Ballard, Robert Duane (bălˈərd) [key], 1942–, American marine geologist, b. Wichita, Kans.; Ph.D. Univ. of Rhode Island, 1974. In 1969, he began an association with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, where he eventually became the head of the Deep Submergence Laboratory. He combined interests in plate tectonics and engineering to participate in the development of the manned deep-sea submersible Alvin and to develop remotely navigated underwater survey equipment that made possible detailed mapping of the midocean ridge. Some of this equipment was used in his searches for the wrecks of the Titanic, the Lusitania, the German battleship Bismarck, and John F. Kennedy's PT 109. During exploration of the Galapagos rift, he was among the first to observe the ecosystems surrounding hydrothermal vents. Well known for his emphasis on educating the public, he has written Exploring Our Living Planet (1983) and other books and founded the Jason Project, which allows young people to participate in expeditions via live hook-ups with their schools. Ballard is also associated with the Mystic (Conn.) Marine Aquarium, where he heads the Institute for Exploration.
See his The Eternal Darkness: A Personal History of Deep-Sea Exploration (2000; with W. Hively).
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