Atlantis was the first Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution research vessel and the first ship built specifically for interdisciplinary research in marine biology, marine geology and physical oceanography. The 460-ton Marconi Ketch originally carried a crew of 17 and had room for 5 scientists.Columbus Iselin II, her first master and a major influence in her design, felt that steadiness, silence and cruising range were of greater importance than speed. After her construction was complete, WHOI searched for an appropriate name for the new vessel. Alexander Forbes (1882—1965), a trustee of WHOI, had recently bought a schooner named Atlantis from Iselin. Mr. Forbes rechristened his schooner so the new research vessel could be named Atlantis.
Use of a continuously recording fathometer on Atlantis cruise #150 enabled Ivan Tolstoy, Maurice Ewing, and other scientists of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to locate and describe the first abyssal plain in the summer of 1947. This plain, located to the south of Newfoundland, is now known as the Sohm Abyssal Plain. Following this discovery many other examples were found in all the oceans.
The "A- boat" made 299 cruises and covered 700,000 miles, doing all types of ocean science. In 1966, Atlantis was sold to Argentina, refurbished, and renamed El Austral. She is used as a research vessel and is crewed by Argentine naval personnel. She underwent a major overhaul and refurbishment in 2009 at the Tandanor shipyard in Buenos Aires.