Tug Boat "Alma"
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My name is Keith Kelsey and my family acquired the Alma in the late 1950s. She was built in 1927 in San Francisco and we acquired it when Chevron, that had an oil terminal between Cayucos and Morro Bay, asked my grandfather if he'd take over the shipping there. So Grampa took over the shipping and we used it for taking pilots three miles offshore, dropped them off at the oil tanker, and then we would head into the shoreline and run the big ropes and wires from the ships to the buoys offshore to hold the ship in and eventually pull over a bell buoy which the ship's winches would pull up with cranes and stuff to load crude oil. And I think it was 1992 that we donated it to the Maritime Museum because she was famous in World War II for saving the crew off the Montebello, which in 1941 was torpedoed by the Japanese six miles outside of Cambria. So there were two ships in Avila Beach. One was the Montebello, tied to the Unocal pier, with a full load of Santa Maria crude, and the Larry Doheny was another ship that was at anchor waiting to come in and get oil. And they got word that there was a Japanese submarine outside and it had already torpedoed in Carpinteria the tanks up on the hill, did minimal damage with the deck guns. And the captains of these submarines were the Japanese captains of oil tankers back in the day, and so they had local knowledge. And so Unocal got the orders that they had to get the ship to San Francisco and they decided that they were going to take off at two in the morning approximately and there'd be safety in numbers. And so anyway they hired people like my grandpa at the time with his dive boat to carry depth charges from the end of Fossil Point to the end of the breakwater in Port San Luis, so the submarine could see that they had a depth charge and they could hear the engines back and forth. Of course if he dropped the depth charge, he'd blow the bottom off his own boat because the boat's not fast enough to getaway. So anyway, the two ships take off, they get immediately torpedoes shot at them, and they veered off, figured one of them could make it if they switch off and separate. Montebello steamed straight north, the Larry Doheny was going to run the ship on the beach just north of Morro Rock, right next to the Rock, and they were going to get the ladders out, get off the ship and run for their lives. Two torpedoes were shot at it, and what Howard Elmore, who was on the Alma, told me was the torpedo blew up under the ship and jarred the ship so hard that it broke the compass. Another torpedo was shot and slid up in the surf and broke, blew up, and broke windows in local houses near the beach. And then they dropped anchor just outside the surf zone and the submarine took off in the other direction after the Montebello, because she was worth more, because she had a full load of crude in her. So Howard was at the sea buoy off of Morro Bay, and they were tied to it, and there was radio silence. And they heard explosions going on throughout the morning. And when daylight came they saw that oil tanker anchored right next to Morro Rock. And so they were like “What the heck happened?” and they headed into Estero Bay. There used to be a pier between Cayucos and Morro Bay that went out and that they would moor the tug boats offshore and come into the pier to take on passengers and employees and stuff. And so they got into the pier and they were told to take the crew to the Estero, another tug, and to get north to San Simeon as fast as they can to rescue the crew off the Montebello. The Montebello was chased up north by a Japanese submarine that was six miles outside of Cambria. And so that's where the submarine, that Howard told me, surfaced on the inside of the, between the shore and the oil tanker, and shot two torpedoes at it, one missed, and the other one hit the only tank forward that was empty flooding the bow of the ship. So down she went. And the Alma and the Estero were told to head up to go rescue the crew if they could at all assist. By the time that they got there, one of the lifeboats had already gone to the surf and the local ranch hands and ranchers helped them get through the surf. When the Alma got there, they got to the closest boat to shore, and they couldn't reach them because the water was too shallow, so they floated a life jacket in with a line and they were able to pull the boat out and saved the crew of three lifeboats. And they took the crew on board and they towed all three lifeboats back into Morro Bay to safety.
So in 1992 The Sylvester Tug Service and my family retired the Alma and donated it to the Maritime Museum for preservation and for the public to understand the story of the Montebello being torpedoed off the West Coast.
Thank you for visiting the Maritime Museum.
2 Person AB Sub
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Hello, my name is Steve Rebuck. I grew up here in Morro Bay. I'm a local abalone historian and I've been in the business my entire life of 72 years. The machine that we're looking at here today is a two-person submersible which appears to have been built to dive on white abalone Haliotis sorenseni, which is a Southern California species always not found north of Point Conception in Santa Barbara County. These animals at 15 – 200 feet of sea water, most commonly at 80 – 100 feet. So the safety of using compressed air to fish these abalone at 100 feet is risky. By 1976 the white abalone resource was in decline and landings were declining. This machine is somewhat similar to ones that built and used in Australia. Those machines are more skeletal, meaning that they are not a heavy, fixed welded machine; they are more tubular. They are hydraulic powered and are basically designed to protect the divers from great white sharks. So where this machine is somewhat similar, apparently it was never used in the fishery. It probably was a good idea that came a little too late.
One aspect of this machine is that a diver exiting the machine into the water at 100 feet would be affected by essentially four atmospheres of pressure. If they returned immediately to that submarine and entered it, they most certainly would immediately embolize, meaning that the gas in their body would expand and they would probably die within minutes or hours. So with those liabilities, it would seem that this machine wasn't 100% thought out and probably would not have been successful.
Morro Bay was clearly a very rich area for primarily red abalone. There are a couple of minor species, black abalone, the Haliotis cracherodii and pinto abalones but primarily red abalone was the target species. Native Americans going back 10,000 years fished this area. There are still middens on the sand spit and elsewhere where they left their shells and cooked their food. Chinese people that came to California in the 1850s to mine and build the railroads noticed that there was an abundance of abalone, which were not available to common people in China. They began fishing and exporting those animals back to China around 1850. The Chinese did not dive, which meant they could only shore pick along the tide pools. In 1896, the Japanese people arrived and they started fishing in their traditional diving method of ama diving, but the water is very cold here and so they introduced compressed air diving, heavy gear diving about 1896. The fishery moved southward over time, and by 1928 the Pierce family had started to fish abalone at Morro Bay, along with the Revieas, Montgomerys and a number of other local families. Keith Cox in 1962 published Fish Bulletin 118, and he reported in that that from 1916 until the early 1960s, approximately 2 million pounds of abalone per year were being landed at Morro Bay. So from 1928 through the end of World War II, the Pierces were the primary processors of abalone at Morro Bay. Some of the other families also processed, and there was approximately six to ten other processing facilities at Morro Bay. A couple of hundred individuals were involved in the fishery, divers and tenderers, and for many years, Morro Bay was known as the abalone capital of the world. Things were good at Morro Bay in the abalone fishery, sport and commercial, up until the early 1960s, when sea otters began to arrive. They had been moving down the coast since the 1920s, and everywhere that they occupied the abalone resources declined. So by the early 1960s, the writing was on the wall here. Most of the younger men, divers, left the area and went to Santa Barbara. The fishery existed through about 1976 at Morro Bay until the landings got down to about 1 ton per year and that was the end of it.
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Hello, my name is B. J. Diggins. I worked for Matson Navigation Company, sailing as Captain for over 20 years on many of the ships in their fleet. I’d like to give you a brief history of the company and Matson’s contributions to modern containerization.
Matson Navigation Company’s long association with Hawaii began in 1882, when Captain William Matson sailed his 3-masted schooner Emma Claudina from San Francisco to Hilo, Hawaii, carrying 300 tons of food, plantation supplies, and general merchandise. That voyage launched a company that has been involved in such diversified interests as oil exploration, hotels, tourism, military service during 2 world wars, and even, briefly, the airline business. Matson’s primary interest, throughout, however, has always been carrying freight between the Pacific Coast and Hawaii. When Captain Matson died in 1917 at 67, the Matson fleet comprised 14 of the largest, fastest, and most modern ships in the Pacific passenger freight service.
As World War I broke out, most of the Matson fleet was requisitioned by the government as troop ships and military cargo carriers. Other Matson vessels continued to serve Hawaii’s needs throughout the war. After the war, Matson’s ships reverted to civilian duty, and the steamers SS Manulani and SS Manukai were added to the fleet, the largest freighters in the Pacific at that time.
The decade from mid-1920s to mid-1930s marked a period of significant expansion for Matson. With increasing passenger traffic to Hawaii, Matson began building world-class luxury liners known as the famed White Ships. These ships, along with the construction of The Royal Hawaiian Hotel and other Matson Waikiki hotels, provided tourists with luxury accommodations both ashore and afloat. Many famous photographs, along with artwork designed for memorable keepsake menus for the voyages, continue to be very popular today.
Immediately after the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the passenger liners Lurline, Matsonia, Mariposa, and Monterey and 33 Matson freighters were called to military service. Matson, as general agent for the war’s shipping administration, was given the responsibility for manning, provisioning, maintaining and servicing an important part of the government’s rapidly expanding fleet of cargo vessels. Matson was soon operating a fleet of more than 100 vessels. Matson’s 4 passenger liners completed a wartime total of 119 voyages, covered 1.5 million miles, and carried a total of 736,000 troops. Due to wartime losses and the expense of restoration work converting The White Ships from troop carriers back to passenger liners, the post-war period was difficult for Matson.
On August 31, 1958, Matson’s SS Hawaiian Merchant departed San Francisco carrying twenty 24-foot containers on deck. The historic voyage marked the beginning of an ambitious containerization program that achieved tremendous gain in productivity and efficiency from the age-old methods of break bulk cargo handling. The container freight system that Matson introduced to Hawaii in 1958 was the result of years of careful research and resulted in the development of a number of industry innovations that became models worldwide.
Containerization brought the greatest changes to water transportation since steamships replaced sailing vessels. The transformation of the Matson fleet from break bulk to container began in 1960 when The SS Hawaiian Citizen became the first vessel in the Pacific to be converted to a full container ship. While other vessels were converted in the early 1960s, construction of the first container ship in the world to be built from the keel up commenced in 1967 from a design developed by Matson’s own naval architects. That vessel, The SS Hawaiian Enterprise (renamed Manukai), and its sister ship, The SS Hawaiian Progress (renamed Manulani), entered service in 1970 and marked the beginning of a new generation of container ships.
The gains in productivity and efficiency were remarkable. In 1950, an average commercial vessel could carry just 10,000 tons at a speed of about 16 knots. Matson’s new ships carried 40,000 tons at a speed of 23 knots, reducing the transit time from the West Coast to Honolulu from nearly 6 days to only 4. These 2 ships were 720 feet long and 106 feet wide and carried roughly 2,000 TEUs. TEUs are Twenty-foot Equivalent Units, which is used as the standardized measurement to measure the number of containers various ships can carry, around the world.
Shoreside, Matson introduced the world’s first A-frame gantry crane. It was erected in 1959 in Alameda, California, and became the prototype for modern container cranes. In 1992, the diesel-powered MV R. J. Pfeiffer was constructed in San Diego and joined the Matson fleet. This marked a huge shift away from steamships to more fuel-efficient diesel-powered vessels.
Beginning in 2002, Matson embarked on an ambitious 4-ship construction program, which involved investing more than $500 million in new container ships. These ships serviced the West Coast, Hawaii, and Guam and expanded Matson’s geographic reach in the Pacific to include China. Matson’s service from China to Long Beach, California, is the fastest in the business, becoming the first ocean carrier to offer guaranteed transit time of full container loads to the West Coast.
In April, 2007, Matson celebrated 125 years of business in Pacific shipping. In the final phase of the latest modernization of Matson’s Hawaii Fleet, the company ordered 2 new 3,600-TEU container ships and 2 combination roll-on/roll-off container ships, all built in the U. S. These ships are state of the art, with green technology significantly reducing emissions. With the size limitations required for entrance into Honolulu Harbor, these are the largest ships in the Hawaii trade.
Today’s modern container ships, designed for deep-water ports, are much larger than Matson’s fleet. The OOCL Hong Kong was the largest container ship ever built at the time she was delivered in 2017, with a length of over 1,312 feet, and a capacity of 21,413 TEUs. The ship’s draft is 52 feet, 6 inches. These enormous ships carry much of the world’s commerce across vast stretches of ocean in any weather.
I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to the Museum and the Matson display. Thanks very much for listening.
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Hello, my name is Jeremiah O’Brien. I’m currently on the Harbor Advisory Board and I’m Vice-President of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization. We would like to introduce you to a very, very nice acquisition by the Maritime Museum here in Morro Bay of a vessel called The Spindrift.
The Spindrift is a Monterey-style fishing boat that was very, very common here in the 1950s and 1960s, and actually before that, from the 1930s on. It was a boat designed originally in Europe and used widely in the Mediterranean Sea and other areas around Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Spain. The double enders were a perfect fit here for the salmon fishing industry. They were also used in some lampara industry and rock cod. They were a very successful boat; they were designed and built specifically for the types of weather these boats would encounter in the Mediterranean Sea and those areas in Europe, and it was an excellent fit for those of us on the West Coast here in the salmon fishing industry and the other aforementioned businesses.
The Spindrift is a very, very nice acquisition, because this is an historic boat, and they are disappearing very fast. We are very, very lucky to have one here in Morro Bay that hopefully will be here for a long, long time and give people an opportunity to see what a magnificent boat these were and how they worked.
They were generally a one-man boat. You’ll see the cabin is small. The bow is naturally pointed, but it’s called a double ender because the stern has the same point aft on the boat. So it accommodates comfortably one person in the gaff pit on the stern, not two. These boats were built, though, up to 60-foot double enders and 60-foot-plus double enders, but they were rare, and they were used in a wide variety of other fisheries.
This particular boat consists of a caravel-planked hull of Port Orford cedar, which was widely, widely used for boat building. It was the favored wood for boat building. It was stressed wood; Port Orford is known for its wind, and the cedar was very tightly grained, and it was excellent wood for boat building. So they were made of Port Orford cedar over sawn oak frames with a wood cabin. It was last powered by a 353 GM marine diesel engine, which is commonly called a Detroit or a Jimmy. The 353, along with the 371 were very, very common engines in these small boats.
The Morro Bay Maritime Museum intends to conserve The Spindrift into a stable, presentable condition, which they have done, and it is currently on display at the museum next to the tug Alma. As an aside, I would like to mention The Alma, a tugboat that is currently on display also. It’s a very famous tugboat, I might add, that did rescue the crew and captain off The Montebello, which was sunk here in World War II. They were built in the same shipyard by Beviacqua Brothers at the Genoa Boat Works, which was in San Francisco near Fisherman’s Wharf. It is very unique to have both of these boats side by side now that came from the same shipyard, both very famous boats. So I hope you get to see them.
We just want to thank you folks very, very much for visiting the Morro Bay Maritime Museum. We hope you’ve enjoyed it and learned a little more about our beautiful area here. Thank you.
USCG Rescue Boat
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I am Ryan Widdows, currently the Officer in Charge of Coast Guard Station Morro Bay. I was first introduced to the 30-footer when I joined the Coast Guard in early spring of 1999 at Station Tillamook Bay in Garibaldi, Oregon. We had that boat until we decommissioned it in late 2000 or early 2001. After my tour at Station Tillamook, I was transferred down to Depoe Bay, where we still had an active 30-foot surf rescue boat that we operated from my time of getting there in 2004, and I believe we decommissioned that boat in 2006.
The boat was primarily designed for quick response in surf and heavy weather conditions, because at the time the Coast Guard was only operating the 44-foot motor lifeboat and the 52-foot motor lifeboat, which are both fairly slow, 10-12 knots. The 30-footer at the time was the fastest heavy weather surf-capable boat the Coast Guard had I believe, with top speed around 30 knots, or maybe not quite that fast, more along the lines of 28 knots. When the 47-foot motor lifeboat came online, which is what we currently operate, it made the 30-footer obsolete just due to the speed of the 47 and the capabilities of the 47. So that’s why they decommissioned them.
30-footer, single screw, 2-man crew, it was a tough boat to handle, I remember, running the boat in Depoe Bay. Everything happened to port, just because of the torque of the propeller when you put it into gear. Every man-overboard recovery, everything you had to do tying up to a dock would have to be on the port side. You could do it on the starboard side, but you’d have to fight it a little bit.
The boat had some quirks; it had what they call dynamic instability, so that at speed, the boat would try to trip on itself, basically turning the boat around the shaft. So basically with that dynamic instability, every time we operated the boat, we had to stay strapped in when operating at speed.
The 30-footer is very light weight, with a fiberglass hull. It has the same engine in it and the same block as the current 47 does, a 6V92 Detroit, without the electronic controls, so it’s a little more responsive. It was difficult to handle in the surf. Like I said, everything happens to port, so when you’re proceeding in the surf zone, you can imagine an oncoming wave, you want to make sure your bow is a little bit off to starboard and not exactly square, because when you brought up power to meet that wave, you would immediately go to port, so you had to kind of time it and play with it that way.
But it was a lot of fun. You could back the boat. When you’d put the boat astern, after a few yards, the rudder would catch and you could actually drive it backwards. We used to play a game at Depoe Bay where we’d nose up to the break wall, and the game was that you couldn’t take the boat out of gear until you were back at the dock. We’d basically back in a full circle and drive right into the dock backwards before taking it out of gear.
We didn’t use it a lot when I first got to Tillamook because we already had a 47 at the time and also 44s, so we didn’t use the 30-footer very often. But at Depoe Bay, when I got there in 2004, we only had one 47 and the 30-footer, so we used the 30-footer quite a bit.
I was on one interesting case with the 30-footer when we had a large crabber coming down the coast. The name of the boat was The Bold Contender, I remember. It was right out of the yard, brand new paint job, beautiful boat. I believe it had 5 people on board. They had a full deck load of crab pots; they probably had 250 pots on the back deck. They were taking on water in the lazarette. They couldn’t get to the lazarette because of the stack of pots, and they believed their bilge pump line was plugged with something. So the 47 launched with the boat crew. Then I and another friend of mine launched with the 30-footer, and what we brought was another dewatering pump along with an air compressor to help him blow his bilge pump lines out. We passed him the air compressor and he was working on it. The seas weren’t terribly rough, maybe 10-12 feet, pretty windy, just a normal nasty Oregon coast day. So we turned around with the 30-footer to head back to the dock while the 47 continued to monitor The Bold Contender taking on water.
We got a few miles away when we heard the 47 talking to the skipper of The Bold Contender asking him what was going on, and we got the impression that the boat was sinking and finally rolling over. So we turned around and headed right back to the scene. By the time we got there, The Bold Contender was on its side and all five people were lined up on the handrail. Four out of the five had survival suits on and one didn’t. They all jumped in the water and we recovered them real quick onto the 47.
It was one of the eeriest things I’ve seen since I’ve been in the Coast Guard my last 21 years, watching a brand new 70-plus-foot crabber sink right below me, where I could watch the lights go out as it sank and I could hear the bulkheads collapsing and crashing as all this debris was popping up all around me. Crab pot lines and buoys and everything else, life rafts, and anything that floated was popping up out of the water around me. We had to back off the scene just to get away from that so we wouldn’t get line tangled in our screw when the 47 brought the survivors back to the dock and delivered them to the EMS. I believe this was in 2005; I don’t remember exactly when. But that was probably the most significant call I’ve had with the 30-footer responding. We did a lot of normal towing of vessels broken down and a lot of normal towing like that.
We took a lot of pride in it; a good friend of mine and I, when we were both 2nd Class Petty Officers, were given that boat from our Officer in Charge and we were told to take it down to Station Yaquina Bay and rebuild it. So shortly after we brought it back with a brand new shiny paint job, they decommissioned that boat.
The hull you see here, the 30-footer here at Morro Bay is exactly like the two separate hulls I ran at Station Tillamook. This hull was donated to the Morro Bay Maritime Museum by the Coast Guard upon its decommissioning.
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Clear the bridge! Dive! Dive! (Oooga! Oooga!)
Thus begins the dive of a modern U.S. Navy nuclear submarine. As ballast tanks are vented, the black-hulled beauty glides smoothly below the waves. Suddenly, with no warning, an emergency radio buoy is rocketed up from below. As it breaks the surface, the most ominous distress message is transmitted over and over again: “Gray Lady down!”
Will the signal be heard? Will help arrive in time? Or will this submarine become yet another tomb at the bottom of the sea? The duty phone rings at the Deep Submergence Unit based at the North Island Naval Station in Coronado, California. A flashed message is received: “Submarine down! Prepare to deploy! Deep dive crew rescue!”
The protocols are activated for the immediate deployment of the Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle, DSRV2 Avalon. The Avalon, her crew, and all support personnel are loaded on an Air Force C-5A transport aircraft. With wheels up, they are on a ten-hour journey to an airfield nearest the seaport that is in range of the disabled submarine. When off-loaded, the Avalon is road towed to the port where a U.S. nuclear-powered attack submarine, designated the mother sub, is waiting.
The mother sub has been specifically modified to carry the Avalon piggyback. A heavy-lift crane helps mate the Avalon over the sub’s aft rescue escape trunk supported by four pylons. The mother sub, with the Avalon mated, sets a course for the disabled sub. Once on scene, the crew enters the Avalon. As the last crewman ascends the ladder up through the bottom hemispherical skirt into the Avalon’s life support sphere, he pulls up the lower hatch and seals it for launching.
The life support sphere is one of three interconnected 7½-foot diameter, 3-inch-thick-walled spheres that keep the crew safe from the tremendous sea pressures encountered at depths up to a mile deep. The Pilot and Co-pilot move to the forward sphere and man the vehicle’s sophisticated control and navigation console. The aft passenger sphere is checked and found secure. Along with the pilots, a life-support specialist and equipment operator make up the crew.
When confirmation is made that all is operational, the Avalon disengages from the mother sub and begins her slow, controlled descent. As the surface light fades from the view ports, an inky blackness envelopes the vessel. A chill is felt by the crew as the coldness of the depths permeates through the craft. In the darkness of the deep, the Pilot must now rely exclusively on the most modern and sensitive sonar to locate the sub’s distress pingers.
Contact is soon acquired, and the Avalon homes in for a rendezvous. As the Avalon nears, with its powerful light back-activated, the sub’s monstrous propeller comes into view. Viewing a high-resolution video feed, the pilots can now hover along the topside hull to locate the aft escape trunk deck hatch. Using the emergency underwater telephone, the sub commander reports numerous critical injuries on board.
When over the aft hatch, the pilot, using the horizontal and vertical bow and stern thrusters, pulls the Avalon into position. A close inspection reveals that the disabled sub has rolled over to port 25 degrees and the escape trunk hatch is fouled with rock debris. Mating with a rolled submarine is challenging, but the Avalon is designed to do just that and the crew is well trained for it. The equipment operator, while peering through the six-inch-wide, three-inch-thick view port, deploys a mechanical arm with an articulating manipulator grabber claw and carefully removes all that is fouling the escape trunk hatch and mating ring. Once cleared, the pilot centers the skirt over the hatch and the Avalon is slowly lowered onto the mating ring for a soft seal between the vessels. The skirt is pumped dry of sea water. Once dry, the 40-ton weight of the Avalon now holds fast to the sub. The lower hatch is opened, and a crew member drops down next to the disabled sub’s escape hatch. When the all-clear is received, the submarine crew opens the trunk hatch, to the relief of those waiting to be rescued.
The submarine’s injured are the first to be brought up and moved to the aft passenger sphere of the Avalon. Though the sphere appears to be able to hold only eight passengers, it is designed to accommodate twenty-four. To endure the tight and compact conditions for a trip to safety is but a small price to be paid for avoiding the alternative. Once all transfers are on board the return trip to the mother sub begins. Undocking is the reverse of the mating. The Avalon easily separates from the disabled submarine.
After the passengers are safely aboard the mother sub, the Avalon returns to the disabled sub for continued rescue operations. Numerous trips will have to be made to rescue the entire 120-man crew. The battery powered Avalon is designed for up to 30 hours of submerged operations before requiring a battery charge and replenishment of life support systems. Will there be enough time to complete the mission?
The preceding was not an actual event, but a scenario to illustrate a potential rescue mission. Most fortunately, the U.S. Navy has not lost a submarine since 1967, and an actual rescue mission has not been required. But intense rescue training is constantly ongoing in the event of such a need.
The Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles were not only designed for submarine rescue, but additionally for oceanographic research, and missions for deep recovery of both military and civilian material lost deep on the ocean floor. The vehicles partnered with other international allied submarine forces to provide training involving submarine rescue operations. Those missions alone kept the vehicles on an active schedule. Of the two rescue vehicles, one was always on immediate emergency alert.
The Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle Program Development
The Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle program contract was awarded to the Lockheed Missile and Space Company. Two rescue vehicles were built, DSRV1 Mystic and DSRV2 Avalon. Both were in service for 23 years, from 1977 to 2000. Each DSRV is 50 feet in length, 8 feet in diameter, and weighs approximately 40 tons.