#138: Underwater Explorer Jill Heinerth On Assessing Risk & Facing Fear


Not many people have the courage to go swimming in the ocean, even fewer are brave enough to dive into its depths for science. Today’s guest, Jill Heinerth is an underwater explorer, filmmaker, author, and avid speaker regarding the conservation of water and the planet. She has led hundreds of expeditions that have advanced scientific and geographic knowledge of the ocean.

Jill is an incredible woman who braves life or death situations in order to educate, motivate and further climate conservation on our planet. She was the first person to explore the inside of iceberg caves, and she has detailed her work on National Geographic, BBC, and the Discovery Channel.

On today’s episode, Jill discusses her adventurous life, the risks involved and the lessons she has learnt along the way. She also details the importance of climate conservation and education, so people will begin to work towards bettering the environment.

Show Notes

Jill joins the podcast by explaining how she became involved in diving. [2:23]

The beginning of Jill’s career in diving in her early twenties is explained. [5:30]

Scientific aspects of diving and the diving industry terms are detailed. [7:59|

Jill talks about the difference between underwater cave systems and their above-ground counterparts. [9:54]

The link between genetic gene 7R and pursual of dangerous activities in humanity is discussed. [10:48]

Jill explains what she thinks the big problems are regarding water and climate protection and what people need to do about it. [12:44]

The lessons that Jill has learned in her life are highlighted through her unique life or death stories. [14:31]

Solving big world issues, the international focus of Jill’s educational work, and the importance of moving in the right direction for the planet is discussed. [22:42]

Jill speaks about her movement into television and new ventures. [24:42]

The details regarding the first expedition of a diver into an Iceberg and the journey to that point are given.  [26:42]

Jill explains how she and her husband cope with the dangers of her job. [30:22]

Aspects of identity and the link to living a life of adventure is discussed. [33:35]

Jill explains the challenges involved in water literacy and what steps people can do to help. [34:28]

The importance of sparking curiosity in children and how Jill incorporates that into her work is detailed. [41:39]

The episode comes to a close with Jill talking about the unexplored aspects of the sea, and the potential to find new species. [43:49]


“The earth is 70% water; my body is 70% water and we’re all kind of intertwined in this dance of life” [3:02-3:08]

“I’ve always been curious and wanted to explore, but I’m scared everyday. That’s human, that’s normal, and I want to dive with people that are scared because it means we understand risk and we care about the outcomes. So, fear is fine.” [6:49-7:04]

“I have to have a really good sense of risk because I’ve lost over 100 friends and colleagues to diving accidents throughout the course of my career and that’s pretty hard to take. Those are my friends and I have to learn from each one of those errors.” [11:39-11:59]

“I think that maybe we get a little further with hope than despair.” [23:57-24:06]

“The ocean begins beneath your feet, no matter where you live on this planet. The water, and whatever contamination is in it, soaks into the ground and then is transported through the ground” [34:38-34:50]

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