ALAN ALDA How long do you think it will be before you're
under the ocean and never leaving your house?
BOB BALLARD Right now probably anytime I want to do
ALAN ALDA Really?
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) After 30 years of extraordinary
successes opening up the mysteries of the deep ocean,
Ballard now advocates a new kind of exploration, using
remote control. It's the latest phase of a career that
spans more than a hundred ocean expeditions, including
at least a couple of scientific revolutions. We're going
to devote this program to those expeditions, to those
revolutions, and to revealing the inner workings of
ALAN ALDA You seem to have been present at some of
the greatest discoveries and not only about the ocean
but about the planet.
BOB BALLARD My strength is in the technology that I
developed. I've sort of used the technology as my passport
to explore anything. And so, I have a love of geology,
but I have an equal love of anthropology. And, fortunately,
they're all under water. I got the only key to the car,
so to speak, and that's been how I've been able to be
at a particular point in human history when we've gone
beneath the sea.
TECHNICIAN Have a good one.
TECHNICIAN Sealing the hatch.
TECHNICIAN Hatch is secure.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) This is the Alvin, a three-place
submersible that's made more deep ocean discoveries
than any other sub - often with Ballard on board. Launched
in 1964, Alvin's still going strong, diving for the
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Alvin's sister
ship, the Turtle, was retired from the Navy in 1997.
ALAN ALDA Why is this called the Turtle?
BOB BALLARD Well, it was really one of the earlier
submarines, the first submarine ever built in America
was the Turtle .
ALAN ALDA Oh, really?
BOB BALLARD And it attacked the British in the Revolutionary
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR)
BOB BALLARD was a Woods Hole scientist for 30 years,
while also a US Navy officer, so he knows both subs
BOB BALLARD Alright. So this is the sail and this actually
floods, once you get out at sea, so this is the important
part, this is the hatch. Two inches thick,
ALAN ALDA So, what keeps the water from going in here?
BOB BALLARD Well it's actually tapered. If you look
at the hatch, it's like a porthole, the pressure pushes
them down. In fact, you're most vulnerable at the surface.
That's the most dangerous time because you don't have
the pressure seating it. Alright, well let's get down
inside here. So watch your step.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) The heart of these deep-diving
subs is the crew compartment - a 6-foot diameter steel
sphere, built to withstand enormous forces.
BOB BALLARD Absolutely a sardine...
ALAN ALDA Oh my God! It's tiny!
BOB BALLARD Oh, yeah.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Alvin can dive to 14,000 feet,
where the water pressure outside is two and a half tons
on every square inch of the sphere.
ALAN ALDA How long does it take you to get all the
BOB BALLARD Well the average depth of the ocean is
twelve thousand feet. It takes you two and half hours
each way. So you're talking five hours just commuting
to work, and if you go even deeper its even longer.
TECHNICIAN I.D. light on, request permission to dive.
TECHNICIAN Roger you're clear to dive. Depth is 25-20.
TECHNICIAN Roger Alvin diving.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) With two 500-pound ballast weights,
the Alvin sinks at a steady 80 feet a minute.
TECHNICIAN Gary can you give me a vector to the target
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Sub and mother ship communicate
with an echoing acoustic phone, broadcasting sound directly
into the water.
TECHNICIAN Ninety meters away. Eight zero degrees.
TECHNICIAN Roger. Thank you.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) On the way down there's very little
to do, and nothing to see unless you use the lights,
but that consumes battery power you'll need at the bottom.
Eventually the pilot slows the sub's descent by dropping
first one weight, then the second.
PILOT OK altitude is about 18 meters, drop the second
weight. You'll be able to hear it. Boom…
BOB BALLARD You pop this and then if you've done your
ballast calculations right, you should stop. But everyone
lies about their weight,
ALAN ALDA Well, it can be personal.
BOB BALLARD Yeah, everyone lies so I say, "Wait! Wait,
Alan you told me you were 180 pounds...
ALAN ALDA And we're still going!
BOB BALLARD So then you have to go to what's called
a variable ballast system, and that's where you make
up for the lying. And you start pumping ballast and
that will then take water outside and put it in a bag
and then the bag, like a bladder, will expand and makes
your volume bigger, and that slows you down until you
finally get what's called "neutral trim."
ALAN ALDA Yeah…
BOB BALLARD Now you're completely neutral, you're not
falling or rising and then you spend the last hundred
feet and you drive down.
ALAN ALDA When you get down there, you're really cold,
BOB BALLARD Oh, freezing! See, this hull is just two
inches of steel and outside in the deep sea it's 4 degrees
centigrade, I mean, just above freezing. And the ocean
is like a giant heat sink. It just sucks the heat out
of the submarine. The only thing that keeps you warm
is your instrument panel. We can't afford the power
to run a heater, because we're battery operated.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Maneuvering just above the bottom
with their multiple propellers, deep submersibles like
these have given scientists their first good look at
the mysterious 70% of our planet that's covered by deep
PILOT This is Alvin. At the bottom.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) It's been a slow process - sometimes
too slow for
BOB BALLARD - but since the 1960s, it's truly a whole
new world that's been revealed.
BOB BALLARD We're going to a world that's totally dark-complete
darkness- we're gonna be within a few feet of it, and
there's no roads. So we're off track. We're going through
over the ground and up and over. And cliffs and walls
and things. You don't want to go fast. In fact, the
typical speed is like a half a mile an hour, and that's
why it's so painfully slow. You get down here and if
you're lucky in three hours of bottom time you'll cover
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) In 1869, a hundred years before
Alvin's launch, the French writer and ocean sailor,
Jules Verne, published his classic story of the renegade
scientist who travels the world's oceans in his fabulous
submarine, Nautilus. None of Captain Nemo's technology
existed at the time, of course, although in Hollywood's
1916 version the self-contained diving suits were a
genuine technical advance. The adventures of Captain
Nemo and his crew were an inspiration for generations
of ocean explorers, including Jacques Cousteau and
BOB BALLARD. While some features of the Nautilus brilliantly
foreshadowed later developments, Jules Verne did get
one thing wrong - the question of pressure. The design
of submarines like the Nautilus, capable of accommodating
large crews, developed rapidly during the Second Word
War. Yet even the best of the German U-boats were limited
to a depth of about 700 feet, and today's large submarines
can go no deeper than a few thousand feet. It was Otis
Barton, an engineer from Massachusetts, and his collaborator,
William Beebe, who first solved the problem of how to
reach extreme depths. The solution was to dive in a
small, massive sphere - they called it a bathysphere.
A spherical form offers the most effective resistance
to the crushing pressures at depth. In a series of dives
off Bermuda in the 1930s, they shattered the existing
depth record of 525 feet, established by a diver in
an armored suit. The bathysphere was simply lowered
from a barge, a risky business since any fault in the
cable would lead to a fatal plunge to the bottom. Beebe,
who was a curator of birds at the Bronx Zoo, was greeted
with disbelief when he reported seeing strange new creatures
in the depths. We'll have a story about how right he
was later in the program. It was the peculiar subs called
bathyscaphs, conceived by the Swiss balloonist Auguste
Piccard in the 1930s, which finally reached the deepest
part of the ocean - the 35,000-foot Challenger Deep
off Guam. A huge tank of gasoline provided flotation,
so you didn't need a suspension cable. Bathyscaphs were
safer, but very unwieldy, as Bob Ballard discovered.
BOB BALLARD We were going in slow, but it's like if
I just sort of took my hand and I had enough force to
go right through this couch. You'd just see this…well,
that's what happened. The front of the submarine came
down and I'm looking at it, and it's just the metal
and everything, its just twisting in my eyes, like a
giant... just slowly, just very slowly, taking the submarine
and just ripping it open. And then I see av gas coming
ALAN ALDA What's that?
BOB BALLARD That's the flotation gasoline. We ruptured
ALAN ALDA How did this turn out? Did you live?
BOB BALLARD Well here's what happened. We then, he
dropped the whole- then you could drop the whole door
and he dropped ten tons. When he saw that, I said "av
gas!" When I yelled "av gas," he dropped the doors open
and we dropped ten tons. Now we're at 20, 000 feet.
It's a six hour trip home and here's what happens. You're
leaking your gasoline and you start decelerating and
then you start back down. Well, they had in the sub
a little calculator- you know one of those little LED
displays? Freezes up on a number? And so every few seconds,
it was telling you your ascent rate. Well ,there was
enough uncertainty in the calculation that it depended
on whether you were an optimist or a pessimist. You
could get whatever you wanted out of those numbers.
ALAN ALDA You didn't know whether you'd make it to
the top before you lost your gasoline which gave you
BOB BALLARD Exactly. And then you'd go negative. No
one spoke. The most silent experience I've ever had,
and we all looked at those numbers…
ALAN ALDA For six hours?
BOB BALLARD For six hours. And we were decelerating,
because we were losing flotation. But we had enough
to get home.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) It was a technical breakthrough
in the 60s that allowed the Alvin and her sister ships
to shrink down to a practical size. Instead of a huge
gasoline flotation tank, they used a new material called
syntactic foam, packed inside the fiberglass shell.
BOB BALLARD What they were able to do is get rid of
the gasoline by taking silicon and they atomized it
and they made these little microspheres of glass with
a little air in them. Billions of them. And it's sort
of like a powder, but it's has tremendous strength,
but it weighs less than half of what seawater weighs.
So, by adding this foam, this is what basically makes
the submarine float.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) It turned out the small, deep-diving
subs were the perfect answer to a big question - how
to explore the vast undersea mountain range called the
Mid-Ocean Ridge. During the decade of the 1950s, depth-sounding
surveys had gradually revealed the Ridge as a 42,000-mile-long
mountain range, sometimes rising 15,000 feet above the
sea floor, snaking around the globe between the continents.
It's the largest geological feature on earth.
BOB BALLARD It really wasn't until 1960, that we knew
that there was a great mountain range beneath the sea.
But we didn't know how it got there. We didn't know
the role it played in the earth -- until plate tectonics
came along in the late 60s -- that we realized that
it was actually the site of crustal creation. That it
was along the axis of this great mountain range that
the earth creates its outer skin, through this process
called sea floor spreading. And so we were the first
human beings to go down in submarines and explore this
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) The pictures of lava formations
on the mid-Atlantic ridge that Ballard filmed from the
Alvin, left no doubt that the Mid-Ocean Ridges are volcanoes,
which create the earth's crust. Next the question was
- where's the heat? In 1977, Ballard provided the answer
with the discovery of hot water vents, 8,000 feet down
on the Galapagos Rift. Then came the totally unexpected.
Clustered around the vents were what seemed to be giant
clams - life, in the black ocean depths. It was the
dawning of a scientific revolution, which Ballard and
the Alvin would pursue for the next several years.
ALAN ALDA This picture you have on the wall. What is
that a picture of?
BOB BALLARD That is the moment of discovery of these
life forms. I think it's my proudest moment. People
think maybe it was the Titanic. Actually it wasn't.
We didn't discover the Titanic, we knew it existed.
It was the discovery of hydrothermal vents, these exotic
creatures. See, prior to our discovery of hydrothermal
vents in 1977, we thought all life on our planet was
due to the sun- that the photosynthetic energy we get
from the sun, that plants capture, turn into organic
matter that animals then eat, then we eat the animals-was
it. But then we discovered in the total darkness, in
a world alien to anything we can think of, creatures
that were living not off the energy of the sun but the
energy of the earth itself.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) It was not until 1979 that Ballard
was able to get back to the Galapagos Rift, and uncover
the tremendous variety of life that lives around the
vents - the tube worms, mussels, crabs, even fish, that
shelter in the warm, volcanic currents. On the '79 expedition,
Ballard - who's a geologist - was able to bring astonished
biologists to see the vent life-forms for the first
time. It was the beginning of a whole new branch of
biology, still going strong, which has figured out how
the vent life makes a living down here in the dark.
It's turned out that it's the composition of the water
emerging from the vents that's the secret.
ALAN ALDA These creatures were living off of chemicals
BOB BALLARD Exactly! Poisonous, toxic …
ALAN ALDA Poisonous to the rest of us.
BOB BALLARD Absolutely, particularly hydrogen sulfide.
H2S. Fill this room with H2S, we're toast. So are the
plants. Everything dies. But there was a creature, a
bacterium, that had figured out over eons of time how
to duplicate photosynthesis in the dark by oxidizing
this poisonous gas. And a whole new life system came
into being. A life system that is now we think where
life began on earth.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) It's believed the early earth
contained widespread hot spring environments like this
- both on land and in the ocean - long before the earliest
photosynthesizing organisms, like algae, began to evolve.
So perhaps the sulfide-loving bacteria we see at the
vents might be related to the earliest life-forms on
the planet. Hundreds of hydrothermal vent fields have
now been found around the globe, even though only about
1 percent of the likely areas have been surveyed. The
kind of bacteria which all vent life depends on a kind
was new to science. They can extract energy from hydrogen
sulfide gas dissolved in the vent water. There have
now been many expeditions to ocean vents, with intensive
study of the life, often including raising samples of
clams, tube worms, or crabs up to the surface, a mile
or two above.
PILOT Both weights away.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Surprisingly,
BIOLOGISTs have had some success in keeping deep ocean
animals alive, in special labs on board ship. In this
system, the intrepid researchers remove the foul-smelling
worms from their shell-like tubes. Plastic replacement
tubes are then used - not without some difficulty. The
plastic tubes can then be fitted into pressure cylinders,
which are pumped up to simulate conditions at depth.
The tube worms have what's called a symbiotic relationship
with the sulfur-eating bacteria. In fact, the entire
contents of the worm are just bacteria. Although it's
still not clear exactly how these symbiotic relationships
work, there's no doubt that sulfur-loving bacteria are
at the base of the entire food chain at the deep ocean
vents. Some animals, like crabs, eat the bacteria directly.
Others, like tube worms and giant clams, shelter them
in their bodies. Still others, like vent fish, are predators,
feeding on everything else. In 1979, Ballard made yet
another historic discovery, in an area called the East
Pacific Rise, off Baja California. They called them
Black Smokers - chimneys spewing out clouds of mineral-rich
water, so hot that it must have come from deep in the
earth's crust. It explained why the sea is so rich in
BOB BALLARD The seawater, which is under pressure,
goes right down into those cracks, goes down to the
magma chamber. The magma chamber is hot -- 1400 degrees,
1200 to 1400 degrees centigrade. And so it heats up
the water, and then the water begins to interact with
the magma chamber, and it changes its chemistry.
ALAN ALDA Now does the water turn to steam?
BOB BALLARD No, it can't because of pressure. It turns
into superhot water.
ALAN ALDA Superhot water which means it stays …
BOB BALLARD Liquid.
ALAN ALDA Liquid, but it's really...
BOB BALLARD Really hot. And its now full of chemicals
that it didn't have before. And its those chemicals
that are coming out of the black smokers that are responsible
for the chemistry of the world's oceans. In fact we
now realize that the entire volume of the world's oceans
is going inside the earth and out, every six to 8 million
ALAN ALDA Every six to eight million years.
BOB BALLARD The entire volume…
ALAN ALDA All the oceans in the world…they all go down...
BOB BALLARD Through this system.
ALAN ALDA Under the floor of the ocean.
BOB BALLARD Into the mountain range, and come up in
the form of black smokers.
ALAN ALDA And it takes eight or ten million years…
BOB BALLARD For the whole ball game. That's a lot of
ALAN ALDA Well, of course.
BOB BALLARD And that's what's caused the chemistry
of the world's oceans. And we didn't know that.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Ballard almost didn't live to
tell the world about Black Smokers. It all began when
they moved in to take a measurement.
BOB BALLARD The first time we saw one, we're coming
up on one, we're inching up and it's high, so we had
to come up high. So we're now neutrally buoyant and
there's an updraft and its pulling us towards it, OK?
And we're trying to find out what the temperature is
and so we take our mechanical arm out and we stick it
in there. And we look at the, and it pegs off scale.
And the pilot says, "That's hot." And then he removes
the equipment- the temperature and it's melted. And
then he says, "I just want to let you guys know that
the probe's made out of the same material as the porthole."
And we were like, three feet away.
ALAN ALDA And moving toward it.
BOB BALLARD And moving toward it.
ALAN ALDA So, what, everybody go like that?
BOB: Absolutely! Fortunately, the sub has a reverse.
And we actually bumped by it, we bumped it and knocked
it over and when we came up, the side of the submarine
was melted. The syntactic foam, was melted.
ALAN ALDA When you came up this close to it, had anybody
ever seen a black smoker before?
BOB BALLARD Never. Never.
ALAN ALDA So you almost discovered it and disappeared
with your own discovery.
BOB BALLARD Yeah, yeah, no, it could have been a bad
ALAN ALDA Could have been a while before anybody knew
that there was a black smoker down there.
BOB BALLARD Yeah, well what would have happened was
if it hit your porthole at that high temperature, it
would have shattered and imploded. Takes about a quarter
of a second.
ALAN ALDA Because there's so much pressure.
BOB BALLARD To just go off like a bomb.
REMOTE CONTROL EXPLORATION
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) In spite of the spectacular scientific
advances that have been made with the use of small manned
submersibles like Alvin, Ballard says we don't need
subs like this any more. He came to that conclusion
right here on the Galapagos Rift.
BOB BALLARD The turning moment for me was in a submarine
just like this one, when we found these unique life
forms. And we were down on the bottom of the Galapagos
Rift, it was 1979, OK. And biologists had never seen
these life forms ever before, and we got them in the
submarine and, a scientist by the name of Holger Jannish,
who just couldn't wait to see these creatures. He knew
he was going to be famous, just to be the first to see
them biologically. And so we got down there and they
were right outside the window. And I was sitting over
here and I had brought down a new prototype camera system
-- a digital camera system. And I was looking at the
animals and I looked up from my porthole and I looked
at Holger, and he had his back to the window. I said,
"Holger, what are you doing?" And he said, "I'm looking
at the monitor."
ALAN ALDA That's amazing.
BOB BALLARD And I said, " Wait a minute, let me see
if I got this right…
ALAN ALDA We came all the way down here…
BOB BALLARD We came all the way down here, and you
turn your back to the window -- and I went (snap)
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) The result of that insight is
inside these blue shipping containers, on display at
the Mystic Aquarium. It's the portable control room
which Ballard developed to run subs remotely.
BOB BALLARD So this is where the pilot would sit, but
see remember the pilot in the sub was dominating the
ALAN ALDA Yeah.
BOB BALLARD Now the pilot's sitting here and we get
the view. So imagine these being multiple camera systems
on the vehicle. Multiple windows. So all of a sudden
a puny window that only one person could look out of,
everyone gets to look out of many many panoramic view
windows, OK? And talk about it together. And more importantly,
it stays down 24 hours a day.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) What's the point of taking people
down if they can't go outside when they get there? says
Ballard. Everything can be controlled from the surface
- even collecting samples - so long as the communication
link is good. Argo, a towed camera sled with a fiber
optic link, was Ballard's first remote vehicle. After
9 days, 24 hours a day, Argo found the Titanic - thanks
to an ingenious search strategy Ballard invented.
ALAN ALDA When a ship sinks, does it leave a trail
of debris in the process of sinking?
BOB BALLARD It can do that. The Titanic did that.
ALAN ALDA Why does that happen? What's going on there?
BOB BALLARD Okay, lets take the Titanic, because I
looked for the debris trail. Everyone else looked for
the Titanic. They didn't find it. Well, clearly it wasn't
a good idea. Because the Titanic was in a very complicated,
badlands of the Dakotas, canyons and valleys and you
could hide a thousand Titanics in this rugged terrain,
OK? So here's the Titanic up at the surface, OK? It
goes vertical, then it snaps in half. What's it now?
Big salt shaker. What's coming out of it? Everything.
Take this room, dump it. Okay, so lets take this room
and throw it out the window OK? Well lets' say I took
a heavy object, the stone. The stone's going to go...
but lets' say my paper, I throw the paper. How long's
it going to take the paper to sink? Longer than the
stone? Yeah…it's going to take forever for the paper
to sink. If it even sinks at all. So what happens is,
there's a current running -- remember, there's rivers
in the ocean. The Labrador current that brought the
icebergs down, so that's a huge body of water. So an
object will fall straight through it if its heavy. But
a lighter object will be carried by it. It may take
it hours and hours and hours. Well, it's traveling miles
before it finally falls through the upper current layer.
And then it falls down. So you get a debris trail. So
…look for the debris trail.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) In late summer of 1985, Ballard
managed to get 11 days of sea time on the Woods Hole
research ship, Knorr. You can see Argo's portable control
room on the stern here. Argo was towed back and forth
through the area where Ballard figured Titanic's debris
trail should be. For 9 tedious days, video of empty
sea floor came back to the control room. Then… CREW
We're over something… Oh look at that…you can see it
on the …. I can see it too! What is it? I don't know,
but it's man made! More stuff coming. That is big. Boiler!
I got boilers. Yes, yes. Fantastic! Goddam.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) With only 2 days' search time
left, Argo's cameras had picked up Titanic's ghostly
shape, 12,000 beneath the spot in the North Atlantic
where she'd hit the iceberg that fatal night in 1912.
Ballard's strategy had been exactly right.
BOB BALLARD I knew that current was north to south,
because that's where the icebergs come from. So I ran
east to west. And I knew, I said well where do you start?
Well, what's the lightest of all the debris that came
out of the Titanic?
ALAN ALDA Well, wouldn't it have been paper?
BOB BALLARD The lifeboats.
ALAN ALDA Oh, I see.
BOB BALLARD They didn't sink at all. So, if I know
where they picked up the lifeboats -- the Carpathia
-- it's gotta be north. So I started my search underneath
where they picked up the lifeboats with the Carpathia,
and then I ran my lines like that. And on the ninth
line, picked up the debris trail, followed it home.
It lead me right to the Titanic.
DEEP OCEAN ARCHEOLOGY
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) The following year, Ballard returned
to the Titanic - but in the Alvin. He'd wanted to use
a new remote, steerable vehicle called Jason, but it
wasn't ready. So he approached the Titanic using what
he now regarded as outmoded technology - although it
surely must have been a thrilling experience to really
BOB BALLARD OK, now that's the boat deck...
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Landing on the deck of the ship,
Ballard deployed from Alvin a brand new remote vehicle
called Jason Junior. And it was Jason Junior that shot
those haunting pictures that we all saw, some from deep
inside the wreck. It was the last Alvin expedition Ballard
would conduct. Although he did make some dives in US
Navy deep-dive subs, from now on most of his efforts
would be concentrated on remotely operated vehicles,
or ROVs. That's probably just as well, since his interest
was turning increasingly to wrecks, and wreck diving
BOB BALLARD When you go to wreck, it's a mess. Uh,
the Lusitania was the scariest dive ever…
ALAN ALDA What, some of it can fall on you or what?
BOB BALLARD It was full of fishnets.
ALAN ALDA Oh, oh, so you can just...
BOB BALLARD Go right into them all and you can't see
ALAN ALDA You can get stuck.
BOB BALLARD We did!
ALAN ALDA You did? You got stuck?
BOB BALLARD Yeah, the submarine got stuck in it.
ALAN ALDA How did you get out of that?
BOB BALLARD Well it was sort of humorous in reflection.
We had a little submarine, and had three people in it
and they went and you can't see the monofilament, it's
like monfilament nets, its like a web. And the sub went
into it, and it sucked it up into its stern prop. And
it just ate up the net into the stern prop. So, now,
it's tied to the ship. And it went around and around
so fast it fused it. It melted it and fused it by just
spinning the prop trying to get out. And so now, then
they -- I wasn't on that particular dive, I was up on
the surface talking to them -- and then they dropped
their weights. But what happened is they went like that,
because they didn't know how they were trapped. Until
they dropped their weights and instead of going up,
they rotated. And now they're vertical. A submarine's
not designed to be vertical. All the equipment and everything,
all the people came, like a big tube came roaring down
that tube. And then the guys called up and said, "You
know, we got a problem. We're stuck." And then it turned
out the pilot's father was another pilot-- his son.
Very moving. I mean here's a father talking to his son,
saying, "Well what's up, you know, what's going on?"
They said "Well, we're trapped. Well clearly we're stuck
on the nets or something or rope , I don't know. It
appears to be in the prop." Well they had a procedure
where they could uncouple the propeller shroud and drop
it. So, we're all listening and we got the underwater
sound and everyone's so tense, the tension -- oh, my
god these people are gonna die. And they had a little
rhyme that they'd memorized on how to turn the screw,
and you hear this voice from the bottom of the ocean,
"Righty tighty, lefty loosey," as he's turning it. Had
a little jingle to teach him how to turn the screw,
he'd memorized it. "Righty tighty," he didn't want to
do that -- "Lefty Loosey." And he was turning it to
the left and they dropped the prop and they came up.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Jason, Ballard's first fully-capable
remotely operated vehicle, was launched in 1989 after
5 years of development at Woods Hole. There was skepticism
about what ROVs could achieve. But over the next 10
years, using Jason, Argo and a series of other vehicles,
Ballard opened up a new field of deep water archaeology,
in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. As usual, Ballard's
imagination was hard at work.
BOB BALLARD If you were on a Phoenician ship, and you
were carrying 2000 amphorae of a fine wine for the pharaoh
of Egypt, what would you do along the way?
ALAN ALDA You'd drink the wine and throw the jugs overboard.
BOB BALLARD You got it! Absolutely! And what if you
did that for thousands and thousands and thousands of
years? What would you find?
ALAN ALDA A lot of these jugs.
BOB BALLARD A trail. So what I do is I say, OK here's
an ancient seaport, lets say its Carthage. I'm gonna
drive along here until I pick up the trail and I'm gonna
follow it and that's exactly what I did.
ALAN ALDA Now how do you find it? Visually?
BOB BALLARD Yeah, just go along and look for empties.
That's exactly what I did and there were the empties.
And they weren't broken either! They didn't throw' em
over because they were broken, they threw em over because
they drank em!
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Finding shipwrecks, 2- or 3,000
years old, in deep water has forced a reappraisal of
how ancient sailors behaved. It was commonly believed
that they hugged the coastline, but these discoveries
have shown they took direct routes, in open water. They
were better sailors and navigators than we had supposed,
but inevitably some ships were lost. There are many
whole ships, whole cargoes, in these deep, cold waters.
Ballard believes these discoveries are the first glimpse
of a deep-sea archaeological treasure trove.
BOB BALLARD Shipwrecks are time capsules. They're pure
moments in time. Everything on that shipwreck went down
that moment. And particularly in the deep sea, it's
preserved. It's in a high state of preservation. So
imagine that probably everything humans have done has
caused them to go out onto the sea with their commerce,
with their technology and then they lose it. And they
lose it in the deep sea which puts it in sort of a warehouse.
I think there's more history in the deep sea than all
the museums in the world combined. We think there's
maybe one million time capsules.
ALAN ALDA A million ships that have sunk. And you can
find them no matter how deep they are.
BOB BALLARD Absolutely. The deeper the better -the
more preserved they are, the further they are from land
to be buried. And just think what the historians are
going to write when the generation of explorers that
are in elementary school right now, find those time
BIOLOGIST ...and here we are in the Amazon trying out
some cacao, chocolate…
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Ballard has extended the idea
of remote exploration to education. The Titanic discovery
had prompted an enormous response. Suddenly thousands
of kids wanted to be ocean explorers. Why not mount
a whole series of remote explorations, he thought, and
beam them live into museums and classrooms? "Telepresence,"
he calls it. So far, the Jason Project has conducted
13 expeditions -- to the ocean floor, to shipwrecks
and to forests around the world -- involving thousands
BOB BALLARD You guys ready to go?
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Here's Ballard's latest use of
BOB BALLARD Alan, why don't you sit right down there
in the co-pilot's seat. Alright, so here we are, the
ALAN ALDA Now where are we? What is this?
BOB BALLARD This is a live shot, coming in from Monterey
ALAN ALDA This is like the ultimate webcam.
BOB BALLARD Absolutely! But even better. The aquarium's
on our left. Cannery row is on our right. We're going
to zoom in on these rocks, and we're going to look at
some seals, looks like harbor seals, and a cormorant.
See the cormorant sitting there? So, that's a live feed-
oops! There's one right down there, and there's one
up there. So. watch. We're gonna back up. Biiiing. So
that's the Aquarium, that's the Monterey Bay Aquarium
right there, hello? Alright that's their observational
platform. We'll pan back.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) So far, it's maybe a bit better
than a webcam -- but don't go away. The real point of
the system is out in the bay, between these two white
BOB BALLARD So we're now gonna jump underwater …and
there we are.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Now we're seeing live, high-quality
pictures sent on a data link across the continent, from
Monterey, California to Mystic, Connecticut. And we
can control the camera, too.
BOB BALLARD Uh, hello guy!
ALAN ALDA Oh, look at that. What is that?
BOB BALLARD That's a fish!
ALAN ALDA I know it's a fish!
BOB BALLARD I know. Get the
BIOLOGIST! I'm a geologist. And I'll zoom back out
because I'm gonna give it to you. Can I see your driver's
ALAN ALDA Just get out of the way.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Telepresence, I found, does have
BOB BALLARD Do it slowly, because there's a little
time delay. Watch! You're at the end of the line! Stop!
ALAN ALDA Oh, I'm gonna crash!
BOB BALLARD You did!
ALAN ALDA I thought it was a fish!
BOB BALLARD No, that's the end of the line.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) At the heart of the trans-continental
telepresence system is - you guessed it - another remotely
TECHNICIAN Thrust reverse…
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) It had been installed just the
week before I tried it out, after a couple of years
of work. Monterey Bay's a marine sanctuary, so it's
hard to get permission to do anything here. But for
Ballard, that's the attraction. This is the first of
two remote vehicles to be installed in different parts
of the Monterey sanctuary. Then the plan is for systems
to go into marine sanctuaries in the Florida Keys and
California's Channel Islands. Eventually, visitors to
museums and aquariums across the country, and around
the world, will be able to experience a wide variety
of underwater environments by telepresence. It's the
sort of crazy, ambitious idea that's typical of
BOB BALLARD's imagination. It was born of his lifelong
obsession with ocean exploration, but grew out of that
crucial insight he had, 8,000 feet down on the Galapagos
Rift, when his
BIOLOGIST colleague chose the pictures on the monitor
over the view out the window.
BOB BALLARD That's kelp... and come around again.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) And it is extraordinary. You can
feel you're there, as you steer the camera and vehicle
through the kelp and rocks.
ALAN ALDA You know what's interesting about that surging
-- I see this movement and it's out of my control, which
makes it very different from a computer experience.
Very different from a virtual experience.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) We did have a little help from
our underwater cameraman in shooting some of these scenes,
but most of them could have been shot by remote control,
and that's really the point. With telepresence the potential
is there. It's up to you to do the rest. Ballard's not
content with inspiring a couple of revolutions in marine
science and archaeology, and then wiring up the country's
marine sanctuaries. Now he's off and running with a
new crazy idea. If 70% of the globe is covered in water,
it's time we started living out there, he says. Here's
a marine habitation you tow into place, then tip up
BOB BALLARD There's no budget in America, zero, zip,
for colonizing the world's oceans. Nothing. They're
not even thinking about it.
ALAN ALDA You're actively at work on this? I mean,
BOB BALLARD Yeah, we're designing it. See, also you
can use heat exchangers, so that you can take advantage
of the thermocline to have nice air conditioning. You
can have this solar panels, where this thing…
ALAN ALDA You're just moving cold air up, or you're
creating electricity or what?
BOB BALLARD Yeah, no. It's cold! It's freezing down
there! Circulating air. You've got vanes that you can
control so your solar panel follows the sun throughout
the day. You can helo out to it. I want to put it in
a marine sanctuary, and have rangers living on it.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) I have to admit I was skeptical
about the ocean colonization idea, but when I said so,
BOB BALLARD answered with the confidence of experience.
BOB BALLARD All my life, I've had these ideas, and
people say, "you're nuts." 'Til I do them. Then you
know what they say? "You know, actually, that wasn't
a bad idea, but it's the new one you have that's nuts."
And then I go on with the new one and I do it, and then
they go, "Well, actually it wasn't such a bad idea but
it's the next one." This is the one they think I'm nuts
on right now.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Ballard's one of the most celebrated
explorers of his generation. With his list of achievements,
you could forgive him for indulging in a little self-congratulation.
But 30 years of underwater surprises have taught him
not to be so sure.
BOB BALLARD I just think we have this great arrogance,
you know, that we know everything. And every generation
laughs at the next one. Well, get ready to be laughed
at by your grandchildren. I mean, I have no idea what's
ahead of us, but I know it'll be very surprising and
CREATURES OF THE MIDOCEAN
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Early morning fog shrouds the
harbor of Moss Landing, on Monterey Bay, California.
We're taking a ride on the Point Lobos, a research vessel
run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
Bob Ballard's remotely operated telepresence vehicle
is out here, in the shallow inshore waters. But just
10 miles offshore, the ocean plunges down into a deep
canyon - larger than the Grand Canyon, and deeper than
the Galapagos Rift, where Bob Ballard first discovered
life at the hot water vents. For the last 10 years,
the research team has been cruising the Monterey Canyon,
investigating what's called the Mid-Ocean - below the
top few hundred feet, and above the bottom waters. That's
90% of the earth's living space, and it's less known
even than the deep ocean floor. The team uses a remotely
operated vehicle, called the Ventana, controlled from
ALAN ALDA What is all this stuff here?
BRUCE ROBISON Well, we've got a variety of tools that
we use at depth. These are samplers that we use to collect
the more fragile and delicate animals. Down here is
the big eye. Up here along this middle bar are four
metal halogen lights. The depths we'll be working at
today are very dark. Less than a hundredth of a percent
of the sunlight which reaches the surface penetrates
as deep as we'll be working today.
ALAN ALDA If we were down there without a light, what
would it be like? Would it be like being in a room that
just has a tiny crack somewhere under a door?
BRUCE ROBISON Even less than that. About the only thing
you can see is that looking up towards the surface is
less dark than looking down.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) The Ventana was not made by Ballard's
group. In fact it's much-modified oil industry technology.
But it does embody Ballard's basic idea, that you can
do good ocean research remotely. Actually, around about
now I wouldn't mind switching to full remote telepresence
- maybe somewhere in my living room. The ocean swell
is making life distinctly uncomfortable. Going below
to the control room only makes matters worse. The room
is small, dark, hot and constantly pitching. As I munch
saltines in an attempt to settle my stomach, the pilot
takes the Ventana on a 3,000 foot dive. The spectacular
views from Ventana's camera come back to us through
an immense fiber optic cable, like Jason and Argo.
ALAN ALDA So we're just traveling through space here,
it looks like we're, oh what went by? Something good
went by. What was that?
BRUCE ROBISON Oh, Peralia. Peralia.
ALAN ALDA What's that?
BRUCE ROBISON These are great big, brown colored medusi.
ALAN ALDA Oh, that's gorgeous.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) In his dives off Bermuda in the
30s, William Beebe reported seeing many unknown species.
This is called a siphonophore.
BRUCE ROBISON This is the propulsive end. There are
two swimming bells, one on either side, that allow the
animal to pull itself through the water.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) The siphonophore may not be a
single animal at all but an assembly of many. Until
it was remotely studied here in its habitat, no-one
knew much about it.
ALAN ALDA You couldn't have ever brought this up in
a net, could you?
BRUCE ROBISON No. We would have had only bits and pieces.
We wouldn't have known how many siphonophores were there,
whether there was 1 or 100. These animals get to be
extraordinarily large. We have measured them up to 120
feet long. That is a very big surprise.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Siphonophores may be the longest
creatures on earth. The crew in the control room can
collect specimens by remote control, as effectively
as they could if they were actually down here.
ALAN ALDA You gonna put him up the vacuum cleaner there?
BRUCE ROBISON That's right. We're gonna draw this siphonophore
into the suction sampler. So that we can look at it's
ALAN ALDA You can get a big guy like that into one
of your containers?
BRUCE ROBISON Sure.
ALAN ALDA And he wont break?
BRUCE ROBISON It will be, what's the polite term, "wadded
ALAN ALDA This is why I don't believe in flying saucers
coming down and taking samples of humanity. I don't
want to be "wadded up" by one of those things.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) The siphonophore is gently sucked
aboard in one piece -- accompanied by some of the particles
that are everywhere down here.
ALAN ALDA What's all this snow-like stuff we are seeing
around the animals?
BRUCE ROBISON You called it by the right name. We refer
to it as marine snow. It's sort of all of the junk and
detritus and dust of the upper layer of the ocean.
ALAN ALDA So, that's stuff falling off of animals up
above. And it passes through this region and continues
on it's way all the way down to the bottom?
BRUCE ROBISON That's right.
ALAN ALDA And animals are feeding on it all the time?
BRUCE ROBISON Yes, certainly bacteria feed on it while
it descends. But there are other animals, filter feeders,
that occur in mid-water, and they process these particles.
But eventually, they all reach the sea floor.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Since
BRUCE ROBISON and his colleagues began their mid-water
explorations, they've identified dozens of new species.
Creatures down here range from the gruesome fangtooth...
To the angelic-looking ribbonfish. 2000 feet down, the
Ventana passes through a layer where oxygen levels are
very low. Among the creatures adapted to hanging out
here is the wonderful Vampyroteuthis infernalis, a distant
cousin to octopus and squid. It glares at us through
a huge blue eye, specially adapted to pick up the trace
of light here.
BRUCE ROBISON Oh boy, time out. This is a paralepidid.
A very, very beautiful little fish that we don't see
all that often. It's nose is up, it's keeping itself
almost vertically in the water column. It's looking
up trying to see it's prey silhouetted against the surface.
Very soon, it's going to take off and it will be gone
just like it vaporized. There he goes. He's history.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) To evade shadow stalkers like
the Paralepidid, potential prey are often transparent.
Or, like this little fish, they generate their own internal
light. When viewed from below, this makes them less
visible against the lighter surface. Bioluminescence,
as it's called, is used a lot at these depths. The otherwise-black
angler fish has a luminous beard to fool prey into thinking
it's just the size of the beard.
BRUCE ROBISON This is a red-bellied tomachtarid. It's
a type of polechite worm that lives down here. This
animal has bioluminescent organs at the ends of all
ALAN ALDA What a good shot that is.
BRUCE ROBISON It's like having glowing toes.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) There are still many questions
in the mid-ocean. This catcher's mitt- shaped creature
seems to propel itself with shimmering hairs along its
edge, but otherwise it's utterly mysterious.
ALAN ALDA How does this animal reproduce?
BRUCE ROBISON Good question, I don't know.
ALAN ALDA Ha, Ha. Well, you know what's wonderful is
how much there is to learn down here.
BRUCE ROBISON Oh sure.
ALAN ALDA It's a whole other universe.
BRUCE ROBISON That's part of what makes it so exciting.
Each dive can, and often does, bring us something new,
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) Unfortunately, my own curiosity
had begun to lose its battle for attention with my stomach.
ALAN ALDA I think I have to go up and get some air.
BRUCE ROBISON Okay.
ALAN ALDA It's not that this isn't fascinating. But
I think staying in one piece will be more fascinating.
BRUCE ROBISON Certainly more enjoyable.
ALAN ALDA (NARRATOR) That's it for our voyages Beneath
the Sea. Next time, I'm happy to say, it's mostly on