|Birth Day:||June 30, 1942|
|Birth Place:||Wichita, United States|
|Height:||in centimeters - N/A|
|Weight:||in kg - N/A|
A keen childhood interest in marine life led him to study it in college.
Ballard began working for Andreas Rechnitzer's Ocean Systems Group at North American Aviation in 1962 when his father, Chet, the chief engineer at North American Aviation's Minuteman missile program, helped him get a part-time job. At North American, he worked on North American's failed proposal to build the submersible Alvin for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
In 1965, Ballard graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, earning undergraduate degrees in chemistry and geology. While a student in Santa Barbara, California, he joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and also completed the US Army's ROTC program, giving him an Army officer's commission in Army Intelligence. His first graduate degree (MS, 1966) was in geophysics from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Geophysics where he trained porpoises and whales. Subsequently, he returned to Andreas Rechnitzer's Ocean Systems Group at North American Aviation.
Ballard joined the United States Army in 1965 through the Army's Reserve Officers Training program. He was designated as an intelligence officer and initially received a commission as a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve. When called to active duty in 1967, he asked to fulfill his obligation in the United States Navy. His request was approved, and he was transferred to the Navy Reserve on the reserve active duty list. After completing his active duty obligation in 1970, he was returned to reserve status, where he remained for much of his military career, being called up only for mandatory training and special assignments. He retired from the Navy as a commander in 1995 after reaching the statutory service limit.
Ballard was working towards a Ph.D. in marine geology at the University of Southern California in 1967 when he was called to active duty. Upon his request, he was transferred from the Army into the US Navy as an oceanographer. The Navy assigned him as a liaison between the Office of Naval Research and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Ballard's first dive in a submersible was in the Ben Franklin (PX-15) in 1969 off the coast of Florida during a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution expedition. In summer 1970, he began a field mapping project of the Gulf of Maine for his doctoral dissertation. It used an air gun that sent sound waves underwater to determine the underlying structure of the ocean floor and the submersible Alvin, which was used to find and recover a sample from the bedrock.
After leaving active duty and entering into the Naval Reserve in 1970, Ballard continued working at Woods Hole persuading organizations and people, mostly scientists, to fund and use Alvin for undersea research. Four years later he received a Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics at the University of Rhode Island.
Ballard was geologist diver in Alvin during Project FAMOUS, which explored the median rift valley of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in 1974.
In 1976, Willard Bascom suggested that the deep, anoxic waters of the Black Sea might have preserved ships from antiquity because typical wood-devouring organisms could not survive there. At a depth of 150 m, it contains insufficient oxygen to support most familiar biological life forms.
While Ballard had been interested in the sea since an early age, his work at Woods Hole and his scuba diving experiences off Massachusetts spurred his interest in shipwrecks and their exploration. His work in the Navy had involved assisting in the development of small, unmanned submersibles that could be tethered to and controlled from a surface ship, and were outfitted with lighting, cameras, and manipulator arms. As early as 1973, he saw this as way of searching for the wreck of the Titanic. In 1977, he led his first expedition, which was unsuccessful.
The 1979 RISE project expedition on the East Pacific Rise west of Mexico at 21°N was aided by deep-towed still camera sleds that were able to take pictures of the ocean floor, making it easier to find hydrothermal vent locations. When Alvin inspected one of the sites the deep-tow located, the scientists observed black "smoke" billowing out of the vents, something not observed at the Galápagos Rift. Ballard and geophysicist Jean Francheteau went down in Alvin the day after the black smokers were first observed. They were able to take an accurate temperature reading of the active vent (the previous dive's thermometer had melted), and recorded 350 °C (662 °F). They continued searching for more vents along the East Pacific Rise between 1980 and 1982.
In summer 1985, Ballard was aboard the French research ship Le Suroît, which was using the side scan sonar SAR to search for the Titanic's wreck. When the French ship was recalled, he transferred onto a ship from Woods Hole, the R/V Knorr. Unbeknownst to some, this trip was financed by the U.S. Navy for secret reconnaissance of the wreckage of two Navy nuclear powered attack submarines, the USS Scorpion and the USS Thresher, which sank in the 1960s, and not for the Titanic. Back in 1982, he approached the Navy about his new deep sea underwater robot craft, the Argo, and his search for the Titanic. The Navy was not interested in financing it. However, they were interested in finding out what happened to their missing submarines and ultimately concluded that Argo was their best chance to do so. The Navy agreed it would finance his Titanic search only if he first searched for and investigated the two sunken submarines, and found out the state of their nuclear reactors after being submerged for such a long time, and whether their radioactivity was impacting the environment. He was placed on temporary active duty in the Navy, in charge of finding and investigating the wrecks. After the two missions were completed, time and funding permitting, he was free to use resources to hunt for the Titanic.
After their missions for the Navy, Knorr arrived on site on August 22, 1985, and deployed Argo. When they searched for the two submarines, Ballard and his team discovered that they had imploded from the immense pressure at depth. It littered thousands of pieces of debris all over the ocean floor. Following the large trail of debris led them directly to both and made it significantly easier for them to locate them than if they were to search for the hulls directly. He already knew that the Titanic imploded from pressure as well, much the same way the two submarines did, and concluded that it too must have also left a scattered debris trail. Using that lesson, they had Argo sweep back and forth across the ocean floor looking for the Titanic's debris trail. They took shifts monitoring the video feed from Argo as it searched the ocean floor two miles below.
On July 12, 1986, Ballard and his team returned on board Atlantis II to make the first detailed study of the wreck. This time, he brought Alvin. It was accompanied by Jason Junior, a small remotely operated vehicle that could fit through small openings to see into the ship's interior. Although the first dive (taking over two hours) encountered technical problems, subsequent ones were far more successful, and produced a detailed photographic record of the wreck's condition.
In 1988, Ballard published a book, Discovery Of The Titanic: Exploring The Greatest Of All Lost Ships, ISBN 0446513857 and he later recounted the specifics of the expedition for National Geographic in a video.
Ballard undertook an even more daunting task when he and his team searched off the coast of France for the German Battleship Bismarck in 1989, using an ocean-crawling robot. The 15,000 foot deep water in which it sank is 4,000 feet deeper than that where the Titanic sank. He attempted to determine whether it had been sunk by the British or was scuttled by its own crew. Three weeks after the expedition however, personal tragedy struck him when his 21-year-old son, Todd, who had aided him in the search, was killed in a car accident.
Ballard later published a book about the quest, The Discovery of the Bismarck (1990). The discovery was also documented for National Geographic in a 1989 James Cameron video Search for the Battleship Bismarck which indicated that the ship had been damaged by torpedoes and shells from British ships. The actual cause of the sinking, however, was sabotage of the underwater valves by the onboard crew, according to Ballard, who said, "we found a hull that appears whole and relatively undamaged by the descent and impact". Film maker Cameron, however, said that his crew's examination of the wreckage indicated that the Bismarck would have sunk eventually even if it had not been scuttled.
In 1989, Ballard founded the JASON Project, a distance education program designed to excite and engage middle school students in science and technology. He began the JASON Project in response to the thousands of letters he received from students following his discovery of the wreck of the Titanic.
In 1992, Ballard and his team visited the sites of many wrecks of World War II in the Pacific. Doing so, he discovered the wreck of the IJN Kirishima. His book Lost Ships of Guadalcanal locates and photographs many of the vessels sunk in the infamous Ironbottom Sound, the strait between Guadalcanal Island and the Floridas in the Solomon Islands.
In 1993, Ballard investigated the wreck of RMS Lusitania off the Irish coast. It had been struck by a torpedo, whose explosion was followed by a second, much larger one. The wreck had been depth charged by the Royal Navy several years after the sinking, and had also been damaged by other explorers, making a forensic analysis difficult. He found no evidence of boiler explosion and he speculated the ignition of coal dust inside the ship, caused a "massive, uncontrollable [second] explosion".
On 19 May 1998 Ballard found the wreck of Yorktown, sunk at the Battle of Midway. Found 3 miles (5 km) beneath the surface, it was photographed.
In the 1990s Ballard founded the Institute for Exploration, which specializes in deep-sea archaeology and deep-sea geology. It joined forces in 1999 with the Mystic Aquarium located in Mystic, Connecticut. They are a part of the non-profit Sea Research Foundation, Inc.
In 2000, the team conducted an expedition that focused on the exploration of the sea bed about 15–30 km west of Sinop, and an additional deep-water survey east and north of the peninsula. Their project had several goals. They sought to discover whether human habitation sites could be identified on the ancient submerged landscape, they examined the sea-bed for shipwrecks (where they found Sinop A-D), to test the hypothesis that the anoxic waters below 200 m would protect shipwrecks from the expected biological attacks on organic components, and to seek data about an ancient trade route between Sinop and the Crimea indicated by terrestrial archaeological remains.
Although Sinop served as a primary trade center in the Black Sea, the wrecks were located west of the trade route predicted by the prevalence of Sinopian ceramics on the Crimean peninsula. On wrecks A-C, mounds of distinctive carrot-shaped shipping jars, called amphorae, were found. They were of a style associated with Sinop and retained much of their original stacking pattern on the sea floor. The jars may have carried a variety of archetypal Black Sea products such as olive oil, honey, wine or fish sauce but the contents are presently unknown because no artifacts were recovered from any of these wreck sites in 2000.
In 2002, the National Geographic Society and Ballard fielded a ship with remote vehicles to the Solomon Islands. They succeeded in finding a torpedo tube and the forward section from the shipwreck of John F. Kennedy's PT-109 which was rammed in 1943 by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri off Ghizo Island. The visit also brought to light the identity of islanders Biuku Gasa and Eroni Kumana who had received little recognition for finding the shipwrecked crew after searching for days in their dugout canoe. A TV special and a book were produced, and Ballard spoke at the John F. Kennedy Library in 2005.
In 2003, Ballard started the Center for Ocean Exploration and Archaeological Oceanography, a research program at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography.
In 2004, Ballard was appointed professor of oceanography, and currently serves as Director of the Institute for Archaeological Oceanography, at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography. He was the first speaker to give the Charles and Marie Fish Lecture in Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island in 2002.
The vast majority of the relics retrieved by various groups, not including Ballard, from RMS Titanic were owned by Premier Exhibitions which filed for bankruptcy in 2016. In late August 2018, the groups vying for ownership of the 5,500 relics included one by museums in England and Northern Ireland with assistance from film maker James Cameron and some financial support from National Geographic. Ballard told the news media that he favored this bid since it would ensure that the memorabilia would be permanently displayed in Belfast and in Greenwich. A decision as to the outcome was to be made by a United States district court judge.
Robert married Barbra Ballard in 1991. Robert and Barbra have four children named Emily, Doug, Todd and Ben. Robert's parents were of German and British descent, and his father was an engineer for the North American Aviation company.
Currently, Robert Ballard is 79 years, 10 months and 29 days old. Robert Ballard will celebrate 80th birthday on a Thursday 30th of June 2022. Below we countdown to Robert Ballard upcoming birthday.