Robert Ballard and RMS Titanic Inc


This stuff about RMS Titanic Inc. made me think. George Tulloch gets a lot of attention these days as does RMS Ti. However, what about the man who discovered the wreck himself? Has anyone ever met him or corresponded with him? He seems a decent guy who, unlike Tulloch or Jack Grimm, took an interest in Titanic out of genuine scientific and historical reasons and not the pursuit of financial gain. (better watch I'm not sued for saying that!!!, to be fair to Tulloch I think I heard that he was sacked because he wasn't making enough money, is this true?)

I heard Tulloch speak at last year's BTS convention and he said he didn't like Dr Ballard. I can guess why. He also said the last he heard from Ballard was that he was extremely distraught about what had happened to the wreck site. I think I am too. I have just written to RMS Titanic Inc. about any markings are on the artefacts they have removed. The quality of the response will probably determine whether I side with them or Dr. Ballard in the salvage debate.

Stuart
 

Joshua Gulch

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Mar 31, 2001
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Stuart,
I got the opportunity to meet Dr. Ballard in November of 1999. He had a lecture and book signing, and he seemed to really care about Titanic. He didn't strike me as anyone who set out to find the ship for financial gain, but rather for the pursuit of scientific and historical interest. He expressed his unhappiness with RMSTI, and how he felt the gravesite should be left alone.

He gave an excellent (and funny) show.

Josh.
 
May 12, 2005
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Stuart & Josh,

In all fairness, George Tulloch was the best thing - or to my mind the ONLY good thing - about RMSTI. He did and does care about the Titanic and the reason for his departure was not that he wanted more money.

He was surrouned by others whom that accusation might be leveled out, however. The actions of that group are a sorry comment on the way things are today but if Tulloch had continued it is possible some semblance of fairplay might have been squeezed out of the company.

As to Ballard, though I agree with his stance on salvage, I know from informed sources (who don't have the proverbial axe to grind) that he is far from totally sympathetic in his attitude to Titanic and her story.

What's more, I have it on definite authority that during a convention not long back he behaved in the most viley arrogant way to a number of good Titanic folk whose names I won't mention, including a survivor who recently passed away.

He is very much ensconced in his celebrity as "discoverer of Titanic" and from my own (admittedly limited) acquaintance with him, he is far from personable or accommodating. Unless you are a "name" or at least have an arm & a leg to offer him for an interview, my advice is to avoid him!

Among the real heroes in Titanic circles to my mind are our own Philip Hind, Don Lynch, George Behe, Phillip Gowan, Geoff Whitfield, Shelley Dziedzig, and Inger Sheil, each of whom are very giving, unpretentious people who are not only willing to help others but do so on a regular basis.

Randy
 

Mary Hamric

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Apr 10, 2001
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Thanks for that Randy. I can't speak to the Ballard comments as I have never met him, but I have heard comments similar to those you mentioned. Whether they are true or just the perceptions of those who wished to be treated in a manner that they were not, I cannot say.

I agree with you wholeheartedly. I coordinated a small little conference at which Don Lynch was the speaker and he is the most unpretentious, patient and friendly man you could ever hope to meet. Very down to earth and kind. I speak from personal expereince as I spent some time with him (even in my car!).
 
Apr 14, 2001
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to all members of the board i think that dr robert ballard deserves our respect and to respect his opinions because after all who discovered the titanic when no one else could find it? he did and i think it is only fair that we give him some respect because he did the one thing no one else in this world couldnt and thats to discover the titanic mr ballard and rmsi have different opinions about the titanic but he is right on one thing its a grave yard and it deserves to be left alone jennifer mueller ps i read his book on the discovery of the titanic and i think its a book everyone should read
 

Adam Leet

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May 18, 2001
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I had the pleasure of personally meeting Dr. Ballard in September of '99 when he held a lecture at Wichita State. Despite the flak some people have given him, I think he is a man who deserves much respect. And despite the idea that he seeks to gain fame from Titanic, truth is, he is tired of it. He has moved on, and is attempting to distance himself from the 1985-86 discovery. During one of the lectures, one man asked him what his greatest regret was. Ballard replied that it was disclosing Titanic's location, because he didn't believe anyone could or would try to salvage from it. He is indeed human, after all, and hindsight is 20/20.

I was also able to write him, though I did not receive a reply. I did, however, receive a phone call from his office, and according to his secretary, a chord was struck, though I'm not too certain of that.

At any rate, he is one of my heroes, and someone who deserves all the respect due to him.

$0.02


Adam
 
Nov 22, 2000
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Dear Adam, I wish I had known you were meeting him, you could have asked him to refund the $ cheque I sent to his company years ago and which was cashed with alarming haste without my receiving the goods despite countless faxes, letters etc!
 

Mike Bull

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Dec 23, 2000
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I don't think it is a case of us HAVING to like Balard just because he was the one who found Titanic when no one else could-it's more the case that someone would find it eventualy, and it so happened to be him.

We know that originally he was pro-salvage, and we know that his expeditions since have just been Bob Ballard glory hunts, strong on products-the inevitable TV special/video, a 'ghost written' book, etc etc, but weak on any real new discoveries. His Lusitania and Britannic trips in particular were a real let down.

And having met him and knowing other peole who have also met him, it is very true to say that once he is away from his book signing/off his podium, he doesn't give two hoots about us guys.
 

Adam Leet

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May 18, 2001
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I never said you *had* to like Ballard. Respect for someone and liking someone are two different things. For example, I do not like Larry Flynt, but I respect him for his stance against censorship.

At any rate, having met him and listened to his lectures, and seen him on documentaries, I have great respect for him. Not knowing him personally, I would not have room to judge him in that area. Why do you have no respect for him, Mike, if I may ask out of curiosity?
 
A

Andrew Williams

Guest
Some very interesting reviews about Dr Robert Ballard.

For Stuart Kelly. YES it is true because I attended that lecture when Tullock confirmed "He disliked the bloke"!

As for Randy Bigham and Geoff Whitfield, well unbeknown to you both, there's two more stories which needs to be brought to your attention.
Regrettably I will only allow R.B & G.W to make contact with me on [email protected]
Otherwise let's put it....diplomatically......his behavour and conduct towards another Titanic survivor, leaves a lot to be desired.

Sorry people but I refuse to air my feelings about that incident, especially with this thread, for the fear that I could be sued.

Have a good day!

Regards-Andrew W.
 

Mike Bull

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Dec 23, 2000
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Ballard got lucky when he found Titanic, and has traded on it ever since. As I said above, his 'expeditions' to both the Britannic and the Lusitania were total wastes of time. He did not even write most of the Lusitania book himself, so if you take away the text, and the Ken Marschall paintings and original photos, how much is actually left of a Bob Ballard book, hmmm?
 

Adam Leet

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May 18, 2001
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As I said in my earlier post, he has tried to distance himself from Titanic. He has frankly gotten tired of talking about it. As for the Britannic and Lusitania expeditions, last I remember, they were done for the purpose of finding the perfect undersea museum. Of course we know how that turned out...


Adam
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Respect is earned in my book. Giving fair credit where credit is due and to all to whom it is due matters. Having the integrity to stick to your values when it is not popular, admit a mistake when you make one, having the graciousness to acknowledge all those who have put you in a position of fame (and few in life make it ALL on their own), thanking your lucky stars, good fortune, timing and sometimes sheer chance, remembering old friends who KNEW YOU WHEN, and being mature enough to say you have changed your mind because you were ignorant of all the facts, are all indications to me of a person worth admiration. Does this shoe fit here? I think not. This is only a personal opinion- derived from close observation, and yes, personal contact. All great quotes seem either to come from the Bible, Shakespeare or Winston Churchill. To whom much is given- much is expected. The discoverers of the Titanic will forever be in my mind, the crew of the French team on Nadir, the crew of the Knorr, especially the man whose name is unknown to me -who first recognized the debris field and boilers, and sent for Bob Ballard, and the U.S. Navy who underwrote the cost of launching this expedition to test their new sonar and equipment. And also, and last- Bob Ballard who happened to be in charge of the American ship out of Woods Hole which happened to be "mowing the lawn" with the sonar sled at that particular moment and was very fortunate. He has parlayed that connection into a vast and seemingly endless empire and personal fortune.
 

Adam Leet

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May 18, 2001
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Yes, indeed respect is earned, Shelley. It can also be on an individual basis. As for who found the wreck, you have to remember he was joint expedition leader, and was the one who chose to "mow the lawn" using cameras instead of sonar as the French attempted. He had learned of the benefits of using cameras to search for ships while mapping the wreck of the USS Scorpion, which he conducted immediately prior to searching for Titanic, using the same crew and equipment. He had basically asked the Navy that if he had enough time left over from mapping the Scorpion, if he could use the equipment to find Titanic. They agreed, and the rest is history.

Of course, there's the fact that he has made profit on his exploits. This is understandable. Anyone who wishes to further scientific research has to have the money to do so. At one point he had been a "salesman", advocating the use of Alvin for deep-sea research, in order to save it from the scrap pile. As the saying goes: "No bucks, no Buck Rogers."

Mike, re: your post on the Hood thread: he did at first advocate salvage of the ship, he chose later to decide against it. He is, after all, human, and humans have the ability, if at least the right, to change their minds. To ask a question: when did you meet him, and how did you come to the conclusions you have?


Adam
 

Mike Bull

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Dec 23, 2000
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If you remember, the French missed the Titanic wreck by a tiny amount-they did all the ground work which then virtually guaranteed Ballard a result, as there was so little search area left to cover.

I've met him three times here in the UK, and each time he was rude, dissmissive, and downright uninterested in any opinion other than his own, well-rehearsed spiel. When directly questioned about originally being pro-salvage he just blanks you, and to be honest the main impression he gives away from the cameras is that it's actually sour grapes that he wasn't able to salvage items, and someone else did. He gives little or no credit to the many, many people around him that actually DO the work, he just takes all the glory.

He now just uses his name to put a spin on an already-known story, sells the book and video rights, and usually produces little new in the way of decent imagery or information-'his' Lusitania book is a good example, he wrote hardly any of it himself (I know this as fact) and the whole 'product' was sold under his name when in fact the expedition itself was extremely lame.

I don't hate the man, but sadly I don't like him either-just because 'he' found the Titanic, it doesn't elevate him onto an untouchable pedastal.
 

Adam Leet

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May 18, 2001
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That's intriguing, because when I met him he was most gracious and, despite being over an hour late due to problems with the airport landing lights, was able to meet with my parents, sisters and myself. We shook hands, and he was kind enough to autograph a few items, including a copy of Return to Midway which I had bought the day before. He even hugged my youngest sister.

This may seem as a bit of a contrast to your views. Perhaps he was even more hurried when you saw him; he is a busy man, after all. When I had petitioned Wichita State, which was hosting his lectures, if I could have the honor of meeting him (after explaining the circumstances,) Ballard had agreed immediately.

Of course, you may see it as an attempt on his part to gain more PR for the event, but I don't. The only coverage of his visit to my home city of Wichita was in the local paper; not even the local news stations covered it. And as I said before, his lectures concerned his expeditions prior to Titanic and only for a couple minutes did he discuss Titanic at all. He has gotten tired of speaking about Titanic; it's the publishing companies and talk show hosts who mention he was the man who found the Titanic.

Of course, we all have our opinions, and it is sometimes healthy to let our opinions known I have made my opinion known, and now I will keep it that way. Isn't it also healthy to agree to disagree?


Adam
 

Steve Smith

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Mar 20, 2011
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I've been following this one with interest!

Ballard was my hero too when he first found Titanic - and susequently I've also wondered about his motives. Whatever, I think you have to admit that he pioneered a lot of the techniques wreck explorers use today - from the debris field theory to ROV's - I mean: had anyone really used an ROV in this way before Jason Junior was used in '86? Personally I also think actually finding the Bismark was one hell of an achievement. If I remember rightly he had no help from the French or anyone else in narrowing the target area down on this occasion - ( searching a year before, he found what he thought was Bismark, only to later realise it was a 19th Century sailing ship - some mistake!) and sure - the pictures were disappointing - but we're talking nearly 15 years ago with much inferior technology.
Finally, even if he is self-promoting and the rest - surely he's also promoting and popularising the whole field of wreck discovery and exploration at the same time? Has he not at least indirectly inspired interest in finding HMS Hood, Carpathia, Waratah Liberty Bell 7 and the rest?
Maybe he's not a hero OR a villian - just an ordinary guy who WE expect to be things he's not

Above all - I'm just jealous that you two guys have met him at all..!

Best regards Steve
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Am planning to head over to Mystic Wednesday to check out Ballard's new Undersea Exploration wing at the Mystic aquarium- stay tuned.
 
J

James Bradley

Guest
I've known Bob Bllard since 1986 and have met with him on many occassions in the past. I can tell you that what he is doing is grand. He has high aspirations for our children in the field of education. His creative prowess has invented some amazing technology and the future looks bright. Perhaps with some of this technocracy we can even delve in and explore the depths of another world orbiting Jupitor. As for the man himself: He is tall. My first impression of him when meeting him. How he squeezed into that sub I'll never know. He loves to correspond with people and his favorite thing is geology. Must be why he is a geologist. He does not consider the Titanic discovery as being very high on his list of accomplishments. What he is hoping to be remembered for are the other great discoveries. Like the discovery of over 2000 new life forms while exploring hydrothermal vents along the Pacific Rise. The discoveries that proved plate techtonics. The discovery of Chemosynthesis. The list goes on and on. He loves rose rocks. He is also a fan of Star Trek. As for the rest... write him. He is now in Connecticut and no longer with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute's Deep Submergence Laboratory, although I am sure they still work together. Hope this helps!
 

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