Skip to main content
Related Content
  • Education--Curriculum, Tour Programs, Field Trips, Event
Document Type
  • Historical Summary
Wars & Conflicts
File Formats
Location of Archival Materials
  • National Museum of the U.S. Navy

Dr. Robert Ballard is one of the best known underwater scientists in the United States today. Famous for his exploration of the wreck of the cruise ship, RMS Titanic, Dr. Ballard has always been fascinated by the sea. As a young man he learned to SCUBA dive and became involved in groups that studied the ocean. In 1967, Robert Ballard joined the U.S. Navy and was assigned to the Deep Submergence Group at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

At Woods Hole, Dr. Ballard began to work with Alvin, a small three-man deep submergence vehicle. From 1973 to 1979, he worked with the Alvin team exploring the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Following the curves of the ridge along the center and the length of the Atlantic Ocean, Ballard and the team discovered enormous red worms, underwater vents and Hot Springs. Receiving awards and notoriety for this research, Dr. Ballard was made a senior scientist at Woods Hole.

By the early 1980s, Dr. Ballard had spent more time in the deep ocean than any other scientist and had achieved enough notoriety so that he could pursue his life's dream to explore the wreck of RMS Titanic. Considered an unsinkable cruise ship, the Titanic was lost at sea in April of 1912, after striking an iceberg. Along with a French team, Dr. Ballard spent many months trying to locate the sunken ship. In the summer of 1985, they found wreckage of the ship strewn across the ocean floor and photographed the remains of the ship. Dr. Ballard returned to the wreck site a year later to dive down in Alvin for a closer look at the ship. Modifications to Alvin allowed the explorers to see inside the wreck. A cable attached to the front of Alvin connected Jason Junior, a unique remote-controlled underwater robot equipped with cameras and video equipment. With Jason's help Dr. Ballard was able to walk down the grand staircase and look inside the remains of the Titanic.

Now retired from Woods Hole after 30 years of service, Dr Ballard continues his deep sea exploring. Recently, he discovered the resting place of the aircraft carner, USS Yorktown, which sunk deep in the Pacific Ocean during the Battle of Midway in 1942. He also located the wreck of PT 109, the patrol boat under command of former president John F. Kennedy when he was a U.S. Navy officer. Robert Ballard is president of the Institute for Exploration in Mystic, Connecticut and is "Explorer-in-Residence" at the National Geographic Society.


Something to Think About

How do you think Dr. Ballard's early hobbies and experiences helped him decide on a career?

Published: Wed Oct 12 11:07:07 EDT 2022