GEMS Graduate Explores the Ocean on the Nautilus Exploration Program

Bethany Eden Smith ’05 participated in the Nautilus Exploration Program headed by Dr. Robert Ballard, who is famous for discovering the underwater location of the R.M.S. Titanic in 1985.
Friday, September 6, 2013

Some people grow up dreaming that they’ll be the president of the United States, travel to the moon or, perhaps, explore the world’s oceans in hopes of discovering something amazing.

Well, one Rider alumna is living her dream. Bethany Eden Smith ’05 participated in the Nautilus Exploration Program headed by Dr. Robert Ballard, who is famous for discovering the underwater location of the R.M.S. Titanic in 1985. Smith was among 46 other educators and students chosen from a highly competitive and talented pool of Ocean Exploration Trust (OET) applicants from all over the world.

“The high-quality, hands-on education I received at Rider sparked a hunger in me to know more about our world’s oceans,” said Smith, who graduated from Rider’s Geological, Environmental and Marine Sciences (GEMS) program in 2005. “Our oceans are some of the most unexplored places on our planet, and being able to join Dr. Robert Ballard and this incredible group of scientists, engineers, students and educators aboard E/V Nautilus to explore them is a once in a lifetime experience.”

Smith and the crew embarked from Galveston, Texas, on July 16 to explore a shipwreck located in the western Gulf of Mexico, approximately 170 miles from port. They located the wreck and two other vessels that had not been previously discovered. The team’s goal was to identify the early 19th-century schooner by locating artifacts aboard the vessel that would reveal the ship’s name.

“I was lucky enough to get to break the story of the additional shipwrecks on Exploration Now,” Smith said.

During the 11-day off-shore expedition, Smith worked aboard the E/V Nautilus as an expedition communicator. While aboard the vessel, she was responsible for standing watch alongside scientists and engineers as well as communicating with audiences on the mainland through Exploration Now. Exploration Now is a 24-hour online portal enabling future explorers to follow the action in real-time using telepresence technology.

“One of the major goals of our Nautilus Exploration Program is to inspire the next generation of explorers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields,” said Dr. Katherine Croff Bell, expedition leader and OET vice president. “We’re very excited to provide educators and students with the direct experience of pure exploration, while allowing them the opportunity to share their experience far and wide with their peers.”

Now home from her voyage, Smith is eager to share her experiences with her marine and environmental science students at Chesapeake Bay Governor’s School (CBGS) in Warsaw, Va. CBGS provides high-ability and gifted 10th to12th grade students from 14 school divisions in Virginia’s Northern Neck and the Middle Peninsula with a rigorous curriculum through enrichment, exploratory, investigative, and career awareness experiences.

While Smith knows her experience is far from typical, she says is a prime example of what’s possible when hard work and dedication are combined with a support structure like the one provided by Rider University.

“I am proof that from Rider, you can go anywhere,” she said.

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Bethan Eden Smith '05 with the remotely operated vehicle Hercules, used to explore the ocean floor.