Sylvia Earle is a name of many achievements. It is synonymous with “Her Deepness”, “the Living Legend” and “the First Hero for the Planet” to name but a few. But as humble as she is heroic, she is not one to be preoccupied with material wealth or apparent fame. Known as the true ambassador of our worlds' oceans, Sylvia is an oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer with an insatiable passion for underwater exploration and marine conservation. As of today, she has 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 mean feat. She is 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 a Bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and a Master’s degree from Duke University were tightly secured 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 at that 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 took part in the "Man-in-the-Sea" project in the Bahamas and descended into the ocean in a submersible called the "Deep Diver". By the way, she was four months pregnant at the time. Sylvia then became the first woman scientist to ever peer through the porthole of a lockout submersible deep underwater.
In 1970, at the same time as 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 below 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 from 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 offshore 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, dedicated to designing and building more systems that could eventually access even the deepest of oceans. To date, Sylvia has been in around 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, in 1981 Sylvia started a new corporation, Deep Ocean Engineering Inc., with British engineer Graham Hawkes. A leap beyond scuba and the 'Jim' dive, the pair developed a more powerful mini-submarine called 'Deep Rover'. In 1985, Sylvia took the plunge in the new submersible vehicle to another record-breaking depth – the deepest solo dive at 1,005 metres deep. At present, the technology has scaled even greater heights, with the ability to dive up to 6,000 metres deep, a little more than half the depth of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the worlds' 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 depended 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 did she flinch. 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 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 A. Leeson
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 ocean explorer, adventurer, surfer and diver. He also plays guitar in a published rock band. He is the fourth generation journalist in his family.
Starting at the age of four, 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 organisation 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 theatre experience created in conjunction with NASA. Over the past two 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
Howard Shaw is former Executive Director of the Singapore Environment Council (SEC). Howard graduated from Oxford Brookes University, UK in 1995, majoring in environmental biology and business administration.
Since returning to Singapore he has been actively involved in driving the environmental movement through numerous SEC and green group projects, as well as at a personal level. As a representative of Singapore’s NGO community, Howard has contributed towards shaping Singapore’s environmental policies, strategies and action plans.
During his formative days at the SEC he was responsible for the development and administration of the Singapore Environmental Achievement Award, which is Singapore’s first award scheme to recognise the efforts of local enterprises which practice pro-active environmental management. He also managed the administration of the Singapore Green Labelling Scheme and the development of new environmental labelling standards.
Howard represented the NGO community on various national committees and groups including the Singapore Accreditation Council’s Project Team for Environmental Management Systems Accreditation. He has been on: Focus Group for the National Preparatory Process leading up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002; US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement’s Environmental Review Committee; Action Plan Committees for the Singapore Green Plan 2012 (waste inimisation, clean air, nature conservation, clean water and International Environmental Relations); Singapore Manufacturer Federation’s Environment Health & Security Committee; PUB’s Water Network; Governing Board of the Singapore Packaging Agreement; Board member of the Singapore Science Centre; Public Hygiene Council. He is currently still active as Patron of the Kranji Countryside Association (KCA), and Chairman of Social Creatives, a NPO that promotes art in public areas to support a range of causes.
In April 2011 Howard joined the Halcyon Group and currently is Head of Environment, Health & Safety for Halcyon Agri Corporation Ltd., which is involved in all stages of the natural rubber supply chain, headquartered in Singapore with key assets in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Michael AW – Founder of Festival
Michael AW is a wildlife photographer, explorer and conservationist. He has authored 35 books of the ocean. His accolades include winning more than 65 international photographic awards and he was 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 expeditions to the Antarctic and Arctic. The Arctic expedition, with 66 team members comprising the world’s best image makers and scientists, documented 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 in 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 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 the Shark 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.
Michael AW is the founder of OceanNEnvironment, a charity organisation registered with Environment Australia, Asian Geographic and Ocean Geographic.
Kevin Kumala is a social entrepreneur and evangelist of all things he is passionate about. With an educational background from the fields of biology, medical and also business management, Kevin is a transformational leader possessing an animated and charismatic personality. As a status quo challenger, Kevin is a true believer that frustration is definitely the mother of invention as his entire businesses share this same particular common denominator. He is the co-founder and Chief Green Officer of an eco-technology company, Avani, embarking on a mission to cut down global plastic consumption by offering a proven integrated eco-friendly solution to replace petroleum-based disposable plastic products. Kevin Kumala is an entrepreneur and an idea seeker who is genuinely a doer, not a dreamer.
Mathieu has been shooting underwater for over 25 years, at first free-diving and subsequently on scuba. He was among the first adopters and promoters of digital technology for underwater photography, authoring the first PADI-approved digital underwater photography specialty course in the world in 2001. He went on to contribute regular columns on photography techniques to dive and photography publications. In 2004, he co-authored “An Essential Guide to Digital Underwater Photography” with Michael Aw. This was the first book entirely dedicated to the techniques associated with shooting digital underwater. The book was met with an overwhelming response and was quickly sold out, requiring an updated version to be published in 2005. Following the success of this introductory book, He went on to co-author “An Advanced Guide to Digital Underwater Photography” in 2007. He recently completed a new, comprehensive book on underwater digital photography, “Complete Digital Underwater Photography”. This is the first and currently the only interactive iBook on underwater photography. He is also a regular speaker at dive events, judge at underwater photography competition, and coach at underwater photography workshops.
Matty Smith is a UK born and bred underwater photographer who is now based in Stanwell Park, NSW. After emigrating to Australia in 2007 to further pursue his photography career, Matty fell in love with the Pacific Ocean and has now made it his permanent playground.
“Underwater photography allows me to communicate visually to the viewer the majestic feelings of scuba diving and the incredible interactions between myself and rarely seen creatures of our oceans in their natural habitat. I want to generate a compassion in people of how wonderful our seas are and how important it is to treat them with respect.”
Matty’s images have been exhibited all around the globe including the London Natural History Museum in the UK, The Louvre, Paris and the Australian Museum in Sydney. He also regularly speaks publically about his style and approach and writes for Ocean Geographic and several other magazines.
Matty has been featured in Nat Geo Traveller (Aus), Ocean Geographic, BBC Wildlife Magazine, GEO, The Washington Post and The Guardian, UK amongst many others, as well as being featured in TV appearances, The Discovery Channel and Channel 7 (Australia). He has also won over 20 international photography awards including the Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year title in 2014.
“For me, one of the most wondrous parts of any dive is the moment the water engulfs my mask as my head slips below the surface. I think it’s the suspense of the unknown, the mystery of what lies beneath, the transitional part of moving from one element to another that feels so magical and the thought of what alien creatures I might encounter.”
“I really enjoy and also feel it’s very important to show people the treasures we have in our oceans, how fragile they are and the importance of protecting them. I like to use my skills as an underwater photographer to try to amaze and educate".
Alex Rose holds a B.S. in Biology and 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. She is a professional violinist, photographer and lover of all things aquatic. She is currently working as the Science Editor and a principle writer for Ocean Geographic Magazine and is also the Managing Editor of Ocean Geographic Explorers. Alex also composes violin pieces for use in ocean themed films and exhibitions. Her driving goal is to find ways to protect our world’s precious marine habitats through diving, writing, photography, education, and research.