Manned submersibles, also known as human-occupied vehicles (HOVs) allow marine scientists to conduct biological, chemical, geochemical, geological and geophysical studies, viewing and sampling organisms in their natural settings. These vehicles are compact and depend on research vessels for maintenance and preparation for dives, as well as for transport of the submersible, associated equipment, operators and scientist who conduct the research to the site to be investigated. HOVs have contributed to some of the major research breakthroughs of the past 50 years, such as the discovery of widespread life at hydrothermal vents and methane seeps, and have allowed marine biologists to study life and collect intact organisms for many deep sea environments. HOVs are capable of reaching most ocean regions, and have helped advance scientific understanding of the organisms of the ocean through direct observations made by scientists. Although there is impressive growth in the capabilities of unoccupied vehicles (both remotely operated and autonomous), scientific demand for manned submersibles is expected to remain high. Work continues on design of an HOV to replace the Alvin, a workhorse of the U.S. academic fleet.
The Russian submersible, MIR, being inserted in to the water by a crane off the back of a research vessel. (Mid-Atlantic Ridge Ecosystems - MAR-ECO. P. P. Shirshov, Institute of Oceanology)
The front of the Russian submersible, MIR, clustered with a variety of collecting and observing instruments. (Mid-Atlantic Ridge Ecosystems - MAR-ECO. Klockargaardens Film AB)
A mechanical collecting arm from the French submersible, NAUTILE, taking a sample from a hydrothermal vent. (Daniel Desbruyères, PHARE-IFREMER)
The French submersible, NAUTILE, being readied for deployment on the back of the R/V ATLANTE. (Biogeography of Deep-Water Chemosynthetic Ecosystems Project - ChEss. Eva Ramirez Llodra)