Robert Ballard

(b. 1942)

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(b. 1942),

American oceanographer and deep-sea explorer, who has made important contributions to marine archaeology and oceanography, and is, perhaps, best known for his discovery in 1985 of the sunken ocean liner Titanic. Before becoming president of the Institute for Exploration at Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Conn., he worked for 30 years at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), where he helped develop underwater vehicles for marine research and founded the Deep Submergence Laboratory there.

In 1989, he created the JASON Project, an educational programe designed to inspire in students a lifelong passion to pursue learning in science, mathematics, and technology through exploration and discovery. He later developed telecommunications technology to create ‘telepresence’ for his JASON Project, which today allows hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren to accompany him from afar on undersea explorations around the globe.

During his career Ballard has conducted more than 100 deep-sea expeditions, using both manned and unmanned underwater vehicles. They include the first manned exploration of the Mid-Ocean Ridge which helped confirm the newly emerging theory of plate tectonics; the discovery of hydrothermal vents and their exotic ecosystems during the 1977 Galapagos Rift expedition; and the 1979 exploration programme on the East Pacific Rise that discovered the first ‘black smokers’, a discovery that helped explain the chemistry of the world's oceans (see chemical oceanography). He also mounted expeditions which found the sunken remains of the German battleship Bismarck, the US aircraft carrier Yorktown, 14 US warships lost in battle off Guadalcanal in 1942, and the torpedo boat PT-109, which was commanded by the future President John F. Kennedy during the Second World War (1939–45). More recent discoveries include the Mediterranean Sea finds of sunken remains of ships along ancient trade routes (1997), two ancient Phoenician ships off Israel, the oldest shipwrecks ever found in deep water (1999), and four 1,500-year-old wooden ships—one almost perfectly preserved—in the Black Sea (2000). In 2003 he used satellite and Internet 2 technologies to bring thousands of students around the world into direct contact with his expedition team while in the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea.

At the Institute for Exploration in Mystic, Ballard has developed a series of underwater vehicles, including the ROV Hercules, created specifically to conduct deep-water archaeological excavation to professional archaeological standards. Designed by a team of engineers, archaeologists, and marine geologists, Hercules, which was successfully field-tested in the Black Sea in 2003, uses sophisticated manipulation, optical, and acoustic sensors.

Ballard is a member of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Science Advisory Board, and is one of sixteen commissioners on the President's Commission on Ocean Policy. His publications include: The Discovery of the Titanic (1987), The Discovery of the Bismarck (1990), The Lost Ships of Guadalcanal (1993), Exploring the Lusitania (1995), Return to Midway (1999), Adventures in Ocean Exploration (2001), Collision with History: The Search for John F. Kennedy's PT-109 (2002), Mystery of the Ancient Seafarers (2004), and Return to Titanic (2004).

www.ife.org www.mysticaquarium.org www.gso.uri.edu www.jason.org

Laurie Bradt

Subjects: Maritime History.

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