Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
When it comes to exploring the depths of our oceans and protecting the environment, National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence, Dr. Sylvia Earle has done it all.
Her accomplishments and accolades are astonishing. Time magazine calls her a “Hero for the Planet” and The Library of Congress says she is a “Living Legend.” The New York Times and New Yorker both gave her this regal title: “Her Deepness.”
An explorer, oceanographer, and author of close to 200 publications, Dr. Earle has led more than 100 expeditions and spent more than 7,000 hours underwater, setting a record in 2012 for solo diving in 1,000-meter depth.
Whether it’s charting the world’s oceans or safeguarding endangered ecosystems, Dr. Earle is always pushing the limits of what’s possible. Through the Sylvia Earl Alliance (S.E.A.) she launched Mission Blue, “an initiative to ignite public support for the protection of Hope Spots—special places that are vital to the health of the ocean…the blue heart of our planet.”
SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel know how important the initiative is. Its goal is to “unite a global coalition of partners to inspire an up-swelling of public awareness, access and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas.”
Currently less than 4% of the ocean is protected from pollution, acidification, climate change, overfishing, and other man-caused destructive actions. By bringing everyone together – governments, nonprofit organizations, corporations and individuals – Dr. Earle hopes to bring that number up to 20%.
Protecting the ocean is critical to the entire world’s well-being, insists Dr. Earle. “We need to respect the oceans and take care of them as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.” She says that we are all connected and mutually dependent on each other:
The former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Dr. Earle dove for the first time when she was 16-years-old, using a diving helmet because scuba wasn’t yet available. She went on to earn her master’s degree in Botany and Ph.D. in Phycology (the study of algae) from Duke University.
Dr. Earle has been pushing past barriers and breaking records her whole career. In 1970 she captained the first all-female team to live underwater. Two weeks later, when she and her teammates returned to the surface, they received a ticker-tape parade and a White House reception.
Then, in 1979, much like Neil Armstrong’s “small step for man; giant leap for mankind” walk on the moon, she walked untethered on the sea floor off the coast of Oahu at a lower depth (1,250 feet) than any other person before or since.
Eager to help others see the world of wonder under the sea, Dr. Earle founded two companies – Deep Ocean Engineering and Deep Ocean Technologies – with engineer Graham Hawkes to design undersea vehicles that scientists can use to navigate depths that were previously inaccessible.
From her birthplace on a small farm in Gibbstown, New Jersey, Dr. Sylvia Earle’s journey has taken her to the farthest reaches and depths of our planet.
A true Ambassador to the Ocean, her accomplishments are unfathomable.
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