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Sylvia Earle

Sylvia Earle is a name of many achievements. It is a name that is synonymous with “Her Deepness”, “the Living Legend” and “the First Hero for the Planet”, to name a few. But as humble as she is heroic, she is not one to be preoccupied with material wealth or apparent fame. Coined as the true ambassador of our world’s oceans, Sylvia is an oceanographer, explorer, author and a lecturer with an insatiable passion for underwater exploration and marine conservation. As of today, she has already led more than 70 expeditions worldwide and logged more than 7,000 hours underwater. Adding to her list of accomplishments, Sylvia has authored more than 150 publications including Sea Change: A Message of the Oceans and Ocean: An Illustrated Atlas, and currently holds the record for a solo dive to an astonishing depth of 1,005 metres into the deep blue. No small feat. She is now 75 years old.

Born in Gibbstown, New Jersey, Sylvia kindled her voracious love for the ocean from an early age. In 1948, her family moved to Dunedin, Florida, on a bay of the Gulf of Mexico, where she attempted her first dive at 16. The rest is history. After securing a Bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and a Master’s degree from Duke University tightly under her belt in 1955 and 1956 respectively, she soon began her doctoral work investigating algae. Her doctoral dissertation, entitled “Phaeophyta of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico”, was the driver behind her blossoming career. Her research findings led other researchers in her field to further explore significant changes in flora and fauna in the waters of the Gulf. Moreover, Sylvia was one of the very first few researchers in marine science to adopt scuba equipment in her studies, a remarkable achievement in that age of time.

Through boundless dedication and sheer commitment, Sylvia’s end of the road to recognition was shortly in sight. At 33, she made history when she partook in the Man-in-the-Sea Project in the Bahamas and descended into the ocean in a submersible called the Deep Diver. Not to mention, she was four months pregnant at that time. Sylvia then became the first woman scientist to ever peer through the porthole of a lockout submersible deep underwater.

In 1970, during the same time astronauts first set foot on the moon, Sylvia moved to California where she became part of the Navy’s Tektite Project, jointly funded by the U.S. Navy and  NASA. The project saw her leading the first team of all-female aquanauts on a two-week mission literally living in an underwater laboratory 50 feet under the surface off the Virgin Islands. The idea of five women living underwater caught the imaginations of people and took the media by storm, making headlines all over the world. L.A. Times newspaper named her “Woman of the Year” for her devotion to the study of aquatic life. But recognition was furthest in her mind. The Tektite expedition only confirmed Sylvia’s fears about the effects of man-made pollutants and ocean warming on the delicate marine ecosystems.

Almost a decade later, Sylvia carved an opportunity for herself to put her footprints on the ocean bed. Six miles off shore and 381 metres down – 10 times deeper than with traditional scuba gear – Sylvia set yet another record for the deepest dive without a cable to the surface in one of her “favourite bathing suits”, an open-ocean submersible metal suit called Jim. The experience fuelled her to initiate three companies and a non-profit organisation called Deep Search to dedicate in designing and building more systems that could eventually access even the deepest of oceans. To date, Sylvia has been in about 30 different kinds of submarines, as she continues to fearlessly push the boundaries of what humans can do in the deep blue.

Following her experience with the Jim Suit, Sylvia started a new corporation, Deep Ocean Engineering, Inc., with British engineer Graham Hawkes in 1981. A leap beyond scuba and the Jim Dive, the pair developed a more powerful mini submarine called Deep Rover. In 1985, Sylvia took a plunge in the new submersible vehicle to another record-breaking depth – the deepest solo dive at 1005 metres deep. At present, the technology soared to even greater heights, with the ability to now dive up to 6000 metres, a little more than half the depth of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans.

On the presentation night for the 2009 TED Prize, Sylvia spoke to those present. She told them that they could do anything to this world, that tomorrow’s future depends upon today’s  resolution. She even borrowed the words of poet, W.H. Auden, who said, “Thousands have lived without love, none without water.” The audience remained silent, in agreement. “No blue, no green. If you think the ocean isn’t important, imagine Earth without it. Mars comes to mind. No ocean, no life support system,” she said with the highest of confidence in the same breath. Not once she flinched. Sylvia won the TED Prize that year, a prestigious honour that finally fulfilled her lifelong wish:

“I wish you would use all means at your disposal – films! Expeditions! The web! More! – to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.” – Sylvia Earle.

A million dollar grant from the Planet Heritage Foundation at TED2009 soon breathed life into Mission Blue, a project that exists to salvage what’s left of the earth’s oceans by managing and creating new marine protected areas, otherwise known as “hope spots”. In April 2010, her collaborative efforts with TED have attracted a spectacular group of over 100 esteemed guests and 25 luminary speakers to participate in the Mission Blue Voyage campaign that took place in the Galapagos Islands. US$17 million was raised from this project. Even at 75, Sylvia is still far from retiring.

As Sylvia tells it in an interview with KQED, “This is a pivotal time in history and the key goes back to understanding and knowing. The next 10 years could be the most important and I think they are the most important. In the next 10,000 years. It’s this critical window when we could see the consequences of our actions. We have the power; it’s within our grasp. But it’s not going to be that way if we continue business as usual because the trends we have already set in motion will continue. Everyday that passes it gets harder. So let’s get busy, let’s hurry whilst we still have time. This is the time.”


Craig Leeson is an award-winning journalist, television presenter and filmmaker. His debut cinematic feature film, “A Plastic Ocean”, which he wrote, directed and executive produced, was ranked number one documentary on iTunes in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada and is listed globally on Netflix with the backing of Leonardo DiCaprio. Craig is the CEO of Leeson Media International and Ocean Vista Films and founder of the I Shot Hong Kong Film Festival. He is a television news correspondent, presenter, MC and public speaker. He began his career as a newspaper journalist before moving to radio and television as a news correspondent and anchor for ABC TV Australia. Craig has worked with the world’s major broadcasters including BBC, CNN, Bloomberg, PBS, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Bio Channel, Universal, Al Jazeera and the Seven Network. He began his documentary filmmaking career in 1999 and has won the Asia TV Awards for “Rebel Impasse” on the Maoist rebels of Nepal, “Marco Polo: The China Mystery Revealed” (National Geographic Channel) and a New York Festivals medal for Best International Affairs Documentary on “The fall of President Suharto”. "A Plastic Ocean" was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2016 Raindance Film Festival. He has produced and directed NGC’s top Asia television programmes and projects including The Making Of A Gala, GeoWatch Asia, the Top 30 Countdown for NGC’s 10th anniversary special and Earth Day promos shot in multiple countries. He produced and directed Asia’s first extreme sports television series - the Action Asia Challenge – and screened it on two networks simultaneously, NGCI and ESPN. He is the first film director to stage a fashion show at the UN headquarters in Geneva. He is committed to charity work, producing successful fundraising films for Room To Read, Operation Smile, The Sovereign Art Foundation and FilmAid. From Tasmania, Craig is a passionate oceans explorer, adventurer, surfer and diver. He also plays guitar in a published rock band. He is the fourth generation journalist in his family.

Kristin Hoffmann

Starting at the age of 4, ethereal renaissance songstress, and Juilliard trained multi-instrumentalist, Kristin Hoffmann began building a prolific career in music. She studied opera with acclaimed teachers Lorraine Nubar and Zehava Gal and composition with Rob Mathes and Behzad Ranjbaran.  With a particular interest in French art songs, Kristin spent a summer honing the craft at Académie Internationale d'été de Nice.  In addition to stints at major record labels, Capitol and Interscope Records, and song placements on hit TV shows like Dawson’s Creek and Palmetto Pointe, she has shared stages with The Wallflowers, Feist, Brandi Carlile, Richie Havens and many other musical luminaries. With a strong sense of artistic altruism, she is most passionate about projects that explore music’s healing power and allow listeners to tap into their higher potentials.

Having studied with French Sound Healing pioneer Fabian Maman, Hoffmann not only made music to accompany acupuncture sessions but also composed 170 songs for health-challenged children as a writer/producer at non-profit organization Songs of Love. A spokesperson for ocean conservation, she has performed her Song for the Ocean at environmental awareness conventions and concerts around the world, including TEDxSF, Bioneers, Hermanus Whale Festival (South Africa) and with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London. Song for the Ocean was most recently performed at The Sydney Opera House in August 2016.  In 2011 she became the singer for Bella Gaia, a multimedia immersive theater experience created in conjunction with NASA. Over the past 2 years she has continued to expand her worldly voice, guest blogging for many well-respected magazines, from Elephant Journal to The Ecologist, and performing at The Conscious Life Expo (LA), the signing of The Fuji Declaration (Mt. Fuji) and The Emoto Peace Project concert in Tokyo.  In 2014, Kristin was invited to become the youngest member on the board of FIONS (Friends of Institute of Noetic Sciences).  In early 2016, she was voted onto the board of Gandhi Global Center for Peace and was also a new inductee into the acclaimed group Evolutionary Leaders.  Her most recent work includes a self-produced album entitled The Human Compass, a symphonic collaboration with composer Marco Missinato called Unfolding Secrets: A Symphony of the Heart, and the brand new release of the meditational film, “Amazing Space,” for which Kristin composed and produced the soundtrack.  In October 2015, Kristin began a new monthly musical blog with Gandhi’s BE Magazine, called “BE~Cause: Music with a Message,” and has been creating a new song every month focused around important worldly issues and themes. 

For more information, go to kristinhoffmann.com

Michael AW – Founder of Festival

Michael AW is a wildlife photographer, explorer and a conservationist. He has authored of 35 books of the ocean. His accolades include winning more than 65 international photographic awards and were named as one of the world’s most influential nature photographers by Outdoor Photography. Michael AW’s essays and pictures have been published in BBC Wildlife, GEO, National Geographic, the Smithsonian, Nature, Ocean Geographic, Asian Geographic, Nature Focus, Times, and Discovery to name but a few. From 2010 to 2016 Michael was the project director for the Elysium Epic expedition to the Antarctic and Arctic with 66 team members comprise the world’s best image makers and scientists, to document the flora and fauna for a movie and climate change index of the Arctic from Svalbard, Greenland to Iceland.  

He is recipient of four awards from the Natural History Museum Wildlife Photographer of the Year Wildlife Competition in 2000, 2010 and in 2006 and 2015 he was the Winner award for the underwater category. In 2013 he was awarded the NOGI AWARD for Arts and inducted into the American Academy of Underwater Arts and Science.

In 2012, Michael’s ‘Indonesia’s Global Treasures’ won the International Prize for Best Book of the Year at the World Underwater Pictures Festival (Festival Mondial de l'Image Sous Marine). This artistic book category yielded entries from a host of international authors and photographers including books published by media powerhouses from UK, Germany, Singapore, USA and France. “Global Treasures” received the Palme d'Or (Gold) award.  Michael is the first to have won this prestigious award twice; the first was for “Heart of the Ocean” in 2009.

In 2010 he won the the prestigious Gold Diver award for the highly contested Portfolio category at the World Festival of Underwater Pictures in France. This is the first time an Asian has won this category. In 2008 Stan Waterman conferred Michael with the Peter Benchley Shark Conservation Award from Sharks Research Institute in recognition of his highly-effective and unrelenting campaign against shark fin soup consumption in the Asia Pacific region. Michael is also a recipient of the prestigious WYLAND ICON award for Conservation in 2011 and in 2012 he was presented the Diver of the Year Award at the Beneath the Sea Festival in New Jersey. In 1999, he led a team of 44 for the world’s first 24 hour documentation of a submerged reef, Maaya Thila in the Maldives.  The documentary “24Hours Beneath the Rainbow Sea” was produced for the National Geographic channel and the book of the same title was published in 2000.

Michael remains today, an active member of the Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers and a Fellow International of The Explorer Club NY. Some of the most prominent Fellows are Sir Edmund Hillary, Roald Amundsen, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, David Doubilet, Emory Kristof, Stan Waterman and Sylvia Earle. 
In 2015 Michael was the project director for the Elysium Artists for the Arctic expedition with 65 team members comprising the world’s best image makers and scientists, to document the flora and fauna for a movie and climate change index of the Arctic from Svalbard, Greenland to Iceland.

Michael AW is the founder of OceanNEnvironment, a charity organization registered with Environment Australia, Asian Geographic and Ocean Geographic

Alex Rose

Alex Rose holds a B.S. in Biology, a M.S. in Aquatic Biology, and has a wide variety of experience in the biological sciences including, but not limited to, bioacoustics research, exhibit construction, science writing, teaching, public presentation, and aquatic animal husbandry and breeding. Alex is also a professional violinist, photographer, PADI Divemaster, and lover of all things aquatic. Her driving goal is to find ways to protect our world’s precious marine habitats through diving, writing, education, and research.

David Doubilet

One of the world’s leading underwater photographers, David Doubilet has shot more than 60 stories for National Geographic magazine since 1972. Doubilet’s undersea reporting has taken him to the Red Sea, Pearl Harbor, the South Pacific and beyond. He has captured groundbreaking images of great white sharks, flashlight fish, shark-repelling flounders, creatures of the undersea desert, fluorescent coral, WW II wrecks and much more. A consummate artist, award-winning photographer David Doubilet began photographing underwater environments at the age of 12 in the cold, green seas off the northern New Jersey coast. He used a Brownie Hawkeye camera wrapped in a clear plastic bag, and he’s been behind the lens ever since.

Doubilet’s first work for National Geographic Magazine was published in 1972. Since then, as a Contract Photographer for NGM, he has produced over sixty stories for the magazine, in recent years adding author to his credit line of photographer. His warm-water work has taken him throughout Indonesia, Micronesia, Australia and New Guinea in the Pacific; Sri Lanka and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean; and all over the Caribbean. The Red Sea, his favorite “underwater studio”, has produced at least ten different stories for the magazine. Cold-water work has immersed him off the coast of England; in Scotland’s Loch Ness, the Okavango in Africa; into the teeming waters of the Galapagos; around the mysterious shores of Japan; and deep in Canada’s Northwest Pacific. He has also worked off the entire eastern coast of the United States -- from Maine to the Florida Keys -- and California. Doubilet’s photography has won many prizes including in 1969 the prestigious “Sara Prize and International Award” given by Mondo Sommerso Magazine in Italy. He was the first American and the youngest person to win this award. In 1975 he was named “Diver of the Year” by the Boston Sea Rovers, one of the diving world’s most honorable organizations.

He has also received several honourable mentions by the National Press Photographer’s Association over the last decade. In 1993 he was honoured in France by winning first place trophy in the Professional Category of an international contest sponsored by C.M.A.S. (World Underwater Federation); and by appearing as Guest of Honour at the 20th World Festival of Underwater Photography in Cap D’Antibes. Although most of Doubilet’s photographic time is spent working for the National Geographic Society and its diverse publications, his work has also appeared worldwide in other magazines and books. His commercial work includes several ad campaigns for clients such as Kodak, Fa Soap, Vitaspa, Seagrams, and Microsoft. He did the still photography for two films -- THE DEEP and SPLASH. A popular speaker and instructor, Doubilet has appeared on the “Today Show” on NBC-TV and is in demand for his lectures and slide shows at universities, underwater film festivals and clubs (the Explorer’s Club and the Harvard Club both in NYC) around the world. About his work for National Geographic, Doubilet says, “My job description is to make a picture of a place no one has ever seen before...or to make a picture that’s different of a place that everybody’s seen before.”

Jennifer Hayes

Jennifer Hayes is a natural history writer and photographer with a background in aquatic ecology and zoology. Jen is a co-founder of Undersea Images Inc. and her words and images have appeared in numerous books and publications worldwide. Jen and David Doubilet collaborate to co-produce assignment features for numerous domestic and international publications, ad shoots, book projects and global marine conservation projects.