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The World’s “Best Female Underwater Explorer” Jill Heinerth Shares Her Awe-Inspiring Success Story

Jill Diving

More people have walked on the moon, than have been to some of the places that Jill’s exploration has taken her right here on the earth. From the most dangerous technical dives deep inside underwater caves, to searching for never before seen ecosystems inside giant Antarctic icebergs, to the lawless desert border area between Egypt and Libya while a civil war raged around her, Jill’s curiosity and passion about our watery planet is the driving force in her life.

Jill’s accolades include induction into the Explorer’s Club and the inaugural class of the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame. She received the Wyland ICON Award, an honor she shares with several of her underwater heroes including Jacques Cousteau, Robert Ballard and Dr. Sylvia Earle. She was named a “Living Legend” by Sport Diver Magazine and selected as Scuba Diving Magazine’s “Sea Hero of the Year 2012.”

In recognition of her lifetime achievement, Jill was awarded the inaugural Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration. Established by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2013, the medal recognizes singular achievements and the pursuit of excellence by an outstanding Canadian explorer.

Awards and Achievements

>NAUI Environmental Enrichment Award 2015
>Inducted to the College of Fellows – Royal Canadian Geographical Society 2014
>Inaugural Royal Canadian Geographical Society Medal for Exploration 2013
>Oztek Media Excellence Award for Significant Contributions to Technical and Exploration Diving – Australia 2013
>Florida Lakes Management Society’s Scott Driver Award 2013 – presented to an “activist” who has promoted the restoration, protection and/or appreciation of Florida’s aquatic resources.
>Cinema Verde Environmental Film Festival – Best of Show – We Are Water 2013
>NSS Film Salon – We Are Water – Honorable Mention 2013
>Our World Underwater – Distinguished Service Award 2013
>Scuba Diving Magazine and ORIS Watches Sea Hero of the Year Award 2012
>Boston Sea Rovers Diver of the Year 2012
>Wyland ICON Award 2011
>Conservation Award – National Association of Cave Divers 2010
>Keen Footwear – STAND Award for environmental photography with a call to action
>Real Sobriety film has won a Storyteller award from the Redemptive Film Festival and an Accolade Award


All content on this site is copyright of Women Fitness and no part of any article found on this site may be reproduced without an express permission and highlighted, do follow link crediting or preferably the original page as the source. This interview is exclusive and taken by Namita Nayyar President and should not be reproduced, copied or hosted in part or full anywhere without an express permission.

All Written Content Copyright © 2016 Women Fitness

Jill Heinerth, considered the World’s Best Female Underwater Explorer shares her ecstatic underwater journey in a candid interview with Namita Nayyar, President – Women Fitness.

Ms. Namita Nayyar: You are considered the ‘Best Female Underwater Explorer’ in the world. You are a member of the Explorers Club and have been named a “Living Legend” by Sport Diver Magazine, and also inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame. You have won the OZTek Media Award in March 2013 and in November 2013 you were awarded the first ever Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Tell us about this specatcular exploration journey that you’ve had?

Ms. Jill Heinerth: I have been very fortunate to lead a rewarding life of exploration from deep inside Antarctic iceberg caves to strange waterholes in the Sahara Desert, I have had the opportunity to see things where no person has gone before. My specialty is cave diving, and I link that to swimming inside the veins of Mother Earth. I’m exploring the lifeblood of the planet, the very essence that nourishes mankind, and all that sustains us.

Ms. Namita Nayyar: Who has been your greatest influence and motivator in your success in the field of underwater exploration and cave diving?

Ms. Jill Heinerth: Dr. Bill Stone has been a great influence for me. He developed advanced life support apparatus that has helped me go to extremely deep and remote places. As an explorer, he has encouraged and supported me through the years, never taking into account my gender, but only judging me for my talents and readiness.

Ms. Namita Nayyar: Underwater Diving is a strenuous sport. What exercises comprise your fitness regime or workout routine that help you in building your stamina?

Ms. Jill Heinerth: There are dives where I have to swim against a current on a 6km round trip carrying hundreds of pounds of gear. Truly I feel the most natural underwater when I am no longer fighting gravity. Swimming comes easy for me, but I also love cycling long distances to maintain my stamina.

Ms. Namita Nayyar: Do you take some special diet or have a strict menu that you follow to remain healthy and physically fit?

Ms. Jill Heinerth: At home, I am virtually vegan. I feel that diet has a lighter footprint on the planet and on my body. When I am on expedition, I can’t be picky. I might be eating camel in the desert or wild birds in the jungle. I have to eat what is available. I try to focus on some good protein to start the day and prefer to stay away from anything white: breads, sugar, flour, etc.


Ms. Namita Nayyar: You have made several TV series for PBS, National Geographic Channel and the BBC, consulted on movies for directors like James Cameron, written several books and produced documentaries including We Are Water and Ben’s Vortex. How has your experience been as a cinematographer, photographer and film-maker?

Ms. Jill Heinerth: My true love is bringing home interesting images from challenging places that people may not ever get to experience. I like to challenge the viewer with something new and refreshing and help them see the beauty I find in the water planet. Whether with my pen or my camera, I am a storyteller and I love telling stories about little known curiosities of culture, history and the natural world.

Ms. Namita Nayyar: Advice and motivational words to the inspiring and budding explorers who all are your fans, they shall like to know from you, what they should do for their climb to ladder of success in the field of underwater exploration and cave diving?

Ms. Jill Heinerth: Aspiring underwater explorers need to dedicate serious time and diligence to training and preparation, but the message I like to carry to everyone out there is that I believe nothing is impossible. No matter what your career or interest in life, we are all explorers. Working outside the box and trying new ideas is all part of exploration and discovery and that process will naturally include failure as well. We can only learn and move society forward by experimenting and trying out new ideas. Don’t get frustrated if your first effort is not total success. Just head back to the drawing board and continue to explore. The rewards will come when you least expect them.

Ms. Namita Nayyar: You are world leading underwater explorer, cave diver, writer, photographer, cinematographer and film-maker. How do you manage such a remarkable multi-dimensional lifestyle?

Ms. Jill Heinerth: The reality of following your dreams is that you have to create a hybrid career in order to stay diversified enough to make a living doing what you love. Today’s careers know no boundaries. You don’t have to work for someone in a tightly defined role for the rest of your life. You can do many things to make up a career. If you keep doing what you love, even if you work 18 hours a day, it won’t feel like work.

Essentially the gatekeepers are gone with today’s global media access. You don’t need anyone’s permission to write a book and self publish it. You can start a YouTube Channel on something you’re good at. You can reach the world with your ideas for a few dollars a month. You can sell your products on eBay and Etsy, freelance your talents on Fiver, sell photos, offer courses and make money doing it.


Ms. Namita Nayyar: You have explored so many vast areas around the world which not many people get to experience in their lifetime. If you had to choose your one utmost favourite destination, which one would that be and why?

Ms. Jill Heinerth: I have a couple of favorite spots. I love Antarctica and being the first person to cave dive inside an iceberg was a remarkable experience, but I also love the Pacific Northwest in Canada. In the rich emerald waters you can swim with giant octopi, get close to a gnarly wolf eel, revel in anemones the size of shrubs and marvel at the colors on a sheer wall of life. Then as you turn sideways you might see an orca, humpback whale or Pacific White Sided Dolphins in the thousands. The biomass is stunning there. Topside you can sit under a giant spruce while a grizzly bear feasts on a river of salmon. The landscape is raw and primordial and it feels like nature unspoiled.

Ms. Namita Nayyar: What are the hurdles that a woman may face if they wish to pursue underwater exploration and cave diving as a sport?

Ms. Jill Heinerth: It has not always been easy working in a field that is extremely male dominated. There are some men that feel very threatened by women in their ranks and some that will go out of their way to block your efforts. It is important to stay focused on what really matters. Work hard and out perform and then don’t be afraid to ask for the gig. There are times when I overtly said, “I want this opportunity” and was met with surprise. At times, men unknowingly exclude women from roles simply because they have never seen a woman do that job. At times I have had to jump up and down and wave my arms figuratively to get noticed. But once on the job, I have focused on the tasks at hand and doing them above expectations.

Ms. Namita Nayyar: Which destination do you wish to explore next?

Ms. Jill Heinerth: If I had the funds available, I would love to dive in the Galapagos or Cocos Island. They are truly unique places with big animal action. In terms of projects, I would like to raise funds and interests to document the shipwrecks and remains of the James Knight Expedition that perished in the Canadian Arctic. This was a historic expedition that should be properly recorded and shared for the sake of history. Finally, I want to view my big blue planet form space. I keep writing letters to Richard Branson to request a ticket on Virgin Galactic, but sadly he has not answered. I’ll keep asking though. It will certainly never happen if I don’t ask! Having the chance to photograph my water planet from space would be my ultimate dream.

Ms. Namita Nayyar: Would you like to tell us about your website Into the Planet (

Ms. Jill Heinerth: Please visit my website There is a lot of information for divers, but also for people wanting to see photos and stories from remarkable places. In the coming months, I hope you will also find a link to my memoir: “Into The Planet: A woman encounters life and death diving in underwater caves.”

Ms. Namita Nayyar: What do you wish to say about the website and message for its visitors?

Ms. Jill Heinerth: This is a great site filled with excellent resources and role models! Enjoy and stay well.

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Women Fitness Team thanks Jill Heinerth for giving us her valuable time for this interview and quenching the thirst of her fans to know more about her and making this interview happen.


All content on this site is copyright of Women Fitness and no part of any article found on this site may be reproduced without an express permission and highlighted, do follow link crediting or preferably the original page as the source. This interview is exclusive and taken by Namita Nayyar President and should not be reproduced, copied or hosted in part or full anywhere without an express permission.

All Written Content Copyright © 2016 Women Fitness

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