Dr. Robert Ballard: Geologist, Oceanographer, Archeologist, Scientist, Naval Officer, Discover, Explorer, & So Much More !

An incredible list of accomplishments for a man only 69 years of age (born June 30, 1942), and that’s not all.

Doctor Ballard has undergraduate degrees in chemistry and geology from the University of California and a graduate degree in geophysics from the University of Hawaii, he also received an Honorary Doctorate (Doctor of Science) from the University of Bath.

One achievement for which Dr. Ballard will always be known is the discovery of the R.M.S. Titanic; but, he also discovered the German battleship Bismarck, the USS Yorktown, John F. Kennedy’s PT-109 and numerous ancient shipwrecks. Ballard searched for, but did not find the USS Indianapolis.

RMS Titanic

RMS Titanic (Photo credit: paukrus)

Yorktown conducts aircraft operations in the P...

Yorktown conducts aircraft operations in the Pacific sometime before the battle. A fleet oiler is in the near background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

USS Indianapolis

USS Indianapolis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The USS Indianapolis delivered the first atomic bomb to Tinian, and was sunk by Japanese submarine I-58 on its return trip. With a crew of 1,196, only 317 men survived. Most of the crew survived the sinking (896) with only 300 men going down with the ship. It was four days before the US Navy knew the USS Indianapolis was missing, in that time 575 men died from exposure, dehydration and shark attack (four men died after being rescued).

Our understanding of the ancient civilizations around the Mediterranean has been expanded by his discoveries and archeological work on ancient shipwrecks in the Mediterranean.

Commander Ballard USN Reserve also explored the sunken submarines USS Thresher and USS Scorpion for the United States Navy. It was while examining the USS Thresher for the Navy that he discovered that, unlike shallow water wrecks, deep water wrecks have a debris field that fans out from the wreck. The ocean currents carry the lighter material which comes from the wreck, down stream from the initial location of the wreck. The heaviest material sinking closest to the actual wreck site. This was the discovery that, Dr. Ballard states, allowed him to find Titanic. When searching for the Titanic all other explorers looked for the ship. Dr. Ballard looked for the debris field, knowing he could follow the debris field to the ship.

USS Thresher (SSN-593)

USS Thresher (SSN-593) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was Dr. Ballard that developed a new technology he called “telepresence”. This allows researchers, explorers, and scientists to explore deep under the oceans while safely aboard a ship on the surface.

One question that had always plagued oceanographers is why does sea water contain the minerals that it does. Enter Dr. Ballard. Ballard discovered that all the water of the oceans is cycled through the earth’s crust. The water goes through cracks in the earth’s crust striking hot rocks were it becomes super-heated and dissolves the minerals from the rocks. The super-heated water then shoots through vents back into the ocean, laden with minerals.

Probably his greatest discovery is the new life forms he discovered around the vents on the ocean floor (he called them “black-smokers”). Dr. Ballard discovered new forms of life totally independent of the suns energy These new forms of life live in an environment that would kill all other forms of life on the planet. This discovery has far reaching effects, not just for the discovery of life on earth, but in the universe.

Before this discovery scientists assumed the best chance to find life on other planets would be to look for earth-like planets, the same approximate distance to their sun, as the earth is to its sun. We now know that life can exist independent of a sun, existing on the energy from the planet itself.

To learn more about Dr. Robert Ballard, I highly recommend his memoir EXPLORATIONS.

ISBN 0-7868-6042-1

You can also check out the other books by Dr. Ballard:

Cover of "Discovery Of The Titanic (Explo...

Cover via Amazon

Discovery of the Titanic

The Discovery of the Titanic, Exploring the Greatest of All Lost Ships

Discovery of the Bismarck

Lost Subs: From the Hunley to to the Kursk, the Greatest Submarines Ever Lost and Found

and others



Filed under books, New, ships, Titanic, USS Scorpion

5 responses to “Dr. Robert Ballard: Geologist, Oceanographer, Archeologist, Scientist, Naval Officer, Discover, Explorer, & So Much More !

  1. Pingback: USS Scorpion SSN-589 Part Two | joeccombs2nd

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  3. J. G. Burdette

    The Indianapolis story is gruesome and heartbreaking. I didn’t know it was ‘missing’ though. Enjoyed the post!


    • Thank you.
      Tinian at that time was in the Philippine Naval District, the rest of the area that Indianapolis was sailing in, was in the Hawaii Naval District. Admirals paid close attention to the ships in their area of control. However, when Indianapolis passed from Philippine control to Hawaii control after delivering the bomb, no one noticed. The Indianapolis did not get a distress message sent (either because it sank so quickly or because its mission was so secret). The Indianapolis was under strict radio silence and did not send the usual messages, but there were still messages that should have been sent between the Philippine and Hawaii Naval Districts. The Philippine Naval District took the Indianapolis off its roster of ships after the appropriate, approximate number of days without sending a message to the Hawaii Naval District. The Hawaii Naval District knew that the Indianapolis would be coming back under its control, but did not send out any inquiries when they did not get a message transferring the Indianapolis to their control. When the Indianapolis was sunk, no one had Indianapolis on their roster of ships. The crew was accidentally discovered (floating in the ocean) by one of the Navy’s PBY flying boats while on patrol four days after the Indianapolis sank. Those 575 men died because no one was looking for the Indianapolis. This was such an embarrassment to the Navy (a major combatt ship siniking and the Navy not knowing it for four days), that after the war they put on a sham court martial and found the Indianapolis Captain responsible for the loss of the ship. The Indianapolis crew fought for decades to clear the name of their Captain (who eventually committed suicide over the whole affair). Almost half a century later the Navy, because of pressure from surviving crew members, finally cleared the Captain of any wrong-doing.
      Sorry my answer is so long. Thought you would want to know. It has been more than 20 years since I’ve read about the Indianapolis so some of my details may be wrong, but the basic facts are as accurate as my memory allows. There are a couple of good books about this if you want to find out more.
      Once again, thank you.