general mills alvin
Jun 24, 2014 • By

Our connection to Alvin

It’s a familiar story with a little known twist – on a frigid day in April 1912, on her maiden voyage, the RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic Sea. Only 705 of the 2,228 passengers on board survived.

The wreckage was lost for more than 60 years, though many people searched obsessively for it. When researchers finally located the Titanic on the ocean floor in 1985, they needed a way to examine the ship in the icy, murky depths.

Enter Alvin.

alvin submersible

Alvin, the deepest-diving research submersible in use today, made its debut in 1964. It was designed by Harold (Bud) Froehlich, an aeronautical engineer for General Mills, Alvin was a 23-foot long submersible – the first of its kind that could be transported aboard a ship instead of being towed slowly through calm waters.

Alvin marks its 50th anniversary this month, so we thought we’d highlight its history and more than 4,600 dives.

But how did a company known primarily for cereal end up pioneering underwater technology?

General Mills has a long history of technological advances – from cereal puffing guns and packaging machines to hot air balloons and mechanical arms.

Froehlich designed the remotely operated mechanical arm for General Mills and it impressed the Naval Electronics Laboratory (NEL) at the United States Naval Institute and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

So, under the watchful eye of oceanographer Allyn C. Vine, Froelich (working through our Aeronautical Research Labs and the General Mills Electronics division) invented Alvin and named it in honor of Vine.

sea pup alvin

A model of the Sea Pup – the smaller precursor to Alvin.

Explorers and oceanographers rejoiced in the vehicle, which was just big enough for a three-person crew: A pilot and two researchers.

Alvin’s first two dives were completed by Froelich, Vine and pilot Bill Rainnie. In the past 50 years, more than 14,000 researchers have submerged in Alvin, which has gone through several renovations and redesigns.

alvin 50 years

Some of the highlights of Alvin’s 50 year “career” include:

* Locating a lost hydrogen bomb in the Mediterranean Sea in 1966

* Exploring the first known hydrothermal vent in the 1970s

* Scouting the wreck of the Titanic in 1986

* Examining sub-surface damage after the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill

Happy anniversary, Alvin!

Here’s to 50 more years of excellence in underwater exploration.

Editor’s note: The General Mills Archives provided information and images for this post. You can learn more about our past on GeneralMills.comHave a question about General Mills’ history? Send our Archives team an email.