DR SYLVIA EARLE IS A WOMAN OF MANY FIRSTS: She was the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, LA Time’s Woman of the Year in 1970, ordained a knight in 1981, named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet in 1998. In 1979, she made an open-ocean JIM suit dive to the sea floor alone near Oahu, setting a women's depth record of 381 metres. In 2009, she won a TED Prize, and with TED's support, she launched Mission Blue, which aims to establish marine protected areas (“Hope Spots") around the globe. In 2014, she was named Glamour Woman of the Year, a UN Champions of the Earth Award, and the first woman to be celebrated at an Explorers Club Tribute Ceremony. We are honoured to have Dr Sylvia Earle as Chair of the Ocean Geographic’s Honorary Editors Board. Here, she shares with us some of her deep secrets.

 

The Art of Nature is epitomized in cephalopods – they are the most enigmatic jet powered, mesmerizing, mind controlling predators.

Cephalopods are the most intelligent, most mobile, and the largest of all molluscs. The order comprises of squid, octopuses, cuttlefish, the chambered nautilus, and their relatives display remarkable diversity in size and lifestyle with adaptations for predation, locomotion, disguise and communication.

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Not much has changed over 20 years, though I was carrying four camera housings capable of capturing just 144 shots each dive then, but now, I often carry just one capable of shooting 3,200 pictures!

Sometimes it does seem that I have a death wish or perhaps am just a sucker for punishment. Well, all in the name of adventure and exploration, or misadventure if I fail to survive the ordeal. Thankfully, Angels have watched over me. My exploits of the seven seas have seen me floating in the open ocean for over six hours, getting my knee chopped by a propeller in gear, and being stranded on a refugee boat 30 years ago in the middle of the South China Sea for three weeks. However, when you pay good money for an exploratory expedition on a private boat but end up twiddling your thumbs on a dilapidated piece of junk, you will probably fail to be amused. That was my first trip to Alor in 1994.

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This is the HEART OF THE CORAL TRIANGLE; the bull’s eye of marine biodiversity.

We are blessed to have oceans brimming with distinct and productive ecosystems. From the frigid Arctic Ocean filled with the largest aggregation of Atlantic cod left on the planet, to the warm tropical seas of the Indo-Pacific boasting the highest number of coral and fish species on Earth, our world’s waters are endlessly varied and diverse.

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"We could not take all the delegates at CITES on a dive with “mini mantas”, Virtual Reality allowed us to bring the mantas to the conference. "

I officially fell in love with  the ocean on December 31st, 2005. Fourteen years old with a fresh junior open water diver certification, I had my ticket to the underwater world. The ocean exponentially grew to become a bigger part of my life than I ever imagined, and it was a natural evolution to develop a desire to give back. With the support of the Rolex Scholarship, this interest recently took me to Johannesburg, South Africa. More than 2,000 kilometres away from the nearest coastline, I found myself in the deep end of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species 17th Conference of the Parties (CITES CoP17) – the most important conference for wildlife conservation in the world.

I travelled to Iceland full of joyful apprehension. A few years ago, I had spent a couple of weeks travelling all around the coast of Iceland, stopping along the way for dives, trekking up volcanoes, riding the diminutive local species of sheep, exploring underground caves, taking dips in natural geothermal pools and a host of other activities that left me with a sense of wonder that had yet to be matched by other destinations, despite having had amazing adventures across five continents in the intervening years. 

Age always seems to be an imporant question. Determining the age of a fossil is a critical step in obtaining valuable information about the history of an extinct animal and is typically done by way of radiocarbon dating. This process measures the rate of carbon-14 decay in a sample and compares it to a constant in an effort to get an idea of how old something was when it perished.

I dwell in a quote by Loren Eiseley, "If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water."  He was referring to the interactions of a water pubble froma  terrestrial point of view. for me, it lyrically sums up the beqitching fantasies in our ocean, expecially of my time in the blue waters of the Revillagigedos Archipelago.

DIANA GREW UP ON A FARM in the middle of the jungle with no electricity, far, far away from the ocean. But she had read Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and she fantasised about being Captain Nemo, piloting the Nautilus. Fleeing the socialist revolution of Hugo Chávez, in 1996 she arrived in Spain without any money. Ten years later, after securing a double major in marine and environmental sciences, Diana now pilots submersibles to explore the deep ocean. We recently caught up with Diana in Bali where she is taking time off to become a freediving instructor. We know you will be inspired by the stories she shared with us. 

In Australia and around the world we are looking at the final chapter for coral reefs. In March of this year, I spent time on the northern Great Barrier Reef around Lizard Island and am still recovering from what was the most miserable week of my life. To describe what my students and I saw as apocalyptic sounds like an exaggeration, but in truth this is an understatement as we could not see the whole 1000km of reef North of Lizard that was also undergoing a similar transformation. Even when we got to the ‘outer reef’ to the edge of the Great Barrier where surely, bathed in oceanic water the coral was safe, we found massive coral bleaching and already, widespread coral death. 

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