Why world-renowned cave diver Jill Heinerth says it's 'important to be scared'
Underwater explorer is sharing harrowing tales at local schools this month
As one of the world's best cave divers, Jill Heinerth explores the darkest and deepest parts of the globe — and even crawls into crevices no other human has ever entered.
Anybody can do this if they have the dream to chase it.- Jill Heinerth, cave diver
Heinerth recently moved to Carleton Place, Ont., and she's now sharing her stories at schools across the region as the first ever explorer-in-residence for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
"Lots of the places I've been and documented with my camera nobody else has ever seen before," she told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Monday.
"I hoped that — by doing this very publicly — that I could inspire young kids and let them know that anybody can do this if they have the dream to chase it."
Heinerth chose to explore underwater caves for a living to contribute to a better understanding of the planet — even if it's one of the world's most dangerous jobs.
One of her riskiest ventures, Heinerth said, was sifting through crevices and tunnels inside one of the largest icebergs in Antarctica — a frigid behemoth roughly the size of Jamaica.
She nearly ended up stuck inside because of a large current that flowed through the crevice she was exploring.
"Imagine yourself crawling through a room in complete darkness and having to thread your way beneath the seats and chairs, following a piece of string — with very delicate life support equipment providing you your next breath," she said.
"Cave diving is definitely not for everyone."
'I certainly have nightmares'
Despite the risks, Heinerth said she continues to push forward with her career because she believes there's still many places on the globe to be explored and discovered.
"I certainly have nightmares," Heinerth said. "I have this horrible list of over 100 close colleagues and friends that have lost their lives in diving accidents — and for many of the them, I have given the eulogies at their funerals.
"I also think about how their lives have served education. And I think about them all the time."
Visiting schools in Ontario, Quebec
Now, Heinerth is conducting three one-week tours across the country.
From April 16 to 20, she'll be visiting schools across Ontario and Quebec, recounting her journeys into the depths of icebergs, underwater caves and shipwrecks.
She'll also share photographs of several places no other human has ever seen, in the hopes of inspiring students to pursue their dreams — even if they're daunting.
"It's important to be scared," Heinerth said. "Because it means you care about the outcome of what you are doing."