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The Eternal Darkness
ISBN 0691027404 / 9780691027401 / 0-691-02740-4
Publisher Princeton University Press
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As a young man, at a time when most of his peers were turning their eyes to deep space, Robert Ballard came under the spell both of scientific inquiry and of the ocean. After taking a doctorate in marine geology and geophysics, he spent three decades at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, through which he participated in more than a hundred deep-sea expeditions. Writing from the point of view of "a privileged witness to a fascinating burst of exploration," Ballard recounts many of those explorations, including the first up-close studies of the great mid-ocean ridge of volcanic mountains that circles the globe, full of seafloor vents and "black smokers." Along the way Ballard provides a brief history of modern oceanography, looking at the contributions of such scientists as Charles William Beebe and Otis Barton, whose legendary dives in the early 1930s paved the way for much subsequent research. Ballard's narrative takes on particular vigor when he describes, in fascinating detail, his team's search for the wreckage of the Titanic--a search that relied on intelligent guesswork as much as on hard evidence. The methods he and his colleagues used--employing, among other things, sophisticated remote-control craft--to find the unfortunate vessel ushered in a new era of deep-ocean research, a contribution in which Ballard takes justified pride. --Gregory McNamee [via]