Storied Research Subs Visit Northwest Coast

Aug 26, 2013

A storied research sub that explored and filmed the wreck of the Titanic is making an appearance in the Northwest. The deep-diving submarine "Alvin" is in Astoria Monday,  August 26 through Friday, August 30 while its support ship changes crews. It's actually one of two well-known submersibles passing through the port town.

Upgraded minisub Alvin was loaded onto R/V Atlantis at the WHOI dock on May 13, 2013.
Credit Tom Kleindinst

In addition to exploring the Titanic, the stubby 3-person submarine Alvin has also found a lost H-bomb in the Mediterranean Sea and discovered dramatic hydrothermal vents. Alvin departs Astoria at the end of this week to begin sea trials to test out a $41 million upgrade. Submarine operations manager Patrick Hickey says as part of the overhaul, technicians enlarged the spherical titanium crew compartment and added extra viewing portholes.

Hickey: "The old sphere, you could easily equate it to spending all day in a phone booth with two of your closest friends. Well, the phone booth has grown into a very small car now. So, you have more room but you're still in a crowded space."

During this week's port call, the mother ship is dropping off a different sub named Jason, this one unmanned. It spent the past several months helping scientists do earthquake studies off the Oregon and Washington coasts. Both subs are operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Copyright 2013 Northwest News