Stay up-to-date with JSG

Explorers Invite Public to Join Historic Ocean Expedition Online

E/V Nautilus in the Western Mediterranean, 2011
E/V Nautilus in the Western Mediterranean, 2011

Explorer Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the R.M.S. Titanic in 1985, is partnering with scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and other institutions to webcast a live scientific expedition to the eastern Mediterranean Nov. 10-18. People around the world will be able to view live video feeds and submit questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week as the scientists use remotely operated vehicles to map the seafloor, study underwater volcanoes, investigate unusual life forms, explore shipwrecks and more.

Jamie Austin, senior research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics, will serve as co-chief scientist of the expedition aboard the ship E/V Nautilus. Austin was co-chief scientist during a 2010 Nautilus voyage that discovered dense populations of deep-water coral, crabs, shrimp and fish off the coast of Israel. The upcoming expedition will further explore the region, which some Israelis are now lobbying to have designated a unique deep-water marine sanctuary.

Ballard, president of the Institute for Exploration at the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut, started Nautilus Live to get middle and high school students excited about science and ocean exploration by showing them real scientists and educators doing real work at sea. To achieve that, he enlists secondary school teachers to come aboard and work alongside scientists, remotely interacting with students and online visitors around the world.

Randy Laurence, an earth science teacher at C.C. Winn High School in Eagle Pass, Texas, sailed for 10 days in October aboard the Nautilus. He said the “telepresence” aspect of the trip — the immediate global connection via audio, video and text — had a powerful effect on his students back home. Exxon Mobil Corp. provided funding to cover his expenses for the trip.

“Seeing a person they know on the website doing science multiplied their interest by a factor of 10,” he said. “I had students in one class that I thought would never be interested whatsoever who were emailing me every day. They were thinking, ‘Wow, if my teacher can do that, maybe I can too.’”

Visitors can log in to the expedition, the final leg in a series of webcast voyages to the Mediterranean, at the Nautilus Live website.