talk) 02:58, 28 December 2020 (UTC)

Below I've posted Prof. Van Dover's answers to questions posed to her regarding this proposal.

Dr. Cindy Van Dover is the Harvey W. Smith professor of Biological Oceanography at Duke University. In her career, she made nearly 100 dives to the deep seabed, including 48 dives as Pilot-in-Command of Alvin. She has also been an early adopter of deep-submergence technology, including the ROV Jason, the AUV Sentry, and telepresence, and has served as Chief Scientist on numerous deep-sea expeditions. In recent years, she has become a leader in the emergent field of deep-sea environmental management, particularly in the context of deep-sea mining.


a) Has the proposer established clear historical significance?

Prof. Van Dover's answer:

"YES. The historical narrative clearly illustrates how Alvin has been (and continues to be) transformational, contributing to transdisciplinary advances in science and engineering, and to unsurpassed leadership in access to the seabed for the benefit of society for decades. The vehicle itself is symbolic of the creativity and talent of its designers, operators, and users. Engineered Alvin systems have served as the basis for design of the other vehicles in the global human-occupied submersible research fleet. The entire field of deep-submergence science was enabled by Alvin engineers and operations teams and initiated by the Alvin science users. Deep-diving research ROVs that now dominate deep-ocean research were derivatives of Alvin engineering and science advances. I would add that an important Alvin legacy is that the submarine inspired and continues to inspire generations of deep-sea engineers and scientists. The list of scientists who have dived in Alvin includes a Who’s Who of leaders in the field."

b) Are their arguments well developed and technically strong?

Prof. Van Dover's answer:

"YES. The engineering advances are especially well described and compelling in their diversity (e.g., hull manufacture, syntactic foam design, navigation, underwater cameras, hull penetrators, safety design). Discovery of hydrothermal vents absolutely changed how we think about adaptations of organisms to environmental extremes, the origin of Life on Earth, and the potential for life on other planets. This is the most significant example of fundamental scientific knowledge enabled by Alvin and is appropriately highlighted in the proposal."

c) In your view, is the wording of the citation below accurate? YES.

Prof. Van Dover's answer:


Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) commissioned ALVIN, the world’s first mobile, untethered, crewed, deep-sea submersible in 1964. Navy certified in 1965, engineers and scientists at WHOI pioneered innovations in deep-sea acoustical navigation, communications, photography and lighting, and life support systems. ALVIN was instrumental in recovering a lost H-bomb, photographing RMS Titanic, creating the field of hyperbaric microbiology and by its discoveries of hydrothermal vents, [which] revolutionized our understanding of life’s origins.

d) Do the arguments in the proposal fully support the above citation?

Prof. Van Dover's answer:

"Yes. Each fact in the citation immediately above is well documented in the proposal text."

e) Finally, have the proposers provided adequate supporting references to support the claims and arguments?

Prof. Van Dover's answer:

"Yes. Water Baby by Victoria Kaharl is cited; it is a landmark account of the history of Alvin that benefitted from and synthesized many hours of interviews with engineers and scientists at the time (late 1980s). The supporting texts and citations in the proposal are pertinent and include excerpts from dozens of peer-reviewed publications that report on and give authority to major engineering and scientific advances."

f) Are important references missing?

Prof. Van Dover's answer:

"No. But I do want to add that Alvin’s work has been featured in innumerable documentaries, newspaper and magazine articles, novels, etc. The vehicle and its work have been celebrated worldwide, for decades, for many reasons."

Second Assessment from Dr. Robert Ballard -- John Vardalas (talk) 18:50, 10 January 2021 (UTC)

Below I've posted Dr. Ballard's assessment of this Milestone proposal as communicated to me. Dr. Ballard is an eminent oceanographer and renowned deep sea explorer. He has also been a pioneer in deep sea archaeology. He started the Center for Ocean Exploration and Archaeological Oceanography and is Director of the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography.


Dear John,

Proposal looks great.

The only comment deals with the discovery of the first hydrothermal vents, which were discovered by Woods Hole towed camera system ANGUS, which detected the temperature anomaly while at the same time took pictures of the cloudy water coming out of an underwater vent surrounded by giant clams. ALVIN was vectored to that location the following day. This discovery was published in WHOI’s Oceanus Magazine entitled “Notes on a major oceanographic find”, Oceanus, v. 20, p. 35-44.

ANGUS and later ARGO working with ALVIN proved to be a powerful “tag team” of unmanned and manned technologies in WHOI’s deep submergence tool box resulting in the discovery and documentation of hydrothermal vents, high temperature “Black Smokers”, and the RMS TITANIC.

Hope this helps.