Robert Ballard, discoverer of Titanic

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When I got a job in our university town, one thing I decided was to make the best use of my University ID card – by going to the events organized by the university. I had previously attended a talk by Khaled Hosseini and few others, and decided not to miss the easy accessibility to listen to the accomplished people.

Oh, by the way, I am also enjoying other social activities and attending other shows such as Cirque De Soleil, mental magic by, Chinese acrobats (which I summarized in Facebook thus:

Breath-taking, jaw-dropping, eye-popping, beautiful and scary acrobat show by some gifted artists who probably have multiple brains, no bones and a lifetime of practice behind them.

and few other events. I have been so busy socially and otherwise, that I don’t find time to update this blog.

Anyways, today I attended one such talk by Robert Ballard, famously known for discovering Titanic. But his talk was fun, he explained various explorations. He said, space exploration is funded 1000 times more than oceanography and is less useful (or something like that…I know it won’t go well with all my friends, but am sure he was tongue in cheek).

There are minerals under ocean. Different discoveries bringing amazing facts to light (good wordplay, stay with me) – for example he said of the plants which have grown in the darkest area , thus overturning the dependency on light (got it?) for photosynthesis. He also mentioned many such discoveries.

His passion and love – of course, he commuted (under the ocean) for 5 hours a day or more for 20 years – was quite visible. Answering an audience’ question, he said “Follow your passion…not your dad’s or mom’s because everyone fails and faces difficulty no matter what. But if you are passionate, you will get up and try again.” This reminded me of a comment I read when I was researching the car :

Ultimately, buy the car you really love to buy. Every car will breakdown. But if you love the car, you will complain less and get it fixed, but if you don’t you will keep cribbing about how awful the car is.

Since then, I have been able to relate to this quote so many times.

He also gave quite a lot of detail on his site through which you can also experience the oceanography. He designed a robot (the one used in discovering Titanic I guess) which has helped him reduce his commute (for the distance he had wished to go it used to take 6 hours each way or 12 hours a day or so he said) and also enabled others to experience this wonderful world. He has also designed a curriculum. If I understood right, it seems, 50% of US is under the ocean. As it turns out, due to some pact signed by the Presidents of US, it seems, if it can be mapped, US can claim the land as its own.

Below the black sea, he expects to find dead bodies from 1000 years ago. He/his team has already found the ships there.

Oh I will leave you with two thoughts. One, our ancestors drank a lot of wine on the journey and threw the bottles into the ocean. He showed the pics of them ! In fact, he followed the debris trail to find one of those ships.

When audience asked how did he feel when he found Titanic, he explained the joy that the whole team had experienced because they were close to the end of their exploration (56th of 60 days). But few minutes later, they all realized the enormous loss of lives when they saw large number of pairs of shoes, and were moved by it.

I wish more people have such humbling experiences. As Sagan said of astronomy, which is true for any exploration I guess, “humbling and character building experience”.

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4 thoughts on “Robert Ballard, discoverer of Titanic

  1. Hey Ravi,

    I doubt what he said was tongue in cheek. He believes that there is more to discover in the oceans and a lot easier to get to than in space. There are so many things yet to be discovered in the ocean, especially at the depths he has gone too.

    Thanks for sharing, you party animal!!!


    1. Thanks Pat. May be you are right, I felt space explorers might disagree – 1000 times more investment must mean significantly more ROI !

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