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.
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.
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.
You can also check out the other books by Dr. Ballard:
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
- RMS Titanic, SS Bannockburn & Shoes (joeccombs2nd.com)
- The World’s Greatest Wreck (thedailybeast.com)
- Who doesn’t love listening about the Titanic? (wtamu.wordpress.com)
- Mission to find Titanic ‘was covert military operation’ (examiner.com)
- Overnight America: Robert Ballard, Dennis Hof (stlouis.cbslocal.com)
- Stop plundering the Titanic, expert pleads (telegraph.co.uk)
- Titanic: A Remembrance (milkandcookies.com)
- Remembering Titanic After 100 Years (socyberty.com)
- Ballard worried Titanic wreck being ‘loved to death’ (ctv.ca)
- Still Sunk: The Last Great Mystery Wrecks Of The Ocean Floor (gizmodo.com.au)
- Experts out to solve deep-sea mystery of the USS Scorpion (stripes.com)
- Rusted Titanic Wreck Will be Painted and Sold? (socyberty.com)
- Scientist reveals secrets of Titanic discovery (boyslife.org)
- One man’s passion to save the Titanic (canada.com)
- Should the Titanic’s Artifacts Stay Underwater? (newsfeed.time.com)
- Paint the Titanic, Wreck’s Discoverer Says (news.nationalgeographic.com)
- Explorer Bob Ballard on Save the Titanic on National Geographic (examiner.com)
- Titanic Photo Shows Human Remains (socyberty.com)
- Lecture series brings Bill Clinton and Titanic finder Robert Ballard to WT (amarillo.com)