Robert Ballard is an ocean explorer who was part of the team that discovered the Titanic in her final resting place in 1985. Now, Ballard is on a new quest to protect Titanic’s massive underwater graveyard in Save the Titanic With Bob Ballard. Already crucial pieces of Titanic’s history are gone, including the crow’s nest where lookouts spotted the doomed iceberg; apparently knocked into a cargo hold by a passing tourist submarine.

Below is an excerpt of an interview with the man himself on his latest deep sea exploration.

Question: Dr Ballard, you are titan of the Titanic among the most accomplished deep sea explorers.  Can you tell us a little about the Titanic?

Bob Ballard: Well as you know it was of all the ships to find in the ocean Titanic was at the top of the list and for many, many years people tried and there was four attempts before we went out and then we were the ones that got lucky and found her.  And then it really set off a whole chain of events because Titanic in many ways was the first pyramid of the deep.  But we went on to find the Bismarck and other contemporary shipwrecks.  And then we began to look into the ancient world and over the last 10 years we have found more ancient shipwrecks, many of them Greek shipwrecks than any other organisation on the planet.

It is a realisation that deep sea is a museum.  It is the largest museum on the planet.  And yet there is no guard on the door.  I am deeply concerned about not only the Titanic but all the ancient history that is now at risk.  And so one of the things we are doing on the hundredth anniversary with National Geographic Channel is doing a programme called Save the Titanic.  And our goal is that if you cannot save this iconic ship then there is very little hope we can save ancient ships.  What we are trying to do is to get the world to realise that you don’t have to go down and take everything and you do not have to do a treasure hunting.  That this is our heritage and it is a common heritage of all of us and if we really want to take steps to preserve human history in the ocean and we want to start with the Titanic.

Question: Can I take it back to 1 September 1985. Could you describe for us your sensations when you first saw the rubble, the wreckage from Titanic and the boiler room?

Bob Ballard: Well as you know the expedition was almost over.  We were getting very nervous that we were going to not succeed and we were going to join the ranks of the people that had tried before and failed.  It is now the night of 1 September and it is midnight and we changed over the watch.  We have watches, we go around the clock, but every four hours we have a changing of the guard.  And because I was chief scientist I have to be at every one of those watch changes, so don’t get a lot of sleep.  We changed over the watch and I said well, I am going to go and see if I can catnap.  I went up to my stateroom and I could not fall asleep, there was some premonition or something I couldn’t fall asleep.