Why I took the photos

I took the opportunity when invited to document the two-hour transferring of Alvin to the R/V Atlantis fantail early morning on September 8 of this year.

How I took the photos

I used my two digital cameras: Canon EOS Mark II with a zoom lens, 24-70mm, 20mm wide-angle lens, and a Canon G7X PowerShot II point-and-shoot model.

What I like about the photos

They show the study of physics of man and machine working together.

And one more thing

In 2002 I moved from the Bay Area to the Bay State—from Northern California to Woods Hole. Unaware of the cognizance of the scientific community here, I learned more over the years about WHOI—Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution—its mission and important educational research, especially about Alvin.

The documentary film “Bruce and Alvin” is coproduced by Judy Laster, director of the Woods Hole Film Festival, and its newly established Film & Scientific Initiative and WHOI. Film director Joshua Seftel introduces us to the deep submergence vehicle Alvin and Bruce Strickrott, the deep-thinking Alvin Group manager, chief pilot and trainer. Mr. Strickrott, a licensed airplane pilot and advanced certified SCUBA diver, is truly a deep thinker with an arcane knowledge of engineering, electronic and mechanical technical skills, and science able to interpret the managerial operation of Alvin—above and below the ocean.

A US Navy veteran and 27-year WHOI employee, Mr. Strickrott pilots Alvin into the ocean’s depths with vulcanologists, geologists, biologists and many other scientific-gists who’ve been discovering sci-fi-like sea creatures and gathering vast ocean data. The common fact is that we know more about space than our oceans.

Alvin, named for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution engineer and geophysicist Allyn Vine, has been pioneering deep submergence research and technology since commissioned in 1964 by the Navy, which owns it. WHOI manages operational control of this world’s first-deep-ocean, state-of-the art submersible constructed with the latest and safest materials.

Every five years it is overhauled and continues to evolve, at costs reaching $8 million. It now can dive to 6,500 meters (2.8 miles), the deepest ever of any human-occupied submersible. It carries three people in the newly designed sphere with three portholes, giving researchers in-person access to approximately 98 percent of the ocean seafloor.

Over the last year Mr. Strickrott’s team more than “tinkered” with the overhaul in its special work bay behind the Smith Building on the institution’s dockside, where the research vessel R/V Atlantis stores the 45,000-pound submersible in the ship’s fantail during explorations around the world.

Alvin is often described as a “thought puzzle.” Having been upgraded over so many years, it is difficult to identify an original piece of the vehicle today after more than 5,000 dives.

This past September 8, the overhauled Alvin was gingerly transferred from its bay womb onto the R/V Atlantis, a feat taken as nonchalant. Alvin and Atlantis will set sail sometime in October. But for this first-time observer, it was a masterful task by a team of crane operators, flatbed truck drivers, technicians and engineers helping deliver a newborn measuring 23.1 feet long, 8.4 feet wide, and 12 feet high.

It was the mother of all “berthings.”

Mark Chester’s photographs from his forthcoming book “The Bay State: A Multicultural Landscape, Photographs of New Americans” are on display at the Centerville Library through October 15. Info at: www.markchesterphotography.com.

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