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Robert D. Ballard and his colleagues at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts collaborated with National Geographic's Emory K. Kristof and his team of photo engineers to refine shipboard photographic processes and design new imaging systems that played a crucial role in the discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents and the strange biological communities that surround them. In 1985, Ballard and his team located the Titanic 12,500 feet down in the North Atlantic Ocean. Argo, a remotely operated deepwater vehicle, spied the shipwreck on the seafloor thanks to an electronic camera system National Geographic's Kristof helped design. Spectacular footage of the liner later shot by Kristof inspired the film director James Cameron to adopt many of Kristof's techniques when filming the blockbuster Titanic (


Michel, Jean-Louis, and Robert D. Ballard. "How We Found [Titanic]." National Geographic Magazine, Dec. 1985

Ballard, Robert D., and Cliff Tarpy. "A Long Last Look at [Titanic]." National Geographic Magazine, Dec. 1986

Ballard, Robert D. "Epilogue for [Titanic]." National Geographic Magazine, Oct. 1987

Cameron, James. "Ghostwalking in Titanic." National Geographic Magazine, Apr. 2012


At the suggestion of famed archaeologist Dr. Louis Leakey, National Geographic began supporting the work of Jane Goodall. Her observations of chimpanzee behavior in the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve, today Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, would become one of the longest continuous field studies of animals in the wild. Goodall observed chimpanzees—assumed to be vegetarians—stalk, kill, and eat other animals. She also watched them strip leaves from twigs, insert the sticks into termite mounds, and draw out the sticks and eat the termites. This meant chimpanzees were not only using tools but fashioning them as well, a behavior previously considered unique to humans.

With the encouragement of anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey and with financing from National Geographic, Dian Fossey spent 18 years studying gorillas, battling poachers, and transforming conservation. Her study revealed gorillas to be shy and sociable creatures rather than feared killers. In 1967, Fossey established the Karisoke Research Center, a cluster of cabins 10,000 feet high in Rwanda’s cool, misty, lushly forested Virunga Mountains. Her work and life were chronicled in the 1988 film Gorillas in the Mist (


Goodall, Jane, and Hugo van van Lawick. "My Life Among Wild Chimpanzees." National Geographic Magazine, Aug. 1963

Campbell, Robert M., and Dian Fossey. "Making Friends With Mountain Gorillas." National Geographic Magazine, Jan. 1970

Goodall, Jane. "Life and Death at Gombe." National Geographic Magazine, May 1979

Veit, Peter G.--Photographer, and Dian Fossey. "The Imperiled Mountain Gorilla: A Grim Struggle for Survival." National Geographic Magazine, Apr. 1981


Husband and wife Louis and Mary Leakey explored Olduvai Gorge, in what is today Tanzania, for three decades, seeking information about the makers of the abundant ancient stone tools located there. In the summer of 1959, Mary discovered a shattered hominid skull, some 1.75 million years old, that she and Louis believed might represent “the world’s oldest known human.” With a grant from National Geographic, the couple focused their efforts, and Olduvai soon began yielding its secrets. Over the next few years, National Geographic Magazine took its readers to the colorful camp perched on the rim of the gorge, where the Leakeys described their astonishing finds: fossil skulls, teeth, and jawbones. Taken together, these constituted the discovery of the newly named Homo habilis, or handy man (


Lawick, Hugo van van, et al. "The Leakeys of Africa: Family in Search of Prehistoric Man." National Geographic Magazine, Feb. 1965

Scherschel, Joseph J., and Melvin M. Payne. "Preserving the Treasures of Olduvai Gorge." National Geographic Magazine, Nov. 1966

Leakey, Mary D. "Footprints in the Ashes of Time." National Geographic Magazine, Apr. 1979

Berger, Lee, et al. "The Dawn of Humans: Redrawing Our Family Tree?" National Geographic Magazine, Aug. 1998


Despite losing eight toes to frostbite on an earlier attempt, Robert E. Peary led a party of 24 men, 19 sledges, and 133 dogs northward from Cape Columbia in Canada. On April 1, 1906, near the 88th parallel, his final support party turned back, and Peary and two Inuit Eskimo continued on. Peary returned to announce his discovery, only to learn that five days earlier a former team member, Frederick A. Cook, had proclaimed a 1908 visit to the North Pole. National Geographic’s first review of Peary’s documentation found his claim to be credible, though many doubted his claim from the outset. Controversy over his documentation has remained, and in 1988 the Society revisited his proofs and papers and concluded that it was unlikely that he’d reached true 90°N (


"Peary on the North Pole." National Geographic Magazine, Jan. 1903

Peary, Robert E. "The Discovery of the Pole: First Report by Commander Robert E. Peary, U. S. N., September 6,1909." National Geographic Magazine, Oct. 1909

Herbert, Wally. "Commander Robert E. Peary: Did He Reach the Pole?" National Geographic Magazine, Sept. 1988

Grosvenor, Gilbert M., and Thomas D. Davies. "New Evidence Places Peary at the Pole." National Geographic Magazine, Jan. 1990


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