STILLWATER — In more than five decades of undersea exploration, some of Robert Ballard's greatest discoveries have come when he was looking for something else.
Ballard is perhaps most famous for locating and exploring the wrecks of the Titanic and the World War II German battleship Bismarck in the 1980s.
But he takes special pride in his discoveries of hydrothermal vents in the Galapagos Rift in 1977 — formations no human had seen, and scientists didn't know existed.
Now, through an exploration program he launched five years ago, Ballard is taking a better, broader look at what's at the bottom of the ocean floor.
“Half of our country is down there,” Ballard said Friday during a telephone interview from his Connecticut home. “I'd like to go see what's there.”
Now a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, Ballard will speak at Oklahoma State University on Wednesday as a part of the university's annual Research Week.
Ballard is a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence and a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. He also served as a senior scientist emeritus at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass.
Ballard is also the founder of the JASON Project, a science education program that incorporates Ballard's own research.
Last June, Ballard held a teleconference with students from the Boys & Girls Club of Green County, in Pryor, in connection with the unveiling of the new JASON Exploration Command Center.
What's down there?
During Wednesday's speech, Ballard plans to discuss the Ocean Exploration Trust, a program he launched in 2008 to explore areas of the ocean that have never been explored. The trust's ship, Exploration Ship Nautilus, travels the ocean, taking measurements. The ship's crew, called the Corps of Exploration, is made up of graduate students, educators and others, he said.
If you go
Robert Ballard will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Oklahoma State University's Wes Watkins Center. His speech is free to the public. Seating is limited.