Her life aquatic
Dr. Sylvia Earle prepares to dive in a JIM suit. Photo NOAA Photo Library.
It all started when she was 12. Her family moved to Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico became her playground. That’s when Sylvia Earle fell in love with the ocean. A legendary marine biologist and inspirational explorer who relentlessly dedicates her life to research the ocean and raise awareness of the threats of pollution and overfishing to the ocean ecosystems.
For her as a scientist, it all began in 1953 when inspired by Cousteau, she first tried scuba. Earle was then able to see what we humans can do to the natural world with all the trash in the bottom of the ocean. Endangering the ocean while the surface looks the same, the waves looks the same.
In 1970 she lead the first all-female team of aquanauts in Tektite II, a project designed to explore the marine area and test the viability of deepwater habitats and the health effects of prolonged living in underwater structures. During this two-week experiment, she could observe the effects of pollution on coral reefs first hand.
Earle is an admirable woman and a tireless fighter for the ocean who keeps passing on her passion and care about the ocean. In 1979, she set the women’s diving record descending 381 meters in a JIM diving suit, a suit that gave her access to the deepest sea. Between 1990 and 1992 Earle was the first female chief scientist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), but she resigned from the position to be free to speak her mind.
Dr. Sylvia Earle displays samples to aquanut inside TEKTITE. Photo: NOAA Photo Library
The world has changed in her lifetime: the decline of the coral reef, acidification of the oceans, fishing to the very edge of extinction, melting in the polar ice, climate change… We’re putting hundreds of millions of tons of plastics and other trash into the sea poisoning the planet’s circulatory system.
Think about the Earth as if you would see it from high above, from the universe. Planet Earth is the Blue Planet. There is more water than land. In fact, it is the Planet Ocean. The ocean drives climate and weather, stabilizes temperature, generates most of the oxygen in the Earth and absorbs CO2. ‘No ocean, no life’, Earle states. We are facing paradise lost, but as she believes, ‘we can still fix things’. ‘We can learn from the past and do something now that we can. Now is the time to turn things around. Make the public aware and care about what happens’.
Earle founded Mission Blue, a non-profit foundation for protecting and exploring the Earth’s ocean which aims to establish marine protected areas, hope spots, around the globe. These hope spots are crucial to the health of the ocean. With the development of a global network of marine protected areas large enough we can save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet. ‘This is the moment. Our decisions and actions we’ll shape everything that follows’, she declares.