Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Scientific American Frontiers
TV Schedule
Alan Alda
For Educators
Previous Shows
Future Shows
Special Features

Beneath the Sea

  Science Hotline  
Photo of Ballard Robert Ballard
Please e-mail your questions before May 28th Read the Answers

Robert D. Ballard received his undergraduate degree in Geology and Chemistry from the University of California. He attended graduate school at the University of Southern California, the University of Hawaii's Graduate School of Oceanography and received his Ph.D. in Marine Geology and Geophysics from the University of Rhode Island. During the Vietnam War, he served on active duty as an Ensign, Lt. J.G. and finally as a Lieutenant. Ballard has rejoined the U.S. Naval Reserve as a Commander.

Ballard has led or participated in more than 100 deep-sea expeditions including the use of the deep-diving submersible ALVIN and the Navy's nuclear research submarine NR-1. Ballard is best known as the discoverer of the ocean liner R.M.S. Titanic, and his expeditions include the first discovery of high temperature black smokers.

Ballard retired from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1997, where he was senior scientist and director of the Center for Marine Exploration. Founder and head of the Institute for Exploration (IFE) at Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut, Ballard today advocates the use of technology such as advanced mapping and imaging systems, underwater robotics and manned-submersibles in deep-sea exploration.


For links to this scientist's home page and other related information please see our resources page

Ballard responds :

Reggie Williams asks:
I would like to know how you concluded this event would have taken place 7,500 years ago and what other evidence you found for you to determine without a doubt this was Noah's Ark.

Ballard's response:
Our research has nothing to do with NoakÕs Arc. It has a lot to do with whether there was a great flood in this area that could have lead to the story of the Great Flood. You should read Walter Pitman and William RyanÕs Book "NoahÕs Flood" to understand how they arrived at a date of 7,500 years ago. But in short, it was when salt water mollusks replaced fresh water mollusks.

Melvin Bussie asks:
What makes the Black Sea anoxic, or devoid of oxygen?

Ballard's response:
The deep saltwater in the Black Sea lacks vertical circulation. As a result oxygen is not being replenished and the bottom water has gone stagnant below 600 feet.

Lee Harper asks:
What is to be gained by living at sea? What about waste and pollution issues at sea? How will the sea condo work? Will it bob up and down, making everyone inside seasick? Is there a mechanism to counter this? What happens to this complex in a major storm?

Ballard's response:
Living at sea gives people an opportunity to get away from the ever increasing noise and crowding on land which will only get worse with time. Waste and pollution are stored within the floating structure and removed on a regular basis for processing ashore. The floating condo experiences little motion. This is a proven technology that has been used by the oil companies for their offshore platforms for many years now. It is called the "spar buoy" technology. When a 30-foot wave passes by the structure it will only rise 3 feet.

John Farchette III asks:
Are there vents in the Atlantic, in particular on the leading edge of the Caribbean Tectonic Plate? We have the Puerto Rican Trench and Kick'em Jenny and there is 12,400' water depth between St. Croix and St. Thomas US Virgin Islands. I was fascinated by the ocean cycle you described that takes 6-8 million years. Would it require a ridge similar to the 33,000' PR Trench or is it through hydraulic pressure through the ocean floor? That's two questions forgive my indulgence. I am a native of St. Croix. Thank you.

Ballard's response:
Vents are found above undersea magma chambers that are best found at the accreting or growing edge of an oceanic plate. The Puerto Rican Trench is at the other end of plate where it is being destroyed and vents have not been found within such trenches. There are magma chambers beneath the Cayman Trough but that is because this is a small spreading center similar to the mid-ocean ridge within the Trough. St. Croix and St Thomas are situated along the sliding boundary of the Caribbean Plate. You have earthquakes here but do not have magma chambers.

C. Langelier asks:
What are the main animals that you see around the vents? Which is your favorite, most interesting animal? Thank You,

Ballard's response:
You find many kinds of animals including clams, mussels, fish, jellyfish, shrimp and a giant tube worm which I like the best.

Hayley asks:
I am in the 7th grade at Holliston Middle School. I studied Deep Sea Vents earlier this year. I would like to know where you got the name Jason for your machine. Thank You
Ballard's response:
The name JASON came from Jason and the Argonauts who went in search of the Golden Fleece. Since he was a great explorer, I wanted our exploration vehicle to bear his name.
Laura Dellicker asks:
Hi. I am a student in Massachusetts. Earlier in the year I studied Hydrothermal Vents in science class. When you first saw the vents, did you have any idea of what they were?
Ballard's response:
When we first saw them we were amazed, especially as they were unexpected. It took us a few days to figure out what we were seeing.

return to show page



Into the Deep: The Early PioneersInto the Deep: A Scientific RevolutionInto the Deep: Deep Ocean ArcheologyInto the Deep: Remote Control ExplorationCreatures of the Mid-Ocean Teaching guide Science hotline video trailer Resources Contact Search Homepage