Recently I heard an enthralling interview on NPR with Jill Heinerth, a leading figure in the rarefied and dangerous world of cave diving. She was discussing her new book, Into the Planet, which recounts her explorations of some of the most remote and extreme environments on Earth and the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field. She’s also an underwater filmmaker and has done work for PBS, National Geographic and the BBC.
James Cameron, the director of Titanic and an expert in deep-sea exploration, says of the book, “More people have been to the moon than to places that Jill Heinerth has explored deep inside our watery planet. A world-class technical diver and filmmaker, Jill’s extraordinary path from under Antarctic icebergs to tropical blue holes is proof that real life is far more exciting than fiction.”
So I was delighted to discover from Mary Lumsden of Mill Street books that Jill lives in Carleton Place and would be presenting a talk about her book and career at the Almonte library today.
It was as engrossing and sometimes harrowing as I expected. A skilled speaker, Jill painted a vivid picture of her unusual career, illustrated with photos and video clips of her explorations around the planet. An especially compelling part described her role on the first team to explore the cave systems inside a massive Antarctic iceberg — which disintegrated soon after they made their difficult journey out of it.
She said she’s far from fearless in her underwater explorations. “That’s the number one question I get: aren’t you afraid? I’m not fearless, I’m scared all the time. I just understand that I need to rationally sort through all the things that can go wrong in order to move forward. I hope people take away from my life and my book that sometimes you need to step towards the ‘virtual cave’ in your own life, something that scares you.”
Jill’s book and career have clearly made fans—people drove from Toronto and New York state to hear her speak in Almonte today.
Into the Planet is available at Mill Street Books.