Aluminaut, the world`s first manned aluminum submersible

In 1964, Reynolds Metals Company, headquartered in Richmond, Va., launched an extraordinary creation—the Aluminaut, the world`s first aluminum submersible. During its career, the Aluminaut set a world record for the deepest dive by a submersible and traveled the globe to perform scientific research and emergency salvage missions.

The DSV –Deep Submergence Vehicle, Aluminaut was built for Reynolds Metals Co. by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics in Groton, Connecticut in 1964. She was operated by Reynolds Submarine Services Corp., based in Miami, until 1970.

With four view ports, active and passive sonar, manipulators, side scan sonar, and 6000 pounds of scientific payload, the submersible was outfitted for many types of oceanographic and salvage missions.

The submersible participated in numerous operations, including recovery of the H-bomb (hydrogen), 1966 off Palomares, Spain, torpedo recovery at the US Navy`s acoustic testing facility in the Bahamas, and surveys to 6,000 feet for the US Naval Oceanographic Office.

She also made movies with Jacque Cousteau and Ivan Tor Studios.

Among Aluminaut`s most significant achievements was the salvage of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution`s research submersible Alvin. In August of 1968, tragedy struck. Alvin was lost. As the DSV was being placed into the water a few hundred miles off Cape Cod, a cable holding it up broke. Luckily, the men inside were able to escape through the open hatch before Alvin sank 5,500 feet to the bottom. After spending 11 months on the ocean floor, Alvin was located by sonar. After repeated attempts during a 17-hour dive, a lifting toggle bar was finally secured to Alvin`s open hatch and towed it to the surface. The successful hookup resulted in the deepest known salvage up to that time. Alvin was back in shape and diving again before the end of 1970.

Aluminaut`s final journey was to the Science Museum of Virginia where it is on permanent display.

Technical specifications, Aluminaut:

Displacement (sub/srf tons): 80/ un known
Dimensions (L*B feet/meter): 51`0*8.1/15.6*2.5
Propulsion: un known
Speed (sub knots): 3.0
Range (sub n/miles@knots): 32 hours operation time
Diving Depth (feet/meter): 15,000/4,570
Complement: 3 crew, 3-4 scientists 

Back to History Index

Image Country Year Description
Palau 1995 Aluminaut 6,250 feet
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