Fellows in the News

A pokey, pudgy three-person submarine will soon go on display in San Diego, and people who peer through its hatch are likely to ask:

“Do scientists really explore the ocean in that?”

The observatory on the deep submergence vehicle Alvin is barely six-feet wide. The portholes are about the size of dinner plates. There’s no central heating, no kitchen, and no bathroom.

But in the age of marine robotics, scientists still jockey for the right to descend miles deep in Alvin, one of the few vehicles in the world that lets people directly examine the life and landscape of the deep blue sea.

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The simple experience of descending in Alvin can be nerve-wracking — and thrilling — as the Union-Tribune learned by talking to Levin and three other Scripps aquanauts: postdoctoral researcher Natalya Gallo, doctoral candidate Lillian McCormick, and Olivia Pereira, who is seeking her Master’s degree.

All four women used Alvin to study methane seeps off Puntarenas, Costa Rica, during dives that lasted 9 to 10 hours.

Gallo tossed and turned the night before she descended 6,256 feet.

“My primal brain and my rational brain battled it out,” Gallo said. “I ended up practicing things in my head: You walk up the stairs, wave, get in the hatch, fill out your data sheets.

“Once I actually got in the sphere, I wasn’t worried.”

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