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Known as "Her Deepness" by the New Yorker and the New York Times and a "Living Legend" by the Library of Congress, Sylvia Earle is an oceanographer, explorer, author and[…]

A young Sylvia Earle realized that some sea creatures were as interested in her as she was in them.

Question: When did you fall in love with rnthe ocean?


SylviarnEarle:I fell in love withrnthe ocean when I was just a little girl growing up along the shores.  Well not the shores exactly.  Irn was in New Jersey.  Home was on the western side rnof NewrnJersey.  The ocean is on therneastern side of New Jersey.  It wasrnabout a 40 mile trip to go back and forth, but summer vacations for the rnfamilyrnbrought me to the shore to meet the Atlantic Ocean when I was about rnthreernyears-old and I got knocked over by a wave.  The rnocean caught my attention.  It’s held my attentionrn for well ever since.  Life, life in the sea, rnthose big craggyrnhorseshoe crabs that would come up on the beach, the seaweed that had rnthat veryrndistinctive aroma, just the starfish, the whole sweep of things that yourn don’trnsee anywhere on the land.  Homernotherwise for me was on a small farm in New Jersey.  Bothrn of my parents lived on small farms as youngsters.  Southernrn New Jersey, great farmingrncountry, so I had the joy of getting to play in the woods, to explore onrn my ownrnthings that are more difficult for children to do today, but when I was rn12 thernfamily moved to Florida, then my backyard was the Gulf of Mexico, so rninstead ofrnexploring whatever kids do if they live in a city, the parks or the rnstreets orrnwhatever, I got to explore the ocean. rn


I had a faceplate, a little facemask. rn It was a special gift because thatrnenables you to see in the water without your eyes burning. rn Dolphins are lucky and so are whalesrnbecause they can easily transition from being underwater to above, but rnwhen werngo in the water, fresh water or saltwater everything looks blurry, but rnyou putrna faceplate and suddenly you can see everything with clarity and rncomfort, sornthat was my first best piece of equipment for exploring the ocean.  It was quite a while before I learnedrnabout flippers, fins that you could enhance your speed through the rnwater, butrnthat was sometime later.  I firstrnhad a chance to try breathing underwater when my older brother borrowed arncopper diving helmet in cohorts with our next-door neighbor whose fatherrn was arnsponge diver.  I was a kid sisterrnwho tagged along.  We went to thernWeeki Wachee River and we took turns. rnNo instructions, we just did it. rnWe had a compressor.  Thisrnhelmet was put on everybody’s shoulders in turn and over the side into rnthernriver.  It was exhilarating.  Irn thought that what we were there to dornwas go look at the fish underwater and I was amazed because the fish rnstartedrngathering around looking at us. rnFor me that was a big breakthrough that fish were curious... and rnthey are,rnwhich is why I suppose they go for hooks because they’re hungry maybe, rnbut alsornbecause they’re curious. 

Recorded April 14th, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen