Cover image for Collision with history : the search for John F. Kennedy's PT 109
Collision with history : the search for John F. Kennedy's PT 109
Ballard, Robert D.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : National Geographic Society, [2002]

Physical Description:
191 pages : illustrations (some color), color maps ; 27 cm
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D774.P8 B35 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
D774.P8 B35 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Michael Hamilton Morgan writes on the PT 109 collision: It s about 2 a.m., August 2, 1943. Lt. John F. Kennedy squints into the fog and black while at the wheel of PT 109, idling in the Blackett Strait off Gizo in the Solomon Islands. His orders are to attack the Tokyo Express resu

Author Notes

Robert Ballard was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1942, and was educated at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the University of Hawaii, the University of Southern California, and the University of Rhode Island, where he received his Ph.D. in 1974. Part explorer, part geologist, part oceanographer, and part marine engineer, Ballard has worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Falmouth, Massachusetts, since 1969. He is currently director of the Center for Marine Exploration there.

Ballard is perhaps best known to the general public in connection to the luxury liner Titanic. Ballard organized and participated in the expedition that discovered the ship in 1985. More important, however, is his work in designing underwater survey vehicles and in participating in dives to explore the ocean floor. His work in marine design and engineering, in particular, has led to a dramatic increase in the scope of deep-sea exploration. In the 1960s, Ballard helped develop the Alvin, a deep-sea, three-man submersible equipped with a remote controlled mechanical arm for collecting specimens from the ocean floor. The device played an important role in mid-ocean studies, including exploration of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and dives to the Cayman Trough, a 24,000-foot-deep gash in the ocean floor south of Cuba.

Ballard was part of the Galapagos Hydrothermal Expedition in 1977, which discovered and investigated deep-sea thermal vents spouting mineral-rich water from volcanic cracks in the Earth's crust. In the 1980s, Ballard helped develop the Argo-Jason unmanned submersible system, the most advanced craft of its kind. Argo is a 16-foot submersible vehicle and Jason is a self-propelled robot tethered to Argo. The search for the Titanic was undertaken as a test of the Argo-Jason system; the success of the expedition demonstrated its capabilities and, according to Ballard, "ushered in a new era of undersea exploration."

The author of several bestselling books on deep-sea exploration, Ballard also contributes regularly to National Geographic and other magazines and he has produced several videotapes of deep-sea expeditions. His reputation as a "science populizer" has prompted harsh criticism from some of his scientific colleagues.

In 1985, Ballard was one of four scientists awarded a Secretary of the Navy Research Chair in Oceanography, an award that carries with it an $800,000 grant for oceanographic research.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

The story of John F. Kennedy's actions following the destruction of his 80-foot wooden-hulled boat in the Solomon Islands in 1943 has been told many times, in countless histories and biographies. Bestselling author Ballard (Finding the Titanic), who runs the Institute for Exploration, a nonprofit organization specializing in deep-sea research, offers a unique view, leading an expedition this past spring to find PT 109. Using accounts from Kennedy, surviving crew members and navy officers, he re-creates the days before the collision up until the rescue. It's a powerful presentation, and the details about the ship and the conditions of the remote island they eventually ended up on in the South Pacific nearly 60 years ago are fascinating. Ballard tells how Kennedy swam nearly two miles to safety and heroically saved his crew, describes the Solomon Islands themselves ("there is no patch of ocean and earth quite like this anywhere else in the world") and ends with a technical, though lucid, account of his own efforts to recover the ship. Complete with photographs from the expedition, archival photos and an introduction by Sen. Ted Kennedy, this captivating book should appeal to history buffs and Kennedy fans alike and could be an engaging introduction to PT 109's story and Kennedy lore for younger readers. Photos, maps. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

On a foggy August night in 1943, the future President's PT boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer in the Solomon Islands. Two of the 13-man crew died in the action, which cut their boat in two. Kennedy acquitted himself well in the aftermath, assisting two injured crewmen, leading the survivors to nearby islands and eventually getting word to rescuers. In the tradition of his explorations of the Titanic and Bismarck wrecks, Ballard (with help from writer/consultant Morgan) attempts to set the strategic and tactical stage for Kennedy's war, but the result is rather disappointing. The text then jumps forward to the May 2002 expedition to locate the wreck. There is some material describing the geography of the Solomons and their modern inhabitants. Chapter 5, which is given over to the actual search and discovery, might have made a detailed magazine article but is scarcely sufficient to form the core of a book. Heavily illustrated with photos and National Geographic reconstructions, and with family remembrances and an introduction by Sen. Edward Kennedy, this coffee-table book feels rushed into print to accompany the promised television documentary. A marginal purchase unless the documentary generates demand.-Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.