It started with Captain Nemo, the fictional the innovative engineer who not only designed and manufactured the Nautilus but is credited with the discovery of Atlantis as seen in the fictional adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
For many, 20,000 Leagues was an escapism watched as a kid but for a young Bob Ballard this movie would be a defining moment shaping his career that not only changed his life but impacted sciences, the oceans and what we know today about the Titanic.
As Bob prepares to turn 79 later this month he has no plans of slowing down, as he is about to embark on the 158th and most extensive expedition of his career; a 10-year, $200 million federally funded effort to study the Pacific Ocean section of the country’s vast offshore Economic Exclusion Zone, which includes far-flung destinations such as Guam and American Samoa.
Despite the many achievements and accolades in the sciences throughout the years, Bob’s proudest accomplishments is continuing to educate the next generation, being the fuel that forever sparks their curiosity.
Airing tonight, National Geographic’s Bob Ballard: An Explorer’s Life documents not only Bob’s life as the explorer who found Titanic but his life as a professor, a scientist, and his overcoming dyslexia. In addition, his 350-page companion book, Into the Deep, hits shelves this week.
In Into the Deep, Ballard publicly discusses for the first time his dyslexia, President Ronald Reagan’s personal approval for him to use Navy equipment to search for the Titanic after a classified search for sunken U.S. submarines, and more. It’s won praise from James Cameron, Ken Burns and Henry Kissinger, among others.
His struggles with dyslexia is a surprise to many but further points to Bob’s resilience of not letting anything stop him despite struggling with reading. Not diagnosed until later in life, Bob feels renewed with this information and is determined to let others know they too can overcome their failure and achieve their goals.
The Koalition spoke to Bob about his 62-year career, using his dyslexia as a superpower, the lessons learnt from today’s generation of young explorers and more.
Looking back on his career, Bob has “just scratched the surface” as he credits his parents for believing in a 12-year boy fascinated by a sea captain.
“I was just a kid who was struggling in school with reading. I couldn’t read well and I had this older who was brilliant and straight A’s and [I was] the dumb kid following. I was felt to feel like I was stupid but I had to deal cooping mechanisms and so I would type up my notes on a typewriter. [Dyslexics] have my photographic memory, so I was able to literally take [mental] photographs of my notes. When I would get into class, I felt like I was cheating, but I’d close my eyes and read the answers. I did have good grades but I had come up with ways to get around the system. Then I saw 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when I was 12-years old and my parents would say, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ and I said, ‘Captain Nemo’ and they didn’t laughed. The critical thing is when a child has a cockamamie dream never pounce on it, never say ‘that’s stupid.’
Bob went on to study oceanography, proved the existence of plate tectonics in the 1970s, discovered hydrothermal vents as well as the man who led the first crew to the floor of the ocean. In addition, he and his crew discovered the Nazi battleship Bismarck, President John F. Kennedy’s PT-109, the USS Yorktown, USS Scorpion, USS Thresher, the site of the Battle of Guadalcanal, and countless others.
When speaking to today’s youth about his work, it fuels Bob’s goal for “everyone to see the world. Using today’s advancement in technology, “as you know we’re entering into the world of robotics, it’s a big video game. Turn video games into fun learning experiences because eye-hand coordination, we’re going to be all driving our own robots.” I feel my responsibility since I’m spending tax-payers dollars is to speak to the tax-payer in a why that they understand it, but also to give them access, it’s empowerment. What I want to do is to give everyone the ability to see the world through telepresence.”
To learn more about Bob check out our full interview below and tun in on tonight at 10 p.m. to the National Geographic Channel for Bob Ballard: An Explorer’s Life.