World-renowned oceanographer talks Titanic

Robert Ballard gave an hour-long lecture at the Penn Museum on his discovery of the Titanic

· February 5, 2014, 10:47 pm   ·  Updated February 5, 2014, 11:46 pm

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The Titanic was discovered by accident.

Last night, world-renowned oceanographer Robert Ballard told an audience at the Penn Museum about his discovery of the RMS Titanic in 1985. Ballard revealed formerly classified facts about the Titanic discovery during his hour-long lecture.

Ballard discovered the German battleship Bismarck, the lost fleet of Guadalcanal and the oldest shipwrecks ever found in deep water — two ancient Phoenician ships off the coast of Israel . He is a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, and is considered to be an expert on shipwrecks.

Ballard, who was a member of a “Black Ops” sector of the Navy during the Vietnam War, said that his team discovered the sunken Titanic while searching for Soviet submarines that housed nuclear reactors.

“The Pentagon was furious when they found out I found the Titanic,” Ballard said. “I didn’t expect to see chandeliers … or the shoes.”

While the Pentagon was unhappy that Ballard wanted to focus on the shipwreck rather than his Naval duties, National Geographic shared his interests. The company wanted to explore more shipwrecks, and asked Ballard to look for the Bismark.

After discovering the Titanic, he recommended building a more detail-oriented robot before they could go inside the Titanic in 1986. He used robots in a system called Telepresence, which removes the need for human presence during deep sea exploration.

Ballard described Telepresence as “moving my spirit from a fragile body to a body more adept to exploring.” Ballard added that it was an improvement over his initial ventures to the ocean floor in the 1960s when he had several “near-death experiences.”

Ballard also spoke of the possible existence of the Biblical flood. He found shells in the Black Sea, whose age paralleled the date of the proposed flood and also proved the Black Sea’s sudden, unexpected transformation from freshwater to salt water. He also discovered ancient walls that were above sea level 8,000 years ago — about the same time of the prophesied flood.

Ballard’s non-profit, Corps of Exploration, was also a topic of discussion. The organization consists of scientists, engineers, communicators, educators and students, and its primary objective is to explore the ocean, seeking out new discovery in a variety of different fields. He emphasized that 55 percent of his team this year would be women, and encouraged attendees to check out their website.

The lecture closed as Ballard emphasized the need to explore our oceans, adding that we know more about Mars than we do about our home planet. “We obviously need to explore our own country more, before exploring Mars, don’t you think?” he said.

Ballard’s talk was one of a nine-part lecture series titled “Great Voyages: Travels, Triumphs, and Tragedies.” The series occurs monthly, and includes lectures that invite guests to take a journey across exotic lands and seas. These talks are housed at the Penn Museum, which has sent more than 300 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world.

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