Best known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic, Robert D. 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. In addition to being a National Geographic Society explorer in residence and a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.
Throughout his career Robert Ballard has conducted more than a hundred deep-sea expeditions, using both manned and unmanned vehicles. A 1977 expedition he led in the Galapagos Rift found hydrothermal vents in the seafloor, along with their exotic ecosystems, a major scientific discovery.
Born June 30, 1942, in Wichita, Kansas, Robert Ballard grew up in San Diego. “I grew up wanting to be Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” he said. Ballard has a Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics from the University of Rhode Island, where he is currently a full time faculty member. He spent 30 years at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he helped develop manned submersibles and remotely operated vehicles for marine research. He went on to develop telecommunications technology to create “telepresence” for his JASON Project, which allows hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren to accompany him from afar on undersea explorations around the globe.
Robert Ballard has 13 honorary degrees and 6 military awards he is a commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve. 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.” Ballard has published 18 books, numerous scientific papers and a dozen articles in National Geographic magazine. Robert Ballard also has been featured in several National Geographic television programs, including the record breaking Secrets of the Titanic.
Ballard’s most recent discoveries include the Mediterranean Sea finds of sunken remains of ships along ancient trade routes, 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. Robert Ballard is continuing his Black Sea project, which seeks evidence of a great flood possibly linked to Noah’s Ark that may have struck the region thousands of years ago.