Belfast Telegraph

Silly to search blind for missing jet, insists the man who found Titanic

By Rebecca Black

The man who discovered the wreck of the Titanic says searching for the missing Malaysian Airways plane is pointless.

Dr Robert Ballard was speaking yesterday at the opening of the new Ocean Exploration Centre at Titanic Belfast.

One of the world's best known acquatic explorers, he was the guest of honour at the opening of the new exhibit two years after the centre opened.

He said it was among the most sophisticated he had seen anywhere in the world.

"It adds to the visitor experience at Titanic Belfast and adds to the legacy of Titanic," he said.

"Indeed, it is a product of Titanic's legacy; that great ship continues to educate us to this day and will continue to inspire our learning."

In 1985 Dr Ballard discovered the wreck of the liner more than 70 years after the ship sank on its maiden voyage.

But he was far from optimistic for those now involved in another high-profile sea hunt.

Yesterday he claimed that with no real idea of where the Malaysian Airways airliner that went missing earlier this month went down, it was "silly" to go looking for it.

He said that he had an area of just 100sq miles in which he knew Titanic lay – which is vastly more specific than the 7.7 million sq km area currently being searched for the missing plane.

"You just wait," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"The Earth is as complicated underwater as it is above water. Is it in a mountain range? That's a different strategy. Is it in a flat area or canyon? Every day it goes somewhere else.

"On the news this morning a satellite saw wreckage off Perth, Australia.

"So now suddenly it's off Perth?"

Dr Ballard said he thought the wreckage will eventually wash up on a beach.

"I would imagine in years people are going to be walking on a beach and they will pick up something, because a lot of that eventually comes to shore," he said.

"Then you realise where it is.

"It's silly to go looking. The problem is that the transponder (black box) is going to run out of power, so it's a ticking clock of 30 days. And wreckage doesn't float indefinitely, so that's another problem.

"After 30 days the battery runs out, but to hear it you have to go close enough to hear it, within 10 miles, and you have to have the right listening device to hear it.

"My ship will be there in two or three years. I would hope it is done before that.

"When I found Titanic, the search area was reasonable, it was 10 miles by 10 miles. Even that was 100 square miles. You need a box around that size.

"It's dark down there. It shows you the frontiers still to be explored."

BACKGROUND

Titanic Belfast has launched a new Ocean Exploration Centre which has been lauded as one of the most sophisticated in the world.

The new centre boasts a timeline of ocean exploration, control room of a research vessel, and computer game style look underneath the seas around Ireland.

It will also include a link to Dr Robert Ballard's exploration vessel E/V Nautilus as it starts a new mission off the coast of Florida in June.

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