Invited by Prime Minister Henry Puna, Sylvia Earle was in the Cook Islands during the Pacific Islands Forum last month. Sylvia is an oceanographer, aquanaut and author. Named by Time Magazine as the first “Hero for the Planet”, Sylvia was a research fellow or associate at Harvard University from 1967-1991 and was a chief scientist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atomospheric Administration from 1990 to 1992. Since 1998 she has been a National Geographic explorer-in-residence.
Sylvia led the first team of women aquanauts in 1970. In 1979, she made an open-ocean JIM suit dive to the sea floor near Oahu, setting a women's depth record of 381 metres (1,250 ft). She also holds the women's depth record for a solo dive in a submersible: 1,000 metres (3,300 ft).
Sylvia is an advocate of marine protection and has given scientific, technical and general interest lectures in over 60 countries.
Says Sylvia: “People ask: Why should I care about the ocean? Because the ocean is the cornerstone of earth's life support system, it shapes climate and weather. It holds most of life on earth. 97% of earth's water is there. It's the blue heart of the planet — we should take care of our heart. It's what makes life possible for us. We still have a really good chance to make things better than they are. They won't get better unless we take the action and inspire others to do the same thing. No one is without power. Everybody has the capacity to do something.”
Sylvia had dinner with the Prime Minister in Rarotonga, went SCUBA diving in Aitutaki and spent time with TIS and Nan Hauser of Cook Islands Whale Research during a whale watching tour with the Conservation International CEO and staff.