Photo | Shaw Centre
More people have walked on the moon than have visited many of the places that Jill Heinerth has seen on Earth. From the most dangerous technical dives deep inside underwater caves, to searching for never-before-seen ecosystems inside giant Antarctic icebergs, Heinerth’s curiosity and passion about our watery planet is the driving force in her life. In her visually stunning presentations, she encourages audiences to reach beyond their limitations, challenge the unknown, and overcome their fears, while sharing practical lessons on risk management, discovery learning, failure, and collaboration.
From desert oases of the Sahara to Baffin Bay's cold waters, Heinerth has been the hands and eyes for climatologists, archaeologists, and engineers worldwide. She led the first dives into underwater caves inside Antarctica's massive B-15 iceberg and was a lead diver on a ground-breaking US Deep Caving Team project, piloting the first accurate 3D cave mapping device using tech that’s now bound for space.
Heinerth was named the first Explorer-in-Residence of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2016. She was the 2021 recipient of the Explorer’s Club Stefansson Medal for her lifetime of work in exploration. In recognition of her lifetime achievement, Heinerth also received the Wyland ICON Award, an honour she shares with several of her underwater heroes including Jacques Cousteau, Robert Ballard, and Dr. Sylvia Earle. She was also awarded the inaugural Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration, which recognizes singular achievements and the pursuit of excellence by an outstanding Canadian explorer.
A bestselling author, Heinerth’s first book Into the Planet, was lauded by the Wall Street Journal, Oprah Magazine, and the New York Times. Her children’s book, The Aquanut, is a Blue Ribbon Selection for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Heinerth is a fellow of the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, Underwater Academy of Arts and Sciences, Women Divers Hall of Fame, and the Explorers Club, which also awarded her with the William Beebe Award.