Among keynote speakers at a major conference on the comprehensive mapping of the ocean floor in Monaco, from 15-17 June 2016, is Dr Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic in 1985. In the years following the discovery of the Titanic, he found many other shipwrecks around the world, such as Bismarck in 1989, the Yorktown in 1998 (sunk in the World War II Battle of Midway), and the wreck of John F Kennedy’s PT-109 off the Solomon Islands in 2002 as well as over 50 ancient shipwrecks in the deep water regions of the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Black Seas including ones in a high state of preservation dating back to the Iron Age.
Dr Ballard is director of the Center for Ocean Exploration at the Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island and President of the Ocean Exploration Trust that operates one of America’s dedicated ships of exploration.
While finding famous wrecks has captured the imagination of the public, Dr Ballard believes his most important discoveries were of hydrothermal vents and ‘black smokers’ in the Galapagos Rift and East Pacific Rise in 1977 and 1979 along with their exotic life forms living off the energy of the Earth through a process now called chemosynthesis.
His discoveries also include sunken remains of ships along ancient trade routes in the Mediterranean Sea; two ancient Phoenician ships off Israel, the oldest shipwrecks ever found in deep water; and four 1,500-year-old wooden ships, one almost perfectly preserved in the Black Sea. Dr Ballard’s Black Sea project sought evidence of a great flood that may have struck the region thousands of years ago – perhaps the location of the great Biblical Flood.
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