The Next Chapter

Why Antanas Sileika was fascinated reading this memoir of a Canadian cave diving superstar

The Next Chapter columnist reviews Into the Planet by Jill Heinerth.
Antanas Sileika is a columnist for The Next Chapter. (CBC, Doubleday Canada)

Antanas Sileika regularly appears as a columnist on The Next Chapter. He's the former director of the Humber School for Writers and he's been nominated for literary awards such as the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and the City of Toronto Book Award.

Sileika recently read Into the Planet, a memoir by Ottawa-based underwater explorer Jill Heinerth. 

A sense of exploration

"I'm an armchair kind of person and yet, strangely, I have a fascination for caves. I live not too far from the Niagara Escarpment. In my youth, we used to crawl down these cracks in the earth. They weren't really caves in the traditional sense, but they fostered a sense of exploration. I wanted to read about somebody who's doing what seems to be impossible and scary because I won't do it.

I wanted to read about somebody who's doing what seems to be impossible and scary because I won't do it.- Antanas Sileika

"Jill Heinerth came to this very specific kind of exploration in a roundabout way. She was a graphic designer and had a business that was doing very well in advertising. But she felt like she needed an adventure."

Jill Heinerth dives beneath an iceberg and discovers the animal and plant life that exists in the thin layer of fresh and sea water that surrounds the berg. 1:06

The dangerous world of deepsea diving

"She gets a little bit of diving and scuba training and begins to hang out in the Cayman Islands with other scuba divers. You see her falling into this obsession with scuba diving. After she's trained as a cave diver, she goes to central Mexico on an expedition to search for deep caves. 

She's courageous, she's remarkable and I like her a lot by the end of the book.- Antanas Sileika

"She enters this highly competitive world of divers who are looking to break records — to go deeper and to find the newest caves. She achieves being the woman who's gone the farthest underwater in a cave.

"But she also gets a bad case of the bends which is a danger for divers and is something that can kill you. Her experiences in this world change her profoundly.

"She's courageous, she's remarkable and I like her a lot by the end of the book."

Antanas Sileika's comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

Jill Heinerth has spent her life discovering depths of the planet that very few people have ever seen. The celebrated cave diver is with us in this hour, dishing out stories from her adventures and telling us how she deals with fear. 9:37


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