Professor explores ocean abyss

In Campus News, News
(John Pekcan / Daily Titan)
(John Pekcan / Daily Titan)

Research surrounding the discovery of the Titanic, deep-sea explorations and telepresence technology was presented by Robert D. Ballard, Ph.D, an oceanography professor at the University of Rhode Island, at the Titan Student Union on Wednesday.

Ballard is known for his historic discoveries of hydrothermal vents, the R.M.S. Titanic and the German battleship Bismarck, as well as other ancient shipwrecks.

He has conducted more than 120 deep-sea expeditions by using only the latest in exploration technology, and is an initiator in the early use of deep-diving submarines, according to the National Geographic.

His research on the Titanic, and deep-sea explorations, began long before the discovery of the Titanic.

Ballard said that his interest in the findings of lost, sunken ships came from his lifelong interest in the ancient history of shipwrecks.

Ballard and Jean Louis Michel were the team leaders of the expedition.

According to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Titanic discovery began when two research centers, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and French National Institute of Oceanography (IFREMER), joined to find the ship that had been lost at sea for more than 100 years.

By narrowing the search field to 100 square miles and planning a two-phased strategy, one of the Titanic’s boilers was identified under more than 12,400 feet of water in September 1985. The findings confirmed the shipwreck had been found.

Ballard explained how his interest in deep sea exploration began in the summer of 1959 when he experienced his first expedition.

“I was 17 years old living in Downey and I went down to (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) and I went out on my first expedition,” said Ballard. “We got rescued by the coast guard … a big rolling wave almost destroyed the ship and I was hooked for life.”

Telepresence technology allows scientists on shore to access data and images transmitted in real-time from remotely operated vehicles, and view objects over a video feed as if they were actually there.

Ballard explained how the invention of telepresence technology helped replace human presence in the depths, ultimately allowing someone to view the depths while remaining on a ship.

Trevor Slazas, a geology major, said learning about Ballard’s passion for exploration helped him understand the need for ocean exploration.

“We are exploring space,” said Slazas. “We have rovers on Mars, but we don’t quite know what’s down there still.”

Rena Galvez, vice chair of Natural Science and Mathematics Inter-club Council and director of finances, said she hopes students grasp the importance of research events that are connected at Cal State Fullerton.

“You have no idea (about) these things that are available,” said Galvez. “And so we want to bring that to our campus.”

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