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Dr. Robert Ballard: Job Description

I encounter incredible challenges and they come in all flavors. Quite honestly, the greatest challenge is to get the opportunity to go to sea. The politics of it, the fundraising. Once we get out to sea, I mean it’s like that’s the easy part. For many it’s the hard part, for us that’s the fun part. It’s getting ready, organizing expeditions, finding the funding, getting the sponsorship, and then getting the permission from the governments in many cases to enter their waters.

While on the Lost City expedition I was trying an experiment. My greatest challenge was to be quiet, because I don’t like being quiet. And that was to run an expedition and to demonstrate that the people really running it didn’t have to be there. Through technology we now call telepresence, we wanted to demonstrate that because of advances in telecommunication technology we could actually move the chief scientist and all the intellectual brainpower of the expedition onto the beach, and still have it conduct the expedition.

You might ask, “Why would you want to do that?” Well that’s because NOAA and its Office of Ocean Exploration has a new ship coming on line. It’s the Okeannus (Spelling??) Explorer. It’s America’s first ship of exploration, and its mission is to go where to no one has gone before. Sound familiar? But, not into outer space, into inner space. Well, if you have a program thats mission is to go where you have never been before, and to discover, you have no idea what you are going to discover. So it’s sort of silly to think you can fill the ship with all the experts, because you’ll probably guess wrong. So we have to have the technology that when we make a discovery in the middle of absolutely nowhere we can instantly beam them aboard the ship. Somewhat like Star Trek when Scotty would say “Beam me down”. We need to be able to beam scientists to the bottom of the ocean anywhere on our planet in a fraction of a second. And to do that we have to have this incredible telecommunication technology. But we never tried it before and Lost City was the first time we ever tried it, and you know what? It worked!

 

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