Robert Ballard

Ocean Explorer


Photo: A hull fragment of the Titanic

Photograph by Emory Kristof

Photo: Bob Ballard

Photograph by Becky Hale

Among the most accomplished and well known of the world's deep-sea explorers, Robert Ballard is best known for his historic discoveries of hydrothermal vents, the sunken R.M.S. Titanic, the German battleship Bismarck, and numerous other contemporary and ancient shipwrecks around the world. During his long career he has conducted more than 120 deep-sea expeditions using the latest in exploration technology, and he is a pioneer in the early use of deep-diving submarines.

Ballard has pioneered distance learning in the classrooms of America and around the world with the JASON Project, an award-winning educational program that reaches more than 1 million students and 25,000 teachers annually. He has received prestigious awards from the Explorers Club and the National Geographic Society—the Explorers Medal and the Hubbard Medal, respectively—as well as the Lindbergh Award. In 2003 President George W. Bush presented him with the National Endowment for the Humanities Medal in the Oval Office of the White House.

Ballard is president of the Institute for Exploration, scientist emeritus from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Director of the newly created Center for Ocean Exploration at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography.  His new ship of exploration, the E/V Nautilus operated by his Ocean Exploration Trust spends four to five months at sea each year and will be exploring the Black Sea, Aegean, Mediterranean, and Atlantic Ocean in 2011, beaming back his exploration around the clock on Nautilus Live.

Latest Explorer News

Inside National Geographic Magazine

  • titanic-vanishing.jpg

    Titanic Revisited

    Fortune hunters, tourists, and time have made the seafloor wreck site a titanic mess. The man who found the famous ship 19 years ago returns to survey the damage.

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    Deep Black Sea

    Ancient shipwrecks and telltale shells bring to life epics of distant trade and a prehistoric flood.

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    Being Bob Ballard

    The explorer went looking for deepwater shipwrecks. As usual, he found them—but not without deep trouble.

  • pt109-ballard.jpg

    The Search for PT 109

    Explorer Bob Ballard goes after JFK's PT 109, and Senator Ted Kennedy recalls a heroic brother's return.


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    Nat Geo E-Team

    What are Bob Ballard and the rest of the National Geographic Explorers up to? Meet the E-Team and learn about their projects in this interactive mural.

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    Interview With Explorer Bob Ballard

    Ocean explorer Bob Ballard talks about growing up and what he was like as a kid.


In Their Words

Fifty percent of our country that we own, have all legal jurisdiction, have all rights to do whatever we want, lies beneath the sea, and we have better maps of Mars than that fifty percent.

—Robert Ballard



Listen to Robert Ballard

Hear various interviews with Ballard on National Geographic Weekend.

  • 00:11:00 Bob Ballard

    National Geographic Explorer in Residence Bob Ballard has been scouring the bottom of the world's oceans for nearly a quarter century. He discovered the Titanic, and countless other forgotten shipwrecks in the Mediterranean and other oceans. He tells Boyd that he wrapping up his exploration of ancient Roman wrecks and is turning his attention to the "unexplored America." He hopes to be one of the first to do an exhaustive search of the sea floor off the United States' Pacific Coast.

  • From the Titanic to the Lusitania, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Robert Ballard has found many of the iconic shipwrecks of our time. Ballard joins Boyd to talk about his passion for undersea exploration and what he hopes to find next.

  • 00:11:00 Bob Ballard

    National Geographic Explorer in Residence Bob Ballard was riding a horse in Wyoming this summer when his cellphone rang. It was the U.S. ambassador to Turkey offering him a special mission. A Turkish fighter jet was shot down in Syrian waters and they needed the bodies recovered. Just hours later, he met the Nautilus and began scouring the ocean floor.

  • 00:11:00 Bob Ballard

    Boyd heads out of the studio to join National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Bob Ballard aboard his vessel the E/V Nautilus. Currently in Turkey, Ballard tells Boyd about the many shipwrecks he is finding in the Mediterranean. You can follow Ballard and his team, live as they explore the ocean at www.nautiluslive.org.

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