A Brief History of Alpine
Alpine is proud to be celebrating its 65th Anniversary in 2022! This milestone makes us one of, if not the, longest continually operating marine geophysical survey company in the United States, and one of the oldest in the world. For those of you that may not know the company’s history, below is a brief synopsis which we hope you will find interesting.
First off, Alpine has not always been officially called Alpine Ocean Seismic Survey, Inc. Throughout the years it has changed names a few times due to restructuring, change of ownership etc. The company started off as Alpine Geophysical Associates, then transitioned to Ocean Seismic Survey, then for a period was known as Alpine Geophysical International, until, in 1983, when it became Alpine Ocean Seismic Survey. If you are wondering why “Alpine” keeps cropping up in the name of a company involved in marine environments, it’s because Alpine is the better-known town next to Norwood, where our headquarters are located, and back in the day, before computerized searches, companies were listed in paper directories in alphabetical order, putting Alpine at the top of the list.
Alpine was founded by a group of Scientists from Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory (Columbia University) in 1957. (That is one of the reasons our offices are in such an unlikely place. Lamont-Doherty is actually only about 5-10 minutes away.) The goal was to apply the results of advanced research studies and technical developments to the needs of the private sector.
Alpine was involved in some ground breaking work almost straight out of the blocks. In 1964, the Coastal Engineering Research Center (CERC) of the US Army Corps of Engineers inaugurated the “Sand Inventory Program” and contracted Alpine to carry out reconnaissance level surveys along the majority of the East Coast of the United States and ushered in the beach replenishment program which is still in existence. As part of this program Alpine designed the first pneumatic Vibracorer and perfected the use of Sparker and Subbottom techniques for delineation of Sand Borrow Areas. Chuck Dill, who only recently retired from Alpine, and who we still bring in for his expertise on east coast geology, was intimately involved in many of these projects. In 1965, Alpine was involved in another interesting project with the US Oceanographic Office which involved providing 3 vessels to collect acoustic data in support of the Navy’s long range sonar research and development program. The contract was cancelled in 1969 due to the Vietnam War.
From 1969 to 1982 Alpine continued to play a key role in the offshore survey industry with major surveys around the globe from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica, from East Africa to South America. The company also continued to manufacture equipment and helped develop new tools including the Abrams/Exxon gravity corer. In 1970, Gino Mecarini, who was an employee of Alpine at the time, was sent to Rome, Italy (with his wife and 3-year-old son, Rob, in tow) to establish Marine Geophysical, SpA. The subsidiary was responsible for the company’s expansion into the Mediterranean basin, Africa and the Middle East. In 1982, Marine Geophysical SpA. was sold to Oceaneering.
In 1983, The Alpine Group, which had already been a publicly traded company for some time and involved in more than just geophysical surveying, sold its survey division (i.e. Alpine) to Norton Lilly International. However, the company languished there and by that time had shrunk substantially, so in 1985 it was bought back by a group of employee/investors (including Gino Mecarini) and took on its current structure. In 1986, Alpine established a new Italian subsidiary, Oceansismica, SpA. The company became the dominant force in the Italian market and was awarded multiple contracts for on-call site hazard clearance surveys and rig positioning services. In 1993, Oceansismica, SpA was sold to Fugro.
From the mid-90’s to the mid-00’s Alpine was active in the African and South American oil and gas market, the telecom boom, some major HVDC cable projects and offshore beach replenishment projects. These projects are where some of our senior management like Rob Mecarini, Leo Gherardi and Jenny Hallahan cut their teeth. However, the company realized that further growth required investment. In 2009 Rob and Gino, who at this point controlled the company, decided to sell a 75% share of Alpine to Gardline. Phil Durrant, who now sits on Alpine’s Board of Directors, became Rob’s boss. During this time, Alpine started to realize the potential of the offshore wind sector in the US. It would be almost a decade before that potential became fully realized, but getting in at the ground floor and learning from Gardline’s European experience, was essential in Alpine’s success in the sector and the reputation it has developed as a leading survey company in the US Offshore Wind market.
Alpine is very grateful for the dedication of its staff, the support of its vendors and the faith put in us by our clients over the last 65 years. Without those factors we would not be here today, thriving and growing, and in the middle of one of the most exciting periods in the offshore industry we’ve seen in recent memory. We look forward to another 65 years of growth and history alongside all those that have made, and will continue to make, Alpine’s success possible.