Suunto ambassador Jill Heinerth has been named the first Explorer in Residence of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, we’ve spoken to her to find out what’s involved in this new role.
Jill speaking about her new role in Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto (Header image: ©Cas Dobbin 2016)
Canadian cave diver Jill is well known for exploring little known places across the globe, and this makes her the perfect person to take up this new role. Read what she has to say about what she’ll be doing as Explorer in Residence.
So, what does becoming Canada’s first Explorer in Residence mean for you?
This appointment is a bit of a "girl's dream come true" story. The dream of a little girl who was told that nothing was impossible. The dream of a young Girl Guide who was taught how to live in balance with her world. The dream of a woman who discovered that doing what you love nets far greater gains than can be measured by a paycheck. It is certainly validation for a lifetime of hard work as well as an opportunity to reach out to more people with a message about exploration, discovery and conservation of our natural world.
It must feel pretty great, right?
I am incredibly honored to be recognised in my home country and given the vote of confidence that I can carry a great message, especially to young people pursuing new and interesting careers.
Deck gun on the SS Lord Strathcona, Bell Island Newfoundland. Photo: Jill Heinerth, IntoThePlanet.com
How did you end up being given this new role?
In 2013, I was awarded the first ever gold medal for exploration given in Canada; The Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration, awarded by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, but this appointment was a complete surprise. I literally received a phone call while standing by the edge of spring in my drysuit. "Would I accept the appointment and help the society define the program for the future?" Needless to say, my waiting students were pretty surprised to see me jumping around in excitement on the cell phone in the middle of the woods.
What does the role involve?
I have two key goals. First, I want to reach deep into the educational system to inspire young people to explore…. both in person and through modern online outreach opportunities. I want today’s youth to understand that the world is at their fingertips through a connected global community. I want young people to recognise that they can make bold moves creating new careers and initiatives to solve emerging problems that are important to them. I want them to know that anything is made possible through diligence and teamwork.
Secondly, I want to share my adventures to help nurture a better connection between Canadians and their water resources. I want us all to celebrate and protect the summer arrival of humpback whales feeding on swarms of capelin in Newfoundland. I want to inspire parents to take their kids to Lake Winnipeg to play, so they will want to keep safe the vast watershed it serves. I want our citizens to learn from our First Nations fore-bearers about how to live in better harmony with our natural resources. I want to help my fellow Canadians understand that everything we do to the surface of our land will be returned to us to drink. I want to us to fully embrace how water flows into and out of our lives.
As a female explorer, do you think it’s important to inspire women and girls to get outside?
As someone who was often searching for female role models in life, I realise that is a really important part of this appointment. I try to answer every email and take time with everyone that has a question. I recognise that even a single interaction and affirmation for a young woman can change her life and if I can help even one person find their direction, then that will be worth all the hard work!
For women, or girls, nervous about getting into the water, or even out exploring on land, what would you tell them?
I would like everyone to know that when we push the bounds of comfort, we will have great revelations in life. Being scared means that you still maintain a certain respect for your safety. That is important. But doing something a little outside your comfort zone will help you break barriers that might have contained your potential.
Jill meeting with kids on Bell Island Newfoundland
What will be your first adventure under your new title?
I am currently working with the society on their Expedition of the Year uncovering the Hidden Geography of Bell Island, Newfoundland. I am documenting the shipwrecks and exploring the mine in order to create a visual archive that will be granted to the Bell Island Historical Society so that they can improve education and tourism outreach initiatives.
What projects have you got planned for the coming months?
In the coming months, I will be shooting two National geographic projects in Mexico and the Bahamas. The first involves 3D capture of archaeological finds and the second involves documenting caves for a National Geographic TV special about the strange geological finds in underwater caves.