Robert Ballard, Ocean Explorer & Entrepreneur

Yesterday, our family got to hear Dr.Robert Ballard speak at the Old Lyme Beach Club in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Ballard is the renowned ocean explorer who is known in popular culture as the discoverer of many famous lost ships, including the R.M.S. Titanic, the battleship Bismarck, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, and John F. Kennedy’s PT-109.

Ballard is in the news once again. The National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, and former Navy Commander, will be featured on CBS’ 60 Minutes program tonight. A segment, titled, The Great Explorer, will air. I’ve followed Ballard’s exploits for years, mostly through the pages of National Geographic Magazine. The photographs from his expeditions are some of my favorites that the magazine has ever published. After you hear him speak, you yearn for the excitement of what he does. I’ve always been interested in the technology behind his exploration. Remotely operated vehicles (ROV’s) use a lot of precision machined components. The extreme environment of our ocean floors requires awesome technology.

Ballard is an amazingly passionate man who was born in Nebraska, grew up in Southern California, and spent most of his career based in New England. He is one of Connecticut’s most accomplished citizens.Currently, he is a professor at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, president of the Mystic Aquarium Institute for Exploration, and chairman of the Ocean Exploration Trust. Ballard gets most of the funding for his exploration from the US Government, but he has also raised a significant amount of funding from the private sector.

He is in the midst of one of his most ambitious projects yet. He spoke about the realization of a 29-year-old dream. That dream is for him to lead ocean exploration from a home base that is far from the ROV’s and ship. In the beginning, submersibles were manned. Then, as technology improved, they were operated remotely/robotically from the command center of the mother ship. Now, with the explosive growth of semiconductor and Internet technology, he can be at his control center at URI and command the action from thousands of miles away. He specifically mentioned the next generation of Internet technology known as Internet 2. He said this technology will transform our lives and our businesses.

Ballard explained what he does in simple terms. He said that he does three things: 1) He builds technology. 2) He does exploration and 3) He does education outreach. He is a huge supporter of science and encourages children all over the world to join in his discoveries. His latest technology will have remote command centers built into a network all over the world. He will bring both the world’s leading oceanography experts, and children into his world. His current expedition is to the Black Sea, where thanks to the “deadness” of that body of water, he intends to find the oldest preserved humans (mummified at the great depths of the water) and their shipwrecks.

Though Ballard is appreciative of his government sponsors, he railed against the politics and bureaucracy that stymies the growth of ocean exploration. He is downright mad about the disproportionate amount of funding that goes to NASA and space exploration. He said that one big reason for this is that for eons, man has been “fundamentally afraid of looking down.” With 85% of the Earth covered by water, he said that there is so much that we don’t know about our own planet. He questions why we waste our time exploring space, when he believes that the origin of man can be determined through the discoveries in the giant mountain ranges that are tens of thousands of feet below the surface of our oceans. At those depths, he has discovered the ancient lifeforms that live in the most inhospitable (lifeless) environment on Earth. His belief is that those lifeforms may be the ones that were at the beginning of it all.

Ballard also had some unique thoughts about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. There probably aren’t too many people in the world who are as knowledgeable about this issue than Ballard, so it was a joy to hear him speak openly about the situation. He gave us an overview of what happened based on his sources and his past knowledge. He didn’t point fingers, but said that whoever is ultimately at fault, should take full responsibility. He said that there are a lot of company’s involved, but that BP is getting most of the public blame. He also regretted a rush to judgment in terms of the future of offshore drilling. It was interesting to hear him voice support for the technology. He made it clear that this was a horrible accident, lives were lost, and the environment is severely damaged. However, he supports offshore drilling in the vast Gulf versus buying oil from countries that don’t like us. Interestingly, this is a very similar opinion to that voiced by T. Boone Pickens when I heard him speak last year.

Our spot overlooking Long Island Sound, was perfect for hearing from a man of the sea. Ballard was a fascinating speaker. He is wicked smart and at 68, still extremely motivated to make a difference. Debbie and I discussed this after we left the venue. We agreed that Ballard was extremely confident and that confidence plays a huge role in his brave discoveries. He has vision, but he also knows how to get things done.

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@thecubscouts #pinewoodderby never gets old. Pack 157 Bolton, Connecticut #cubscouts So that little injury caused by my @renocxnats crash on Saturday afternoon wasn’t so little after all. It’s a broken leg (fibula). Prognosis is good, but it hurts like heck. My blog post report with blow by blow details is linked in my profile. #cxnats #teamhorstsports @horsteng #crossspikes #crossisboss - - -

This #lifedeathcyclocross stuff is true!!!! I crashed out of the Singlespeed Championship @renocxnats (on the dreaded off-camber) but not before having more fun. @artroti43 raced on the frosty course ❄️ at day break. 🚴🏽 We met a lot more @horsteng #crossspikes customers. I hung with little bunny hopper 🐰 Miles, the Junior 11-12 year old Silver Medalist.🥈I cheered for Nic, who represented @the_ccap in the Junior 15-16 age group. @sportstert and Iva came down from Tahoe to cheer LOUDLY for me. 🎺 I got my badly sprained ankle taped and iced. I had a beer. 🍺 I’m even looking forward to my red eye flight home ✈️ . Best of all, I’ll see @trailrunningmom and the kids on Sunday. I can’t explain the sensation, but despite the pain, I’m ready for next #Cyclocross season to begin... after some rest. #teamhorstsports #cxnats #horstengineering @parkavebikeshop #crossisboss #lifedeathcyclocross #crossiscoming You could say that at least for this week, I’m married to my #bicycle - - -

@renocxnats #cxnats @seven_cycles #sevencycles #teamhorstsports #horstengineering #crossspikes @horsteng #chapelofthebells #Cyclocross #lifedeathcyclocross Good day representing @horsteng at @renocxnats in the 45-49 age group. It’s a great course. The wind was blowing hard, but the sun finally came out. I’m happy with 37th place but should have made a move to get to 29th, which was 30 seconds ahead. That’s a long way when you are going flat out and cramping. 4,500 foot elevation was a factor. I’m disappointed that they cut one lap of my race when I wasn’t close to getting lapped by the leaders. You train this hard and come all this way; and you want to get the most racing for the $ and time invested. They only let 25 riders do the full six laps. The only positive to come out of that was that I watched fellow New Englander @adammyerson execute a perfect final sprint to win the Stars and Stripes again. Teammate @artroti43 had a good ride too. 
@seven_cycles #sevencycles #horstengineering #teamhorstsports @bicycleseastct #crossspikes #cxnats #renocxnats #Cyclocross #crossisboss @therichardsachs didn’t have the race he hoped for but it was still great to see him @renocxnats and “pit” for him. He said he officially started his second off season, but first of 2018. @artroti43 and I played soigneur/mechanic for 90 minutes, but minus the massage! atmo #renocxnats #richardsachs #teamhorstsports @horsteng #crossspikes #hauteframebuilding #Cyclocross #crossisboss #lifedeathcyclocross I previously hadn’t published this image, but it recently received an Honorable Mention in the 2017 @appalachianmountainclub Photo Contest for the People Outdoors category. Check out my blog (link in profile) for the interesting story of his photo (shot with this iPhone 6s), a trip report from this amazing Maine adventure, and past contest history. I love this image of two of my favorite women. I’m barred from submitting images to the 2018 contest, but I’ll be back in 2019. #appalachianmountainclub #baxterstatepark #katahdin Congratulations to Master Park, the Park Family, and the entire team at Park’s U.S. #Taekwondo at the Grand Opening of the new facility in the former VFW building. Our kids love it! So much better than being next door to the pawn shop and liquor store.😊#tkd 🇺🇸🇰🇷 This morning, the @trinitycollege Main Quad was bathed in beautiful sunshine ☀️but it was frigid and the wind was blowing! ❄️ The chapel was packed with an overflow crowd to celebrate the (shortened) life of a lovely friend. She will be missed. #circleoflife 🌏

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