Malaysia Tatler - - STYLE -

Sylvia Earle, who turns 83 this year, is per­haps one of the most fa­mous and ven­er­ated marine bi­ol­o­gists in the world. In 1970, she led the first ever all-fe­male ex­pe­di­tion to live and work un­der­wa­ter. The pro­ject, called Tek­tite II, cat­a­pulted her and her fel­low aqua­nauts into the pub­lic eye, and coin­ci­den­tally kick-started her decades-long part­ner­ship with Rolex. To­day, Earle is a long-time Rolex Tes­ti­monee, a Na­tional Geo­graphic ex­plorer-in-res­i­dence (a great co­in­ci­dence since Rolex re­cently forged a part­ner­ship with Na­tional Geo­graphic), and she still fo­cuses every ounce of her en­ergy on ex­plor­ing and con­serv­ing the blue lungs of our planet. In 2009, as part of her Ted Prize, she founded Mis­sion Blue, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that seeks to gal­vanise sup­port for marine con­ser­va­tion. In par­tic­u­lar, the or­gan­i­sa­tion fo­cuses on what they call Hope Spots, ar­eas that are of vi­tal im­por­tance to the health of the ocean. The cri­te­ria for a blue space to be des­ig­nated a Hope Spot is var­ied; ei­ther be­cause the area is home to a va­ri­ety of en­dan­gered species, in need of par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to re­verse dam­age from hu­man ac­tiv­ity, or even be­cause it is of sig­nif­i­cant cul­tural value to the hu­man com­mu­nity. As we lis­ten to her speak over the three days in Cabo Pulmo, it be­comes clear that Earle is a sin­gu­larly fo­cused and de­ter­mined in­di­vid­ual, whose life mis­sion has been and will be to pro­tect and ex­plore the world be­neath the waves. Her decades of re­search and ex­plo­ration mean that she is in a unique po­si­tion to speak on the health of the ocean—not many peo­ple have lived to see the ocean in both its early ma­jes­tic glory and its cur­rent age of anx­i­ety. She re­counts her ex­pe­ri­ences, ex­press­ing grief dur­ing a re­cent visit to Tokyo’s famed Tsuk­iji fish mar­ket (“only 2.8 per cent of the bluefin tuna in the Pa­cific Ocean re­main”), joy at the me­mory of swim­ming among sharks in the 1960s (“There were as many of them as stars in the sky—it was a galaxy of sharks”), and frus­tra­tion at the hu­man in­dif­fer­ence to our im­pact on the oceans. “No species has changed the oceans more than hu­mans,” she says. “We change the na­ture of na­ture, take fish from the oceans on an in­dus­trial scale, and leave the oceans awash with plas­tics.” De­spite this, Earle re­mains op­ti­mistic and calm—if ve­he­ment. “We have more knowl­edge about the oceans to­day than ever be­fore. No­body can do ev­ery­thing, but ev­ery­body can do some­thing. Ev­ery­one makes choices in how you live life. Even do­ing noth­ing is a choice.” For Earle, the choices are clear. Af­ter all, the ocean is just as much part of our home planet as dry land. When asked whether she still dives, Earle cheek­ily replies, “Well, I’m still breath­ing!” The im­pli­ca­tion is clear. While most of us set off on a snorkelling ex­pe­di­tion equipped with life jack­ets to make sure we didn’t sink be­neath the waves,

TIME AND TIDE Now in her eight­ies, Sylvia Earle shows no signs of stay­ing high and dry. When asked if she still dives, she merely replies, “Well, I’m still breath­ing, aren’t I?”; the stretch of green desert (be­low) in Cabo Pulmo

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