Sci-Tech | 11:59 pm | May 7, 2009 | By Reed Reibstein

The next best thing to Leo

He may not know Leonardo DiCaprio, but Robert Ballard did discover the wreck of the Titanic.

Ballard, the famed deep-sea explorer, spoke at the Peabody Museum of Natural History late this afternoon to a packed auditorium. He shared a lifetime of experiences investigating the ocean’s mysteries — from ancient shipwrecks to undersea black smokers — for the final installment of a lecture series celebrating the opening of the Peabody’s Hall of Minerals, Earth and Space.

Many in the diverse audience gasped and whistled as Ballard showed images of 6,000-foot-high mid-ocean ridges, clams larger than an adult hand and perfectly preserved Byzantine ships. He spoke at length on the future of ocean exploration, explaining how in two weeks he will meet a goal he first formulated 28 years ago for National Geographic magazine.

“The concept was that someday in the distant future, instead of going down in a deep-diving submarine … it would all be robots,” Ballard said. “And not only would we do it all with robots, we would do it from shore.”

Ballard said he believes that in about a decade high-bandwidth networks will be common enough that remote-controlled robots will be accessible to the general public, not just deep-sea researchers.

Despite his focus on high-speed research, Ballard reminded the youngsters in attendance that science requires years of perseverance.

“Kids, science is a marathon,” he said.

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