Dr. Robert Ballard is a renowned deep sea explorer. You probably know him best as the person who found the remains of the RMS Titanic in 1985. Throughout his career and over 160 deep sea explorations, he accomplished even more lifetime achievements – from developing deep-sea submersibles to discovering hydrothermal vents.
Today, he continues to make discoveries as a National Geographic Explorer, President of the Ocean Exploration Trust and Researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. His titles and honors are many, but another honor he will receive is an honorary doctorate from Carroll University when he delivers the 2022 commencement address on Saturday.
Before coming to Wisconsin, Ballard shares her experiences of deep-sea exploration.
He begins by explaining how modern technology made the discovery of Titanic possible “When we make a discovery, we will deliver America’s smartest mind to this place. Within 30 minutes, we were completely connected by satellite technology at a place we call The Inner Space Center, kind of like Houston, but underwater,” Ballard says.
The satellites operate 24 hours a day and they have the expedition’s shift leader, he adds. When Ballard and his team make a discovery, the shift leader has a book to find out who the scientist on duty is at the time.
After discovering the remains of the RMS Titanic, Ballard wrote an autobiography with National Geographic, which is now also made into a show on Disney+.
Still, discovering the Titanic had its downsides, Ballard reveals. He says he was really criticized by his academic community for speaking with the public and writing for National Geographic.
Ballard also points out that he obtained ownership of the Titanic on one condition: to remove it from the ocean floor. Out of respect for the people who died there, he refused although he was disappointed that others didn’t feel the same way.
“Then this used car dealership set up a business and hired French people and they went out and took stuff, then they got the property. So I couldn’t, I tried like hell to protect him, but I couldn’t. It was sad. It was sort of a negative aspect, I couldn’t protect him,” Ballard explains.
The United Nations estimates that there are three million shipwrecks to be found and protected. Ballard makes sure that the young people he speaks to know that their generation will discover more history in the depths than all previous generations combined.
“It’s humiliating to be at the mercy of the sea,” he says. “And you learn to respect it. You also learn when to keep going and when not to go,” a lesson Dr Ballards says he learned when Titanic was discovered.
“That’s what’s really cool is that every discovery and further back makes a major contribution to our history. I just think what we’re doing now with our technology, we can now find them a lot faster than you can imagine. . Yeah, there’s a lot going on right now, it’s going to rewrite a lot of human history,” Ballard says.