Tell me about the Black Sea expeditions. These can be some of the most significant archeological discoveries in decades.
We have found very ancient shipwrecks at very high stakes of preservation. The Black Sea is unlike most seas that are well oxygenated. When you find a shipwreck in an area where the water is well oxygenated, you find the stuff that nothing can eat, like metal, terracotta pottery, glass; stuff that is inorganic and inedible; you have lost most of it. But in the Black Sea, the organics are still there, including bodies; the prospects of finding human remains is extremely high, so that really opens the door. If you find human remains you can find DNA and learn a lot. That is what is so exciting about the Black Sea; it is a time capsule that is at a very high state of preservation.
What’s your take on the fascination people have with space but a rather blasé attitude toward the deep-sea?
We have been conditioned to think that down is bad, dark is bad, and we want to go to heaven. So we look to the skies for our salvation when in fact it is our planet. We have been led to believe that we are going to populate Mars into a nice planet.
Why do you want to do that when you already have one?
Kids are sold the idea that they are going to be astronauts. But we have seen that bubble pop recently and now people are looking to the sea.
I think we are going to move out onto the ocean and live out there one day. Not far, you can still see land, but it will be a lot more private and quiet. And people will start farming and ranching at sea more and more. It is just a matter of time.
It is just getting people to stop thinking that they are Superman, they are going to escape Kripton just as it blows up; there really is nowhere to go. People have to get used to the fact that we are not going to escape; we are here on Earth, so take care of it, begin to do a better job of stewardship because there is nothing else like it.
What’s next for the E/V Nautilus and NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer?
In a perfect world I would like to have the Nautilus out to sea six months a year and the Okeanus out to sea six months a year, overlap in June and take the holidays off for both ships. We are probably a year or two away from that.
The Okeanus Explorer is at sea right now. My ship [E/V Nautilus] is having his huge piece of technology, this large sonar, being installed now, thn we will take it out to the Pacific. We have been in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Seas for the last dozen years, so after we get this sonar, we will be ready to take on the world, so we are going to go around the world.
Next year we are going to head across the Atlantic into the Caribbean, across the Pacific, and setup camp between Capricorn and Cancer, around Singapore, which is really exciting—a very complex part of our planet underwater. Then we’re going to some walkabouts.
Follow Dr. Ballard and the teams on E/V Nautilus and NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer as they explore the oceans' depths at NautilusLive.org