Interviews: Expedition Leader J. Patrick Hickey
Pat—shown here inside Alvin—says
that one of the best parts of piloting the sub is “I don’t
have to work in an office.”
What are your main responsibilities as expedition leader?
I work closely with the captain of Atlantis in planning
the joint operations of the sub and ship for science, and I act
as a primary liaison with the scientists who come onboard. I am
also responsible for all the at-sea aspects of Alvin operations,
including logistics, certification, and pilot status. When we’re
at sea and it involves Alvin, the buck stops with me.
When did you start working at the Woods Hole Oceanographic
In the mid-1980s, I was working in the offshore commercial diving
business all over the world and I met someone who told me about
WHOI and the Alvin program. I found out that WHOI was accepting
applications for people to work in the Alvin group, so I submitted
an application. After about six months I was interviewed, and accepted
the job offer in 1987.
|Pat has been to the seafloor more than
540 times in the research submersible Alvin. He started
working with the Alvin group at the Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution in 1987.
Growing up, what kind of career did you
School was OK, but I liked fixing things more than reading books.
Also, my dad had an offshore oil service business, and at a young
age I got involved in many aspects of his business. I knew when
I was a teenager that I wanted to focus my career on offshore industries
How did you acquire the skills you needed to become the
Initially I gained a tremendous amount of experience before graduating
high school, by working with my dad in offshore oil industries.
After a year of college, I decided to move on to a technical commercial
diving school and then worked in the oil industry for about 10 years
with diving, submersible, and remotely operated vehicle systems.
I worked my way up to supervisory positions during that period.
Then I moved on to work at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution,
and moved into the expedition leader slot when it opened because
of my oilfield background and accumulated Alvin experience.
What advice do you have for people interested in your
line of work?
Experience is essential. So is learning principles of physics, mechanics,
acoustics, and electronics. Plus, working with many different scientists
helps. That has given me a great view of the types of instruments
they need to do their work and lots of information about many different
oceanographic fields, including marine geology, chemistry, and biology.
What do you like most about your job?
The people. We get a new science crew onboard about every month
and it is really great to share their ideas and enthusiasm. You
never do the same thing twice. Plus I don’t have to work in
What questions are you most often asked about diving in Alvin?
Kids always ask how we go to the bathroom in the sub. The answer
is, we have this bottle…