Above Image: (c) Kip Evans
Hero for the Planet. Oceanographer. Her Deepness.
The superlatives used to describe Dr. Sylvia Earle and the long list of awards, distinguished accomplishments and titles still could never do justice in describing the most accomplished scientist, staunchest advocate and eloquent champion our oceans have ever had. Named a “Living Legend” by the Library of Congress, and TIME magazine’s first “Hero for the Planet,” this superstar has been crashing through barriers and achieving firsts for as long as anyone can remember.
With over 7,500 hours logged underwater, Sylvia holds an astounding number of firsts. In 1970 she led the first all-female team of “Aquanauts” in the Tektite II experiment, a project designed to explore and test the viability of deepwater habitats and the health effects of prolonged living in underwater structures. The habitat was located 50-feet below the surface off the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 1979, she set the world untethered diving record, descending 1,250 feet beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean in a JIM diving suit, a special diving apparatus that maintains an interior pressure of 1 standard atmosphere. From 1990-92, Sylvia served as Chief Scientist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first woman to serve in that position. Following her government appointment, Sylvia was named the first female Explorer-in-Residence by National Geographic and she founded Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, a marine consulting firm that designs and operates deepwater submersibles to facilitate underwater exploration and engineering operations.
In 2008, Sylvia founded Mission Blue, the nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and building public support for the marine protection needed to stabilize the planet, earning her the 2009 TEDPrize, which in addition to being a cash prize grants “one wish to change the world.” In her words, “My wish is that you will use all means at your disposal ... to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, ‘hope spots’ large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.” Today, Mission Blue supports a science-based network of Hope Spots in more than 70 countries, covering nearly 60mm km of ocean. The goal? To protect 30% of the world's oceans by 2030.
The Emmy® Award Winning Netflix documentary, Mission Blue, celebrates Sylvia’s lifetime of work. A graduate of Florida State University, where she became a pioneer of SCUBA alongside Jacques Cousteau, Sylvia went on to earn M.A. and PhD. degrees from Duke University along with 34 Honorary Doctorate degrees. Among her many prestigious awards, Sylvia was named a member of the Netherlands Order of the Golden Ark and she has received the Walter Cronkite Award, the Explorers Club Medal, the Royal Geographic Society Patron’s Medal, and the National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal.
Blue Hope: Exploring Earth’s Magnificent Oceans
With more than 7,500 hours logged underwater, and the poise that comes with having worked in just about every facet of ocean conservation, Sylvia Earle’s wish to save and restore the ocean is gaining traction, one marine preserve at a time. Working beyond borders and ideologies, Dr. Earle advises heads of state in the U.S. and abroad on critical marine protection legislation and crisis response, including the Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. On public, private, and academic stages worldwide, she strives to help us understand the consequences of everything we put into—and everything we take out of—the ocean, noting that every breath of air we take and every drop of water we drink depends upon its health. Most importantly, she believes that although humans are largely responsible for many stresses on the ocean, we also are its best hope for survival.
Photos: courtesy Sylvia Earle