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Mystic — Explorer Bob Ballard outlined his 65-day summer expedition to the Black and Mediterranean seas this afternoon at Mystic Aquarium where he heads the Ocean Exploration Center.
The first stop for the EV/Nautilus, the Ocean Exploration Trust ship used by Ballard, will be later today when it begins exploring a 2,500-year-old ship that Ballard's team found in the Black Sea off the coast of Turkey last year. It will then examine two other wrecks in the area before heading east to look for more. In total, Ballard has found 50 ancient wrecks and their cargo in the region. Many of them are well preserved because of the low oxygen content of the water.
The ship will then head south into the Aegean and Mediterranean seas and in one area will explore a giant tabletop seamount where Ballard said there is an amazing collection of ancient artifacts. The area also served as a busy ancient trade route between the copper mines of Cyprus and the eastern Nile.
The ship will also explore underwater volcanoes and the marine life there.
The expedition was delayed several days as last week Ballard and his team were asked by the Turkish government to find the wreckage of a Turkish fighter jet shot down by Syria off its coast last month. Using the Nautilus and its remotely operated vehicles they found the plane and the bodies of its two pilots.
Visitors to the aquarium will now be able to watch the expedition live on four large high-definition screens and talk to scientists aboard the ships in the new Nautilus Live Theater.
That's where Ballard was this afternoon talking to Chief Scientist Katherine L.C. Bell, who was aboard the Nautilus in the Black Sea.
Video from the ship and the underwater vehicles it uses are transmitted in real time via satellite to the Inner Space Center at the University of Rhode Island and then transmitted via the Internet. The expedition can also be followed at www.nautiluslive.org.
In addition to the 100 scientists and engineers aboard the Nautilus, there are also teachers and students ranging from middle schoolers to graduate students.
"We're not only here to do exploration but to turn kids on to science," said Ballard, who will be aboard the ship this summer. "Our goal is not to sell kids on science but (being) scientists."
Some of the scientists who now work with the 70-year-old Ballard were once involved in his Jason Project, which beams interactive expeditions to children across North America each year.
This summer's expedition will be the 13th year Ballard has been exploring ancient wrecks, underwater volcanos and marine life in the Black and Mediterranean seas.
It will also be his last. Ballard said he will turn his attention to the Caribbean next summer and then to the Pacific and Indian oceans.
"We've been very, very successful but it's time to move on. We're explorers," he said.