Hydrothermal vents were first discovered in
1977 using the human occupied submersible Alvin.
After 40 years of scientific research that led
to the discovery of new life forms and helped
confirm the theory of plate tectonics, the National
Science Foundation is providing funding to replace
Alvin with a new, deeper-diving vehicle. The
replacement vehicle will be capable of reaching
more than 99 percent of the seafloor to depths
of 6.5km (4 miles), 40% deeper than Alvin, which
currently dives to 4.5km (2.8 miles).