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|Biography & Q&A|
"I grew up wanting to be Captain Nemo from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."
Best known for his 1985 discovery of Titanic, Dr. Robert Ballard has succeeded in tracking down numerous other significant shipwrecks, including the German battleship Bismarck, the lost fleet of Guadalcanal, the U.S. aircraft carrier Yorktown (sunk in the World War II Battle of Midway), and John F. Kennedy’s boat, PT-109.
While those discoveries have captured the imagination of the public, Dr. Ballard believes his most important discoveries were of hydrothermal vents and “black smokers” in the Galapagos Rift and East Pacific Rise in 1977 and 1979 along with their exotic life forms living off the energy of the Earth through a process now called chemosynthesis.
In addition to being a National Geographic Society Explorer-In-Residence and a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, Dr. Ballard is the founder and president of Sea Research Foundation's Institute for Exploration in Mystic, Conn.
Dr. Ballard was born June 30, 1942, in Wichita, Kan., but moved to California at a very young age and grew up exploring the shore in San Diego. Dr. Ballard holds a Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics from the University of Rhode Island. He spent 30 years at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he helped develop telecommunications technology to create “telepresence” for his JASON Project, which allows millions of schoolchildren to accompany him from afar on undersea explorations around the globe each year. In 2001, he returned to the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island where he is presently a tenured Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Center for Ocean Exploration and Archaeological Oceanography.
Dr. Ballard has 21 honorary degrees and six military awards. He was also a commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve, serving in the Navy from 1967 to 1997. He received the National Geographic Society’s prestigious Hubbard Medal in 1996 for “extraordinary accomplishments in coaxing secrets from the world’s oceans and engaging students in the wonder of science.” Dr. Ballard has published numerous books, scientific papers and a dozen articles in National Geographic magazine. Dr. Ballard also has been featured in several National Geographic television programs, including the record-breaking “Secrets of the Titanic.”
His discoveries also include sunken remains of ships along ancient trade routes in the Mediterranean Sea; two ancient Phoenician ships off Israel, the oldest shipwrecks ever found in deep water; and four 1,500-year-old wooden ships, one almost perfectly preserved in the Black Sea. Dr. Ballard’s Black Sea project seeks evidence of a great flood that may have struck the region thousands of years ago.
His 1997 best-selling book, Lost Liners, tells the story of the great transatlantic liners through memorable wrecks he has visited. Dr. Ballard was also a special advisor on Steven Spielberg’s futuristic Sea Quest, DSV television show.
An explorer, discoverer and historian, Dr. Ballard’s fascinating journeys can teach us a great deal about our past, and they have encouraged others to take tremendous strides in the survey of the undiscovered mysteries of the deep sea.
Nearly 27 years after his epic discovery of Titanic’s final resting place, Dr. Ballard is getting ready to honor her with a world-class tribute: the new Titanic – 12,450 Feet Below exhibit at Mystic Aquarium. Reflecting on the exhibit’s April opening, Dr. Ballard shared some thoughts.
What inspired you to recreate the Titanic exhibit?
Several things, including how much damage is being done to the Titanic by people visiting the ship in deep submersibles, plus how difficult it has been to get the countries that control the submersibles diving on the Titanic to protect it from further damage.
How will the new exhibit differ from the prior Titanic exhibit?
The new Titanic exhibit provides ample opportunity for guests of all ages to enjoy hands-on exploration and activities. It’s also aimed at a dual audience of adults that want to hear our story of discovery and children who “want to go aboard” the Titanic.
What do you wish guests to appreciate most as they progress through the exhibit?
Naturally we want folks to be excited about hearing Titanic’s story through the eyes of the team that discovered her. We also want guests to realize that the deep sea is the largest museum on earth, and understand why it’s imperative to protect the Titanic and other important chapters of undersea human history presently at peril. If you can’t protect the Titanic then what can you protect?
What are the most important messages you hope visitors remember?
For researchers, that they can use modern telepresence technology to “visit” and study the Titanic and other important sites beneath the sea.
For adults, to care about and protect human history that is presently at risk beneath the sea.
For children, that the Titanic is just one of many amazing pieces of undersea human history, most of which is waiting for them to discover!
Titanic Belfast Titanic Belfast is a new museum located on the Harland and Wolfe shipyard where Titanic was built. The Institute for Exploration worked with the Belfast exhibit team to provide them with hundreds of hours of stunning high definition underwater footage of Titanic from our 2004 return expedition. Their “Ocean Exploration Centre” features live links to Dr. Ballard’s E/V Nautilus and his contributions will allow visitors to access the sophisticated technologies that help us understand the oceans. Dr. Ballard will be in Belfast to attend a special ceremony on April 14.
National Geographic Channel “Save the Titanic with Bob Ballard” airs April 8, 2012, at 9 p.m. on National Geographic Channel. Follow Dr. Ballard as he travels to the shipyards of Northern Ireland, Titanic’s birthplace, to explore the ship from the perspective of the builders’ families, relatives of survivors and those lost at sea.
National Geographic Society Dr. Ballard is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and has had numerous books, movies and television shows produced by them.
Titanic Historical Society The Society has been an important partner to Dr. Ballard since 1977.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Dr. Ballard had a 30 year career at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution where he led or participated in more than 110 expeditions. Aboard research vessel Knorr, Dr. Ballard led the WHOI team that discovered Titanic in 1985 and returned to the site in 1986.
Inner Space Center Dr. Ballard is founder and chief scientists of the Inner Space Center at the University of Rhode Island, which utilizes telepresence technologies to connect the world to oceanographic exploration projects in real time to share the excitement of undersea discovery as it happens.
Center for Ocean Exploration at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography The Center represents Dr. Ballard’s academic arm of the operation. Here, graduate students in oceanography and archaeology participate in Dr. Ballard's annual expeditions.
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration NOAA OE sponsors all of Dr. Ballard’s expeditions. Their ship, the Okeanos Explorer, uses technology originally developed by the Institute for Exploration.
Mystic Aquarium and United Technologies partner to create Titanic - 12,450 Feet Below.
Titanic - 12,450 Feet Below is sponsored by United Technologies Corporation
|The mission of Sea Research Foundation, Inc., which includes Mystic Aquarium, Ocean Exploration Center and JASON Learning, is to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education, and research.|
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