Dr Robert Ballard, the man who famously discovered the wreck of RMS Titanic, was in Belfast today (Friday 31st March) to see the new gallery, Ballard’s Quest, which was unveiled earlier this month in his honour as part of the reimagined Titanic Experience.
The visit marked Titanic Belfast’s 11th birthday and gave Dr Ballard the opportunity to view Ballard's Quest which explores his incredible mission to locate the wreck of the famous ship 73 years after she sank.
The renowned oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-at-Large made a number of attempts to find the ship. He made his first expedition in October 1977 with deep sea salvage vessel Seaprobe, but it ended in failure when the drilling probe pipe broke. However, in the years that followed, Dr Ballard didn’t give up hope and devised new technologies and search strategies to help in the quest.
In 1982, he approached the US Navy about Argo, the new deep sea underwater robot craft he had created – and his search for Titanic. Whilst they weren’t interested in financing a search for the lost liner, they were interested in finding two of their missing submarines and agreed to finance his search if he first searched and investigated the two sunken submarines – which he did over a period of two years.
As part of his top secret mission, with just 12 days remaining at the end of the expedition to search for Titanic, Dr Ballard recovered the ship more than two miles beneath the waves of the North Atlantic on 1st September 1985 in what has become one of the world’s most historic and significant discoveries.
Dr Robert Ballard said: “It is fantastic to return to Titanic Belfast and to see it continuing to go from strength-to-strength 11 years on. This unique visitor attraction continues to lead the way in telling the story of Titanic in a special and respectful way whilst embracing innovative technology to ensure it continues to attract visitors from around the world. The new galleries that have been introduced as part of the reimagined Titanic Experience add a new dimension and it is great to see the new artefacts on display, many of which I am seeing in person for the first time.
It’s an honour to have a part of the experience named after me and it’s very humbling that the story of my work is being told as part of the authentic Titanic story here in Belfast. It’s almost 40 years since I discovered the wreck of Titanic and I’m so proud that people of all ages are now able to find out more about my quest, learn about the top-secret US Navy mission that enabled me to search for the ship, the challenges we faced and how we were able to cover such a large area in a short space of time which then led us to discovering RMS Titanic.
Judith Owens MBE, Chief Executive of Titanic Belfast said: “We are delighted to welcome Dr Robert Ballard back to Titanic Belfast to mark our 11th birthday. He has been a long-term supporter and our strategic partner since we opened in 2012 and we are so proud to have the opportunity to show him in person, the new gallery we have created in honour of his life’s work as he fulfilled his dream to discover the wreck of Titanic, as well as the new collection of artefacts which are on loan from a private collection and are on display in line with the ethics policy we established with Dr Ballard.”