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Explorer Who Found Many Iconic Shipwrecks Like the Titanic, Credits Dyslexia For His Success


(L) Ted Talks; YouTube / (R) NOAA

Not being able to see the world in the same way as others is often considered inconvenient, but viewing from a different lens can also be revealing … “

Robert Ballard, 79, a pioneer in underwater robotic technology, always knew he was “wired differently” to most people, but it was only a few years ago that he learned he was dyslexic.

While he did eventually have an explanation for the early learning issues that set him apart from his peers, the realization also went a long way in explaining how extraordinary his particular gift of vision was.

As a National Geographic “general explorer”, along with his ongoing robotic research at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Ballard’s medium is literally the vast oceans of Earth.

“I live in a world where wherever I go is totally dark, so you have to visualize it in your mind … Dyslexics are extremely good at visualizing three-dimensional space,” Ballard said. The i. “When I am in my command center… I can take all that information in my head and then form a mental image of a world of total darkness. [where I’m] extremely comfortable … because I see it in my mind. “

Before discovering that he was dyslexic, Ballard assumed that this is how everyone else saw the world, too, but it is his unique ability to simultaneously assimilate large amounts of information “with his eyes” that led to his greatest achievements.

Ballard is the man responsible for finding the remains of the RMS Titanic. While it is arguably the historical footnote that he will be best remembered for (at least by search engines), ironically, when the discovery was made, Ballard was on a top-secret mission for the US government. The search for the lost liner was just her cover story.

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In addition to locating other notable shipwrecks, such as the infamous Nazi battleship, the Bismarck, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktownand the torpedo patrol boat last commanded by John F. Kennedy that saved his crew when it sank during World War II; technology spearheaded by Ballard has given us some of the most comprehensive science of the ocean floor to date.

The robot inhabitants of Ballard have plumbed the mysteries of plate tectonics and explored vast previously unexplored underwater biomes that are home to creatures drawn from a Alien movie, including 13-foot worms with nightmarish gnashing of teeth.

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Facing conventional maritime history, Ballard even charted a direct trade route across the Mediterranean between ancient Rome and Carthage by following a trail of discarded empty wine bottles thrown overboard by would-be drunken sailors.

He believes that none of these things would have been possible if he had not seen the world through the eyes of a dyslexic.

“I often wonder how my life would have been different if I had known I was dyslexic … I think I came to a good place, but I came by a very strange route,” he said. The I.

In his new autobiography, In the deep, Ballard tells his personal story and his storied career, along with the very important role his dyslexia played in all that he has accomplished.

“Everyone needs to understand that dyslexics are not stupid, they are just a different kind of human being. They see the world in a very different way, ”Ballard told the University of Rhode Island News (URI). “This book is a presentation party for my dyslexia. Now I’m standing on a rostrum and I say, ‘I’m dyslexic’ and I feel very lucky. ‘

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Although Ballard is turning into a more mentoring role these days, he continues to be actively involved in new projects, including the design and implementation of a fleet of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), which he says can be programmed “like a pack of hounds.” to hunt down the remaining 3,999,040 shipwrecks (that’s minus the more than 60 he’s already found) that languish beneath the waves.

In the coming years, he and his research team will also focus their efforts on studying the impact of global warming, pollution, and ocean acidification.

Additionally, Ballard is partnering with National Geographic to create a program that provides educational opportunities for dyslexics from disadvantaged backgrounds to better reach their full potential.

“When I was little, my grandmother from Kansas was full of sayings and I remember one in particular,” Ballard told URI. “She said, ‘Great is the person who plants a tree knowing that they will never sit in its shade.’ That’s where I am right now. I am planting trees. “

(CLOCK Robert Ballard’s popular Ted Talk below).

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