Alvin-Themed Talks At WHOI Celebrate Submersible's Birthday

On Tuesdays during the month of August, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s exhibit center and information office are sponsoring a series of public talks by WHOI scientists and engineers designed for a lay audience about WHOI’s human-occupied submersible Alvin, which is celebrating its 50th birthday this year.

All talks are at 3 PM (except August 19, which will be at 2:30 PM) in Redfield Auditorium, 45 Water Street, Woods Hole.

On August 5, ocean engineer Dana Yoerger will present “Autonomous Underwater Robots: How They Work.” Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) like WHOI’s REMUS, Sentry, and SeaBED are important tools used to explore the ocean. They are controlled by onboard computers and powered by internal batteries; they keep track of their own motions and ensure that their sensors are operating properly. The science and engineering that goes into creating vehicles that can carry out missions with little or no help from people will be discussed.

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Marine geologist Maurice Tivey will present Alvin and the Wet Wi-Fi on August 12. Sound has traditionally been the communications medium of choice in the ocean, but engineers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution developed an underwater “optical modem” that uses light to transmit information at a much higher rate than is capable with sound and which was recently used by scientists and engineers to collect data from a seafloor borehole observatory. Attendees will learn more about this new tool, how it was used, and what the data from a recent Alvin dive on the Juan de Fuca plate showed.

The program on August 19, led by Alvin Group manager Bruce Strickrott, will be “Humans in the Deep Ocean, From Imagination to Reality.” In 1870, Jules Verne penned his famous novel, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” putting on paper as fiction what many had dreamed about—the ability to visit and explore the unknown depths of the ocean. Since then, Verne’s dream of deep ocean exploration has become a reality and has resulted in profound discoveries about the ocean and the planet. Attendees will learn about the history of human-occupied submersibles, starting from the early primitive designs and working toward how Alvin is operated today, as well as plans to take Alvin even deeper over coming years. During this presentation, Mr. Strickrott will moderate a live phone call to the research vessel Atlantis to hear first hand about Alvin’s latest adventures.

The final talk for the month will be on August 26 and will feature marine biologist Susan Mills speaking on “Life in an Earthquake Zone.” Deep-sea hydrothermal vent sites host dense communities of animals in a food web built on chemical energy from beneath the sea floor. These sites experience frequent disturbances, like volcanic eruptions, that sometimes wipe out entire communities. How does life return to sites after such an event?

Attendees will learn how a site on the East Pacific Rise was recolonized by distant populations of animals after a 2006 eruption and how its transformation has added to the understanding of how these communities persist in this unstable environment.

Redfield Auditorium is at 45 Water Street in Woods Hole.

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