Originally created 10/11/00

Undersea explorer touts projects



Undersea explorer Robert Ballard's current expedition is of biblical proportion.

Dr. Ballard, who discovered the wrecks of the luxury liner Titanic and the German battleship Bismarck, was in Augusta on Tuesday at the National Science Center's Fort Discovery to discuss his latest project in the Black Sea and his interactive science learning program, JASON Project XII - Hawaii: A Living Laboratory.

"What we are trying to do as a team of scientists is find evidence of Noah's flood," he said of his Black Sea expedition. He is working off a theory posed by two Columbia University geologists that a great flood spoken of by many cultures took place about 7,000 years ago in the Black Sea.

So far, he has uncovered artifacts to corroborate the theory.

"I'm a religious person, and it always pains me to see an apparent conflict in the spiritual world and the scientific world," Dr. Ballard said. "I'm a scientist, but I don't see a conflict. Whenever I have the opportunity to bridge that gap, I really want to."

Dr. Ballard said evidence of an ancient civilization, which has been covered by a massive amount of water, is located off the coast of Turkey.

There is evidence of a shoreline 550 feet below the surface, in addition to shells that typically would be found along a shoreline.

"We found two kinds of shells - half were saltwater," he said. "Finding saltwater shells from the Mediterranean was no surprise. It was the second group of shells of animals that are extinct and lived in freshwater (that was a surprise). We carbon-14 dated them - 7,000 years ago. It was dead on."

Also near the site was evidence of human habitation: well-preserved artifacts such as carved wooden beams, building blocks and wooden latches.

Dr. Ballard said he soon will return to his Black Sea research to find greater detail about the people who once inhabited the land and to determine more about the flood itself.

Right now, some details are hazy.

"It's a big fuzzy thing," he said. "We are trying to clarify it." The Black Sea expedition is sponsored by the National Geographic Society, which plans a book and television program based on it.

Dr. Ballard spent all day Tuesday at the science center, talking with pupils and teachers.

On Tuesday morning, Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes spoke on the JASON project and its importance in helping children discover the wonders of science, math and technology.

Using Hawaii and a volcano theme, JASON XII will engage children in a yearlong learning program exploring themes of science and technology.

Fort Discovery will be a primary interactive network site for the JASON project.

Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at (803) 441-6927.