Jill Heinerth is a Canadian cave diver, underwater explorer, writer, photographer and film-maker. She has made TV series for PBS, National Geographic Channel and the BBC; consulted on movies for directors including James Cameron; written several books and produced documentaries including We Are Water.
At an early age Jill was inspired by Jacques Cousteau’s television series. In 5th grade she gave a Science Fair project about mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle. She studied at York University and attained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications. After graduation she ran a small graphic design agency in Toronto while teaching scuba in Lake Huron’s port of Tobermory in the evenings. In 1991 she moved to the Cayman Islands to dive full-time, and developed her skills in underwater photography. She then moved to Florida to learn cave diving, where she was mentored by documentary filmmaker Wes Skiles.
In 1998, Jill was part of the team that made the first 3D map of an underwater cave. Shortly after, she became the first person to dive the ice caves of Antarctica. In 2001, she was part of a team that explored ice caves of icebergs, where she and her then husband Paul Heinerth “discovered wondrous life and magical vistas” and experienced the calving of an iceberg, documented in the film Ice Island.
Jill Heinerth was awarded the inaugural Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society in 2013 in recognition of her contributions to our understanding of Earth’s underwater cave systems and its hidden freshwater. Her “We Are Water” project, which includes a documentary by the same title and free educational resources, works to improve water literacy by highlighting the risks facing freshwater supplies everywhere. “I am swimming in the lifeblood of our planet,” says Heinerth. “I am swimming in your drinking water. We all need to know how we can protect it for future generations.”
Listen to Jill talk about her explorations.