He discovered the long lost wreckage of the Titanic. He found what was left of the infamous German battleship Bismark.
And now, famed undersea explorer Dr. Robert Ballard has brought his exploration vessel, the Nautilus, to the Channel Islands, where his team is mapping, and exploring uncharted parts of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
The UC Santa Barbara graduate is working with NOAA in efforts to explore ancient shorelines which now make up the Channel Islands Sanctuary’s sea floor, especially undersea caves. More than half of the sanctuary has little or no accurate mapping. It’s an interesting area for research, because scientists think the region was formed by a submarine volcano 15 to 19 million years ago.
The Nautilus is equipped with a massive sonar system which allows it to map the ocean floor while moving. Then, when areas of specific interest are identified, it has remotely operated vehicles which allow exploration of specific spots.
The ROV Hercules is the primary exploration craft, equipped an intricate propulsion system, a battery of video cameras, and a mechanical arms which allow the collection of marine samples, and historical artifacts.
The ship is owned by the Ocean Exploration Trust, a non-profit founded by Dr. Ballard to promote ocean exploration and education. The Nautilus is equipped with a state of the art television system which allows you to watch the research in real time, and even participate.
Ballard’s expeditions have ranged from science projects, like his current one in the Channel Islands, to historical efforts to find thing like shipwrecks. He’s a National Geographic Explorer in Residence.
While his most famous project was the discovery of the Titanic’s wreckage, he says that actually isn’t his most memorable one. He says finding new, previously undiscovered ecosystems was his biggest thrill.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Exploration and Research is funding the mission.
The Nautilus is scheduled to be off our coastline in the Channel Islands for more than three weeks, until July 29th, as it explores prehistoric, submerged shorelines.
Watch the expedition live: www.nautiluslive.org