Christopher J. von Alt, Jason Jr. Principal Engineer
Jason Jr. Engineering Team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Recipients of 2006 GlobalSpec Great Moments in Engineering Award
The 2006 GlobalSpec Great Moments in Engineering Award was presented to the Jason Jr. engineering team (1986) in honor of the 20th anniversary of their first video survey of R.M.S. Titanic.
This small engineering team from the Deep Submergence Laboratory of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution - whose behind-the-scenes technical accomplishments resulted in the design and prototyping of a tethered robotic "video vehicle" 12,000+ feet deep in the North Atlantic - helped open doors to undersea discovery, commerce, innovation and a new understanding of the ocean's ecosystem through remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). The team has never been singled out and honored for its achievement on a national or international level.
GlobalSpec Chairman and CEO Jeff Killeen presented the award to Jason Jr. principal engineer Christopher J. von Alt. James Luyten, executive vice president and director of research at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, recognized the team for their remarkable accomplishment.
About the Honorees
In July 1986, engineers from the Deep Submergence Laboratory of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution embarked on an expedition where the result was seen by millions on television: stunning color video images taken from inside the sunken luxury ocean liner R.M.S. Titanic by a prototype, a remotely-controlled, deep water vehicle (ROV) dubbed Jason Jr.
What few knew, however, was what occurred behind the scenes of this remarkable accomplishment. The work of Jason Jr. engineers during the second expedition to Titanic proved for the first time that small, fiber-optic tethered ROVs could perform as high-resolution video systems in deep water at 6,000 psi, in tight spaces and amid tangled wreckage far too dangerous for humans to explore in larger submersibles.
Unknown to the public, this expedition taken by Jason Jr. served another purpose. The U.S. Navy needed to beat the Russians to the wrecks of the U.S.S. Thresher and Scorpion for nuclear weapon security reasons and provided secret funding for Jason Jr.'s expedition to Titanic as a cover, diverting public attention away from a mission where the tiny ROV could obtain detailed video of submarine wreckage.
Jason Jr. engineers proved that operations by human-occupied submersibles near deep-water wrecks could be carried out safely and a remotely-operated vehicle could approach and investigate wreckage while the submersible stood at a safe distance.
Their legacy continues in 2006, both at the Deep Submergence Laboratory and around the world. ROVs have reinvigorated marine archeology, provided a new understanding of the ocean's ecosystem and opened doorways to commerce. Today, Jason Jr. has been a vanguard for sophisticated undersea surveillance technologies now helping safeguard our nation's coastal ports.
About the Award
The GlobalSpec Great Moments in Engineering award is presented annually to a person or group whose singular moment of engineering ingenuity produced a significant turning point for the application of technology and resulting benefits to people, science or industry.
Read about this year's winner:
2008 award winner - General Motors Engineering Team (1973-1975)
Read about previous winners:
2007 award winner - DynaTAC Engineering Team from Motorola
2006 award winner - Jason Jr. Engineering Team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
2005 award winner - NASA's Crew Systems Division (1970)