A research ship owned by the discoverer in 1985 of the shipwrecked ocean liner Titanic set off from Haifa Port this week to study the Mediterranean Sea floor off the coast of Israel in a first-of-a-kind voyage.Named Nautilus, the ship is manned by scientists from the University of Haifa’s Leon Charney School of Marine Sciences.The Nautilus is owned by 68-year-old American oceanographer Robert Ballard of the University of Rhode Island’s graduate school of oceanography, who discovered not only the Titanic but also the wrecks of the German battleship Bismarck, the US aircraft carrier Yorktown, and John F. Kennedy’s PT-109. The scientists will venture out beyond the country’s territorial waters to areas where Israel still has rights.“This unique collaboration gives expression to the central emphasis that the University of Haifa has decided to place on marine research, a resource that promises many discoveries in a variety of areas – economy, medicine, energy, biology and more. The future is in the sea, and this voyage is a first step towards understanding the mystery of a region that is so close to us yet still so far and unknown,” said university president Prof.Aaron Ben-Ze’ev.Last year, Ballard opened on the Rhode Island campus a $15 million Ocean Science and Exploration Center, where the Nautilus is docked. It arrived at Haifa Port fully equipped with state-of-the-art technologies for sea-floor research and includes diving robots and sophisticated control rooms. The captain of the Mediterranean mission is Israel Prize winner and director of the Charney School, Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham.He and his team, who mapped out each and every step of the expedition, will spend two weeks on the ship.