Diving

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East Pacific Rise

Hydrothermal vents occur as hot springs at many places on earth, but only in the deep sea is the fauna at vents unique. Getting to the deep sea to study these animals is difficult. The weight of the overlying water column means the pressure on the seafloor is immense. Scientists use the ALVIN to see the ocean floor with their own eyes and come back to the surface safe and sound. This submersible is a seven-foot diameter titanium sphere that maintains one atmosphere pressure regardless of depth. Oxygen canisters, carbon dioxide scrubbers and emergency respirators ensure that the two scientists and one pilot inside the sphere for a typical eight or nine-hour dive have air to breathe. No diver has been seriously injured in any of ALVIN’s nearly 4,000 dives. To maintain that record, safety comes first. Getting the 16-ton, 23-foot-long submersible from the ship into the water to start a dive can be a delicate operation and proceeds only in favorable weather. To better their chances the cruise sets sail on the last official day of Hurricane season, hoping that the storms know the schedule.