World-Famous Undersea Explorer and Archeologist Returns to ONR Roots

Public Affairs
Office of Naval Research
Corporate Strategic Communications Office
Phone: 703-696-5031
Fax: 703-696-5940
E-mail: onrcsc@onr.navy.mil

 

ARLINGTON, Virginia – Perhaps most recognized for recovering the wreck of the RMS TITANIC, deep-sea explorer and underwater archaeologist Robert D. Ballard, Ph.D., returned to his roots at the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Navy’s premier destination for the best and the brightest to perform cutting-edge research. During Ballard’s Feb. 26 visit, he discussed the future of deep sea exploration and its application for the fleet.

ONR’s long-term investments in deep submergence technology, Remotely Operated Vehicle design, Unmanned Undersea Vehicle prototypes and autonomy allowed Ballard to discover technology that have benefited the Navy. When he needed the “right tool” to support exploration to transmit video, audio, and research data from at-sea expeditions, ONR’s investments paid off.

Ballard first reported to ONR’s Boston office in 1967 as a Navy lieutenant, where his coordination efforts with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution would eventually lead to the design of deep-water submersibles. Since that time, Ballard has partnered with ONR to provide technology for the way forward with remote exploration of the deep ocean.

Challenged by the inefficiencies of carrying humans to the deep sea floor, Ballard proposed a new paradigm in undersea exploration in 1981. “Telepresence,” as he dubbed it, would open new opportunities for surveying vast tracks of previously uncharted ocean regions.

“Telepresence technology utilizes advanced robotics and high-bandwidth ship-to-shore telecommunications to eliminate the need of sending scientists to the bottom of the sea or even to sea for that matter, greatly increasing our rate of exploration,” Ballard explained. “The support of the Office of Naval Research and its execution of the Naval Science and Technology (S&T) strategy are important for the development of new research technology. It also allows us to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers needed to maintain America's leadership in science and technology.”

Equal to the importance of long-term support of technology, ONR has been with Ballard, in terms of support for his expeditions, students, and technical staff throughout the years.

Ballard's dual interests in deep-submergence engineering and the use of related technologies for exploring the world's oceans continue to fuel his research today. Today, he is pressing research opportunities for undersea high definition imaging and autonomous control of remote vehicles. His targets of interest are preserved, ancient ships in the Black Sea. He currently is planning a return expedition in the western Black Sea with the Ukraine.

Among his 121 expeditions, Dr. Ballard’s work led to the discovery of deep-sea thermal vents, the wreck of the German battleship BISMARK, the aircraft carrier YORKTOWN, former President John F. Kennedy’s patrol boat PT-109, and numerous ancient shipwrecks lost at sea.

Public Affairs
Office of Naval Research
Corporate Strategic Communications Office
Phone: 703-696-5031
Fax: 703-696-5940
E-mail: onrcsc@onr.navy.mil

 

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