After our trip to Newport, RI in April, we stopped for a day in Mystic, Connecticut to see the Mystic Aquarium. The daughter especially loved the beluga whales. But it was by sheer happenstance that we arrived the very day a new exhibit about the Titanic opened. We learned quite a bit about Dr. Robert Ballard, whose team found the Titanic in 1985.
Robert Ballard was a kid – born in the Midwest, but growing up in San Diego, California – who identified with Captain Nemo in the Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. So he logically asked what real jobs would point him in that direction. Ultimately, he earned undergraduate degrees in chemistry and geology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a Masters in geophysics from the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Geophysics, and was working towards a Ph.D. in marine geology at the University of Southern California in 1967 when he was called to active military duty. Upon his request, Ballard was transferred from the Army into the US Navy as an oceanographer.
In the summer of 1985, Ballard was on a “trip was being financed by the U.S. Navy specifically for secret reconnaissance of the wreckage of two Navy nuclear-powered attack submarines, the USS Scorpion and the USS Thresher, that sank in the 1960s and not for Titanic…The Navy was not interested in spending that kind of money in searching for the large ocean liner. 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 fear was that, if it was announced that the United States was looking for the submarines, the Soviets would track the Argo. Looking for Titanic was a viable cover story.
But find the Titanic they did, and subsequently a number of other ships, such as the Bismarck, the Lusitania, and JFK’s PT-109. “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… They are a part of the non-profit Sea Research Foundation, Inc.”
What’s REALLY cool is Nautilus Live. Each summer, Dr. Ballard and his team will launch an exciting expedition on the E/V Nautilus to explore ancient history and learn more about the ocean. YOU can watch it as it happens.
(Yes, it’s a cheat. I COULD have titled this post-Nautilus, Oceanography, Titanic, Underwater, Ballard, or several others. But X is so difficult, especially the 6th time through!)