“I swim through this dark world, to show people who can’t” states Jill Heinerth, by Rosemary E.Lunn

Jill Heinerth had a pretty cool start to 2017. On 10th January I reported that she was to receive the ‘Sports and Education’ NOGI.

The NOGI Awards are acknowledged as the oldest and most prestigious in the diving industry, yet they are probably the least well known. There are five categories: arts, distinguished service, environment, science and sports & education. The recipients are a select group of divers and visionaries who rank top in their fields.

Fellows include author Clive Cussler, NOAA’s first female scientist Dr Sylvia Earle, fish geek (ichthyologist), tech CCR expert Dr Richard Pyle and decompression researcher Dr Richard Vann.

On Thursday 2 November 2017 I was in the audience when Jill Heinerth was inducted into the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences at the DEMA Show.

 

Phil Nuytten, Chairman of the AUAS presented Jill with her NOGI Award

On International Women’s Day it seemed a good time to share Jill’s acceptance speech.

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I stand before you this evening because of the power of mentoring. There are some people that mentored me directly and others who provided great role model examples of what I could become if I worked hard and dedicated all my passion to my work. When we see positive illustrations of our own desired destiny, then the possibilities for us are truly limitless. I look into the room this evening and see examples of the next leaders in diving scholarship, government, communication and activism. Stefanie Martina who you just met. Gemma Smith, Renata Rojas, Jessica Keller and others who you will undoubtedly learn about sooner than later.

Organizations like the AUAS, WDHOF, OWU Scholarship Society, DEMA and others hold the future of the underwater industry in their hands by nurturing tomorrow’s leadership – lifting up the next generation to rise above anything we have been able to accomplish. The future of the underwater environment and the future of the diving industry, lie in personal capital, in the pursuits, ideals and role model behaviors of individuals applying themselves toward a united and cohesive future that relies on the veracity of science, exploration and discovery.

Jill Heinerth surfacing after a dive at Ginnie Springs, Florida. Photo credit: Rosemary E Lunn / The Underwater Marketing Company

As a child, I wanted to be an astronaut. But as a young girl growing up in Canada, the opportunity didn’t exist for me. So instead of floating in outer space, I chose to swim into the planet.

I swim through the veins of Mother Earth. In the doorways of our world, I find peace. Respite from the clanging, distracting earth above me.

On land I am heavy but here in my element I can fly. With the incredible lightness of being… free.

In this place void of light there is revelation. Each new tunnel offering access to something never seen.

Remote and forbidden, yet here I am fully engaged. Without challenge, without exploration, we are dead. And if we do not face fear of the darkness, it will chase us into submission.

I swim through this sanctuary. Sometimes through graves of my friends. Feeling only their joy in a life fully lived.

I swim through the pulsing, turquoise life of our planet. Because the future is revealed here, beneath your feet.

Where all that we have wrought upon the land. Will be returned to us to drink.

I swim through this dark world. To show people who can’t. That nothing is impossible. And nothing is out of bounds for women or elders or anyone that has the curiosity to drive them onward.

I swim through the womb of this planet. To give birth to images and ideas. To share her wonders and her hardships.

And whether you visit it or not, this sacred realm should be your sanctuary too. Because the flesh of this earth soaks up all that you give it. Springs will nourish your rivers or carry your pollution. This underworld sanctuary can offer a wellspring of life or create a harbour of decline.

As society seeks answers on distant worlds, we must also journey within. The beating heart of the water planet is beckoning all of us. Look within her. Look within yourself. Find a world of great potential. Find a world worth nurturing.

Thank you to my many mentors and colleagues that are here tonight and thank you to the Academy for cultivating the community and preserving the underwater world we hold so dear.

Thanks to Jill Heinerth for allowing Rosemary E. Lunn to share her inspiring words