On April 20th, 2023 the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN), held their first Spring Gathering since 2019. At the sold-out event there was plenty of time for members and guests to socialize, learn about several MVFN programs at information stations set up by various MVFN committees, enjoy a wonderful AV presentation entitled “Algonquin” produced by Bill Pratt, and all while savouring dessert and drinks at the Almonte Civitan Community Hall. And the highlight was a remarkable virtual talk delivered by local cave diver/explorer/educator Jill Heinerth.
Jill is an internationally-renowned underwater explorer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker. She has made TV series, consulted on movies, written several books and is in great demand as a public speaker. Named as one of Canada’s greatest explorers of all time, Jill has gone farther into underwater caves than any other woman, was the first person to enter and film Antarctic iceberg cave ecosystems and is the recipient of many accolades and awards. Jill was the first Explorer-in-Residence named by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and has said “One of my greatest joys is working with the Education team at Canadian Geographic. Reaching out to young people with relevant, local and inspiring stories about exploration and discovery helps prepare them to be critical thinkers and good citizens.” Willing to take significant risks, Jill shares her knowledge with others so that it may have value to scientists and our broader society.
Jill began her presentation by describing a number of her expeditions, accompanied by marvelous images, including exploring underwater environments in Mexico, the Arctic, Antarctica, Micronesia, the Sahara Desert, Newfoundland, as well as diving into wells and extinct volcanoes. As a result of efforts to explore in areas where the water is murky, Jill and her team developed the world’s first accurate underwater 3-D mapping tool, with above-ground tracking technology. The device has now evolved into an autonomous tool with artificial intelligence, and which is destined to go to space to look for water. Jill continues to provide important information to historians, archeologists and scientists, among others. Most recently she has been diving in a life-filled underwater cave system in the Ottawa River where endangered mussels are making a last stand against invasive species.
Jill’s overriding message is our interconnectedness: everything we do affects someone and therefore we are all stewards of the ocean. Jill described how water we put on our land follows a route into caves, rivers, streams and estuaries, and on into gulfs and oceans. As oceans are “the lungs of the planet”, we are all responsible to protect them for future generations.
Jill was thanked for her extraordinary stories and images. She inspired us with her adventurousness, resilience, physical stamina and courage. Jill provided us with an evening to remember and exponentially expanded our appreciation of the stunning beauty and majesty of the world that exists underwater, under the planet’s surface. As MVFN members, we are committed to understanding the natural world and are very grateful to her for broadening our perspective and prompting us to think more deeply about the ways in which we impact the planet.
We look forward to seeing everyone at our next spring gathering. To find out more about becoming an MVFN member go to www.mvfn.ca