This past June, the Alvin upgrade project hit a major milestone. The new titanium personal sphere has been completed and thoroughly tested. The personal pressure vessel seats a pilot and two researches. It is apart of the greater Alvin submersible and will be reassembled later in the year. The sphere is designed to descend nearly 4 miles under the ocean surface which will generate 10,000 psi. If I were in that cramped submersible I’d be rather nervous having 4 miles of water above my head.
To ensure the vessel is ready for practical use the new titanium sphere went under rigorous testing. During the tests, industrial pressure gauges were affixed to both the exterior and interior of the sphere to measure the strain and minute change in the metal from prolonged stress. To produce this stress, the titanium sphere was filled with water and then placed inside a tank filled with water and pressurized. The series of test dives lasted a four day period. The operational depth of the new sphere is planed to be 6,500 meters but in order to comply with engineering standards for human occupied submersibles the sphere was tested at 8,000 meters which is 24 percent deeper.
Back in the day Alvin was the first ship of its class of deep submergence vehicles and was build to dive 2,440 meters. Since then it has gone under many renovations, the only part resembling the original ship is the name and general design. The undersea exploration vessel is disassembled every three to five years for compel inspection and is scheduled to resume operations this year. It takes incredible stamina to go on a diving mission in one of these ships. They take around 6 to 8 hours, most of the time is vertical diving and rising. Pressure gauges are used to determine depth as the vessel slowly descends to the ocean floor. These guys go through some serious discomfort for research samples.