US Navy names Pathfinder-class oceanographic survey ship USNS Robert Ballard

US Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Carlos Del Toro has named the future Pathfinder-class oceanographic survey ship USNS Robert Ballard (T-AGS 67).

US Navy

The future USNS Robert Ballard will honor Dr. Robert Ballard, a retired U.S. Navy Commander, and former director of the Center for Ocean Exploration.

A tenured professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, he is widely known as a discoverer of the final resting place of the R.M.S. Titanic. The name selection follows the tradition of naming survey ships after explorers, oceanographers and distinguished marine surveyors. 

Ballard was born in 1942, growing up in San Diego, Calif. After he graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1965, he earned an Army Reserve Commission, ultimately requesting and transferring to the United States Navy when called to active service in 1967.

Assigned to the Office of Naval Research as a liaison officer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, Ballard worked extensively with deep-submergence vehicle Alvin (DSV-2).

After transitioning to the Naval Reserve in 1970, he completed a Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics at the University of Rhode Island. He continued to work at Woods Hole, where he was part of a team that discovered deep-sea thermal vents near the Galapagos Rift.

Best known for his 1985 discovery of R.M.S. Titanic at a depth of 12,000 feet, Ballard also led other shipwreck discoveries, including USS Yorktown (CV-5), USS Quincy (CA-39) and President John F Kennedy’s PT-109. Ballard retired from U.S. Naval Service in 1995. In 1989, he founded the distance learning program the JASON Project, which reached 12 million school children; and the Institute for Exploration in Mystic, Conn, and is also the founder and president of the Ocean Exploration Trust.  

USNS Ballard’s keel was laid in October 2022, and is projected to be delivered to the fleet in 2026.