Monday, June 2, 2008

Search For Titanic Cover For Other Mission

I was shocked to read this…you know, these days it’s so easy to be skeptical about politics, big business, and the media, but when it comes to science and exploration I usually expect honesty, especially when it comes to someone like Dr. Robert Ballard. You know, the guy at the center, or subject of more than a few National Geographic films related to oceanographic explorations and discoveries - not to mention my own personal crush for years.

It turns out that Ballard made a deal with the US Navy to use his state of the art mini sub, and well, here’s the story:

When oceanographer Bob Ballard uncovered the world's most famous shipwreck in 1985, he grabbed the globe's attention. But in reality the explorer's search for the Titanic was a cover-up for a top-secret mission for the U.S. government.
Ballard reveals he was hired to use his advanced robotic sub to check on the status of two nuclear submarines, the USS Thresher and the USS Scorpion, that sank in the Atlantic in the 1960s.

"The Navy didn't want the Soviets to know they were looking for these subs," Ballard said on "Good Morning America" today.

The guise of searching for the Titanic's wreckage provided a perfect alibi for the intensified presence of U.S. ships on the Atlantic. Ballard was under strict instructions for the last two decades not to talk to anyone at the time about how he secretly sought out the two subs.

The Thresher went down in 1963 and the Scorpion sank in 1968. Both were nuclear subs and their locations had never really been mapped, Ballard said.

The Navy made a deal with Ballard. After his submarine search was concluded, it would fund an expedition to find the Titanic and now a National Geographic documentary called "Titanic: The Final Secret" follows the true story of the search and recovery of the 1912 shipwreck.

At the time, Ballard's latest invention was an underwater robot craft which was used to meticulously scanned the seabed of the North Atlantic and track the remnants of the two submarines.

Ballard's team found that the boats' nuclear fuel was intact. "The key was both nuclear reactors had turned off. They call it scrambling and control rods had gone down. So it was a good ending," said Ballard, who is National Geographic's explorer-in-residence.

He also found that the subs had a debris field that spread out for a mile, and used that lesson to help find the Titanic in the 12 days he had left on his Navy contract after tracking the Scorpion and the Thresher.

He realized it would be easier to find the Titanic's debris field than the actual ship.

OK, so the search for the submarines made finding the Titanic easier makes it easy to cut him some slack. He did find the remains of the most notorious, unsolved shipwreck in history. And with a forthcoming video of this adventure from Nat. Geo. who can complain? As for me, all is forgiven Bob, let’s do dinner.

UPDATE: I've just learned that the video will air tonight on the Nat. Geo. Channel.

And so it goes.

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