Question: What do you do as National Geographic's explorer-in-residence?
Sylvia Earle: As explorer in residence at the National Geographic I have license to play. I have a relatively long leash to be able to do what the title suggests, go explore. It’s really great to have the backing of that institution. They give me a little nest in Washington D.C. and the support to go out and put together expeditions, to find the resources, to do what I try to do best, that is to explore, research, understand and take care of the ocean, especially the wild, natural parts of the sea.
Question: How does the undersea world relate to our life on land?
Sylvia Earle: People have been exploring
from the surface
for as long as people have been getting to the ocean, but getting into
ocean is still tricky business and it’s only in very recent times that
had the technology that can take us more than as deep as you can go
your breath. Perhaps some people
did that centuries ago, but to actually go down and stay awhile, to be
go to 1,000 feet, 10,000 feet, ultimately the full ocean depth, that
than we carry around with us in our skin.
You need to have technology as a partner. Why,
because that is where the action is. That is
where most of life on earth
is. That is where most of the
water is. 97% of Earth’s water is
ocean. Without the ocean, without
water Earth would be much like Mars, a bleak, barren, inhospitable place
the likes of us and the rest of life on Earth as well. I
somehow understood this from an early
stage imagining first of all what does the ocean… what is the ocean and
what would it be like without the ocean?
One thing that we didn’t know when I first began exploring was
extensive the mountains and valleys or even life itself is in the sea,
discovery of mountain ranges, of plate tectonics, the processes that
movement of continents that shape the character of oceans. Oceans come and go over long periods of
time. Those things have only come
into focus during the 20th century, mostly during the latter part of the
century and so far we have only seen about well 5% of the ocean. It’s a huge part of the solar system,
this planet that has not been looked at even once let alone put on the
sheet with respect to understanding how the world works and why we need
care of the ocean.
Recorded April 14th, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen