Discoverer of the Titanic, Dr. Robert Ballard, next speaker for Distinguished Lecture Series

Dr. Robert Ballard, the famed explorer who discovered the Titanic, will be the guest speaker for the Jack Maddox Distinguished Lecture Series on APRIL 8, 2010 at Tyding Auditorium in Hobbs.  The lecture starts at 7:00 p.m.  (note new start time).  Tickets for the event are FREE, but required for admittance.  Call USW at 575-392-6565, ext. 1014 to reserve yours now.

Born June 30, 1942, in Wichita, Kansas, Robert D. Ballard grew up in San Diego, California.  He earned a Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics from the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography, where he is currently a full-time faculty member. He spent 30 years at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, where he spearheaded the development of manned submersibles and remotely operated vehicles for marine research. While at WHOI he founded the Deep Submergence Laboratory.

In 1989, Dr. Ballard created the JASON Project, an educational program designed to inspire in students a lifelong passion to pursue learning in science, math and technology through exploration and discovery. Ballard would later develop telecommunications technology to create "telepresence" for his JASON Project, which today allows hundreds of thousands of school children to accompany him from afar on undersea explorations around the globe.   Dr. Robert D. Ballard is President of the Institute for Exploration at Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut and Director of the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography.  He is best known for his 1985 discovery of the Titanic.

Dr. Ballard has 13 honorary degrees and 6 military awards; he served in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a commander for 30 years. In 1996, he received the National Geographic Society's prestigious Hubbard Medal for "extraordinary accomplishments in coaxing secrets from the world's oceans and engaging students in the wonder of science." In 2003, he received the National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  He has published 18 books, numerous scientific papers and a dozen articles in National Geographic magazine. Ballard also has been featured in several National Geographic television programs, including the record-breaking Secrets of the Titanic.  He is a National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence.

Throughout his career Ballard has conducted more than one a hundred deep-sea expeditions, using both manned and unmanned vehicles.  In 1982 Ballard organized the Deep Submergence Laboratory (DSL) at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to begin developing the sophisticated remotely operated vehicle system known as Argo-Jason - a deep-towed vehicle carrying sensitive video cameras connected to the surface by fiber-optic cable through which broadcast quality images could be transmitted.  Developed with support of the navy and tested in 1984, Ballard would use this system for his best-known expedition, the discovery of the RMS Titanic. 

In August of 1985, Ballard as chief scientist conducted a joint French-American expedition to find the Titanic.  Using the newly tested Argo, Ballard began by searching for the debris field in an area just south of where Titanic's lifeboats were found by the Carpathia.  Based on extensive research, Ballard and his team conducted several sweeps of the ocean floor, finding no evidence of the wreck until the early morning hours of September 1, first seeing the Titanic's massive boiler, then pieces of hull plating, portholes, and a railing turned on its side.  Ballard returned to the site in July of 1986 and dove on the Titanic wreck in the manned submersible, Alvin with the small remote vehicle Jason Jr. deployed to investigate the interior areas Alvin couldn't reach.  It was during this second visit to the Titanic that Ballard placed a memorial plaque on the deck of the stern in memory of those who lost their lives in the tragedy. Ballard returned to the site in the summer of 2004 to investigate deterioration caused by later salvage operations and by nature.

Ballard turned his research toward the many warships lost during WWII.  In 1989, Ballard discovered the German warship Bismark, sunk by the British during a savage battle in the Atlantic during WWII.  In 1992, Ballard explored Iron Bottom Sound off Guadalcanal, which holds the largest deep-water collection of sunken warships including the giant Japanese warship Kirishima.  In 1993, Ballard explored the Lusitania's wreck site using the ROV Jason as well as other research subs, confirming that the ship's magazine remained intact and that the U-20's torpedo penetrated a coal bunker, which ignited and exploded.  In 2002, Ballard went in search of PT-109, commanded by John F. Kennedy in WWII.          

Ballard's most recent discoveries include the Mediterranean Sea finds of sunken remains of ships along ancient trade routes (1997), two ancient Phoenician ships off Israel, the oldest shipwrecks ever found in deep water (1999), and four 1,500-year-old wooden ships-one almost perfectly preserved-in the Black Sea (2000).  In 2003 he used satellite and Internet 2 technologies via the Immersion Project to bring thousands of students around the world into direct contact with his expedition team while on location in the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea. 

Dr. Ballard is presently developing a joint M.A./Ph.D program in the new field of archaeological oceanography at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography.  He is a member of the NOAA Science Advisory Board and serves as one of 16 Commissioners on the President's Commission on Ocean Policy.  Dr. Ballard lives in Connecticut.