Tag Archives: Dr. Robert Ballard

Titanic Discoverer, Undersea Explorer Surfaces At Library

The 2nd “Andrew Wilk Presents…” will be fascinating.

On Thursday, February 13 (7 p.m.), Dr. Robert Ballard speaks at the Westport Library.

I was excited to interview him, for a sneak peak. In 1985 he discovered the wreck of Titanic. He’s also found the Bismarck, the lost fleet of Guadalcanal, the aircraft carrier Yorktown (sunk in the Battle of Midway), and John F. Kennedy’s PT-109.

Dr. Robert Ballard

But when I started talking about those titanic discoveries, he basically said, “Who cares?”

Ballard has bigger fish to fry.

The National Geographic Society Explorer-at-Large says his most important discoveries were of hydrothermal vents — and the exotic life forms living miles below the surface.

Basically, Ballard found the origins of life on earth. These creatures have found ways to duplicate photosynthesis without sunlight. Thanks to Ballard, we now know that life can flourish all over the universe.

He’ll talk about all that in Westport. (And Titanic too. “It’s part of the story of human history,” he realizes.)

But wait! There’s more!

Ballard is also about to embark on “the 2nd Lewis & Clark Expedition.” Of course, there are a couple of differences between this, and the one 2 centuries ago that uncovered the wonders of our still-unexplored continent.

Dr. Robert Ballard, ready to explore

For one, Ballard is going underwater. The US owns waters 200 miles from our coastline — and we’ve got a lot of coast. Including Alaska, Hawaii and all our Pacific islands like Guam, Ballard says there is as much undersea as the entire surface of the United States.

And we have no idea what minerals and species are down there.

“I’ll tell you when I find it,” Ballard says confidently.

A second difference between the 1800s and 2000s: Half of the explorers this time will be female.

“I’m calling it the Lois and Clark Expedition,” Ballard says.

So he’s not only astonishingly smart, and superbly adventurous. Ballard is also quite funny.

“Andrew Wilk Presents…” — hosted by Westport’s Emmy-winning television executive producer and director/playwright/symphony conductor — brings remarkable men and women to the library. The series kicked off last month with Michael Davie, a filmmaker who has worked on major projects for Oprah Winfrey, National Geographic, Discovery and more.

Ballard will be a compelling guest. His sense of adventure is — clearly — profound.

So I wanted to know more about what he will discover, in his upcoming exploration of our planet’s vast oceans.

“What did Lewis and Clark expect when they got in their canoes?” Ballard asked rhetorically.

“I’ll tell you when I find it.”

(Tickets for Dr. Robert Ballard’s talk with Andrew Wilk are $50 for reserved seating; $150 for VIP reception and reserved seating. Click here for tickets and more information.)

Andrew Wilk Presents …

Like many Westporters, Andrew Wilk is very impressed by the recent transformation of the Westport Library.

But, he knows, a building that pulses with creativity is a lot more than “sticks and bricks.”

What really counts is the activity inside.

Andrew Wilk

Wilk is in a position to help make the library buzz even more than it does. An Emmy-winning television executive producer and director — as well as a playwright and symphony conductor — he has one of the most impressive Rolodexes* around.

Now he’s tapping his countless contacts — men and women he’s met through “Live at Lincoln Center,” as chief creative officer of Sony Music Entertainment, and vice president for the National Geographic Channel — to bring exciting, provocative pioneers in science, the arts and humanities to the interactive library stage.

“Andrew Wilk Presents…” debuts next month. Though he’s not crazy about the title — “I just find people, set them up for success and let ’em go,” he demurs — the library series looks like yet another Andrew Wilk smash.

The first guest (Thursday, December 12, 7 p.m.) is Michael Davie. A filmmaker who has worked on major projects for Oprah Winfrey, National Geographic, Discovery and many more, he’ll weave together hair-raising adventures from Kosovo to the Congo, adding personal reflections on travel, family and connecting with people all over the world.

Michael Davie in action.

Davie most recently co-created Oprah’s landmark 7-part series “Belief.” He began his video career by walking from Cape Town to Cairo (!) — alone (!!) — and recording that amazing journey.

Along the way Davie chronicled police brutality in Johannesburg, landmine victims in Mozambique, the sexual abuse of street children in Zimbabwe, and the disparity between rich and poor in Kenya.

He has also interviewed Nelson Mandela, and reported on terrorism, the persecution of gays in Iraq, the environmental cost of mining in Peru, and rescue climbing on Denali.

The second speaker is the celebrated oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard. He found the Titanic, Bismarck, USS Yorktown and John F. Kennedy’s PT-109, and explored the Lusitania.

Dr. Robert Ballard

His next goal: discover Amelia Earhart’s plane. Wilk has no doubt Ballard will accomplish that too. “He’s an amazing person, with riveting stories,” Wilk says.

The third speaker is filmmaker Kevin Bachar. A 3-time Emmy Award-winning writer and cinematographer, he spent 10 years as a National Geographic producer. He also wrote specials for Discovery Channels’ Shark Week.

“There are so many great series at the library,” Wilk says. “I hope this is one more that will elevate the community.”

And — with speakers like Dr. Robert Ballard — take us to unimagined depths.

(General admission seats for Michael Davie are $20 each. VIP tickets cost $100, and include preferred seating, and pre-show food and drinks with Davie and Andrew Wilk. Click here for tickets.)

* The virtual kind, of course.