The Man Who Found The Titanic is Now Finding Much More

Most people have a rudimentary knowledge of the Titanic. 101 years ago the unsinkable RMS Titanic sunk off the coast of Canada after crashing into an iceberg on its maiden voyage. 85 years later James Cameron would make an incredibly successful and sappy movie about it and jump-started the acting career of Leonardo DiCaprio. Here’s something you probably didn’t know about the Titanic though. Prior to 1985, we didn’t know exactly where the ship sank and we had no idea what the Titanic looked like at the bottom of the ocean until the wreck was found by a man named Robert Ballard.

It turns out that finding the Titanic was only the tip of the iceberg for Ballard though. National Geographic has a great article on what he’s done since then and it is far cooler than just finding an old shipwreck. Since 1983 the national borders of the United States have included not just the 50 states and various islands like Puerto Rico and Guam, but all ocean 200 miles offshore (provided there’s not another country’s territorial waters in those 200 miles.) Robert Ballard’s mission is to try and map all of that underwater territory in detail. According to him when America’s land area doubled in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark out to explore and map it all. When America’s size doubled again in 1983, there was no accompanying exploration effort until Ballard took up that mission on his own.

Granted the practical use of this knowledge is irrelevant to many people’s lives but it is important to science. There is still much we don’t really know about the deepest depths of the ocean and this effort is an attempt to learn more about it and the creatures that live down there. Simply observing the ocean floor is notoriously difficult due to the extreme water pressure and in some ways it is easier to map outer space because there is nothing standing between our telescopes and the stars beyond. Still I find it fascinating that there are still parts of our country beneath the ocean waves that have yet to even be fully explored and that there is a real effort to change that.


That’s what the ocean floor looks like from far away. Ballard is filling in the details.

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