Sylvia Earle became the first female chief scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1990.
Born in 1935, American marine biologist Sylvia Earle has always had an affinity towards the ocean from a very young age. Now at 87, she doesn't plan to retire any time soon. “I’m still breathing, so why should I?” Earle tells CNN’s Sara Sidner. “Every time I go into the water, I see things I’ve never seen before,” she added. Having spent decades exploring the ocean she's aptly received the monikers "Her Deepness" and "Queen of the Deep." She has been diving for more than 70 years.
87-year-old oceanographer Sylvia Earle has spent more than seven decades exploring the ocean.— CNN International (@cnni) November 3, 2022
“It’s nothing like the paradise that I knew,” she says. “Nature is resilient, that’s cause for hope. But we need to give nature a break, take the pressure off.” https://t.co/y3H97eg8xk
To her credit, she's helped pave the way for women in ocean science, becoming the first female chief scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1990, and she holds the world record for the deepest untethered walk along the seafloor. Earle also founded Mission Blue in 2009, an organization that aims to explore and promote the conservation of the ocean as well as raise awareness about marine life. “There was a time in the 1970s when access to the skies above and the depths below was roughly in parallel, but then the focus on aviation and aerospace took off,” she shared. “Until very recently, more people had been on the moon than to the deepest parts of the ocean.”
With respect to the deep sea, what is down there? What are we doing to the Earth? Now we have the best chance in human history of figuring that out. pic.twitter.com/nkDDqub6SI— Sylvia A. Earle (@SylviaEarle) October 6, 2021
Her daughter Liz Taylor—president and CEO of DOER Marine, a company founded by Earle in 1992 that builds submersibles—is inspired by her mother's perseverance to excel in her field as well as her deep sense of curiosity and understanding of marine life. “She really wants to be able to pluck individuals from all over the world and have them get that experience with her in the sub,” she said of her mother. Taylor thinks that traveling to the deep sea would help people connect with it. "The animals are very curious, they like to come over and check you out. (It’s) the reverse aquarium experience,” she said.
The celebrated oceanographer is a strong advocate for sea conservation and believes that there is no excuse for harming the environment in today's climate. “I can, in a way, forgive a lot of the terrible things that we’ve done to the water, to the air, to the soil, and certainly to life in the sea … because we did not have the understanding,” but today there is no excuse, she shared. “We’re armed with knowledge that did not and could not exist until right about now.”
You can't take care of climate change without taking care of the ocean. pic.twitter.com/h3SwRh9RUr— Sylvia A. Earle (@SylviaEarle) October 29, 2022
In over seven decades, Earle has led over 100 expeditions and logged more than 7,000 hours underwater. The National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence plans on continuing to advocate for the protection of the ocean. “There’s no excuse anymore for continuing to behave towards the ocean as if it is just a place to take stuff out and put things in. Nothing else will matter if we fail to protect the ocean,” she said, according to PEOPLE. “Our fate and the ocean are one.” However, Earle continues to have hope. She says, “Nature is resilient, that’s cause for hope. But we need to give nature a break, take the pressure off.”
Cover Image Source: (L) YouTube | UN Environment Programme; (R) Getty Images | Photo by Monica Schipper