Thursday, July 05, 2007

Robert Ballard on Ocean Exploration

Robert Ballard, located the Titanic and discovered geothermal vents on the bottom of the ocean. He pointed out that we spend more money exploring space in one day than we spend exploring the oceans in an entire year. His work has been supported by NOAA and the Office of Naval Research and has bridged exploration and military missions.

  • Newly declassified fact – the search for the Titanic was a cover story for a classified mission. His team was really searching for the USS Scorpion, a nuclear submarine with nuclear weapons that was lost in 1968. The Navy was not exactly thrilled when he actually found the Titanic and brought in media attention from around the world.
  • The hydrothermal vents explain the chemical composition of the ocean (why it is different from fresh water) and show that life can exist without photosynthesis. They may also point to the origins of life on Earth.
  • Using unmanned robot submersibles he is now surveying the 50% of the U.S. land mass that is under the ocean, primarily the areas around the Hawaiian and Marshall islands. He also uncovered nearly perfectly preserved ships in the Black Sea and next year will return to try to locate and extract the preserved bodies of its crew members.

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