Deep sea explorer Dr. Robert Ballard may be best known for his underwater shipwreck discoveries including the Titanic in 1985, the German battleship Bismarck in 1989, the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Yorktown in 1998 and the wreck of John F. Kennedy's PT-109 in 2002.
But he told Chattanooga area high school students Thursday morning during a talk at UTC that he was most envious of the discoveries they would make in their lifetimes.
"Your generation is going to explore more of our planet than all previous generations combined," he told the students.
Ballard was in town for two speaking engagements as part of the Tennessee Aquarium's Our Blue Planet speaker series. Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, is the next scheduled speaker on Sept. 6.
The series is part of a grant the aquarium received from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) three years ago.
"One of the components of that grant was to conduct a community lecture series that brings scientists from around the country and the world into Chattanooga to expose our community to an awful lot of environmental opportunities and information," Charles Arant, Tennessee Aquarium president and CEO, said in his opening remarks.
Ballard has spent much of his acclaimed career exploring vast underwater mountain ranges that no one knew existed when he was still in high school.
Ballard said his next greatest discovery is the one he is about to make.
"But I can't tell you what it is because I haven't a clue," he said.
His message throughout the hourlong talk underscored America's need for future scientists. He opened the discussion by openly stating he was there to recruit.