Sylvia Earle was born in 1935 and raised on a farm in southern New Jersey, where she developed a passionate interest in nature. When she was ten, her family moved to Clearwater, Florida, a town on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
She was fascinated by the ocean and its teeming life. Later at Florida State University, she learned to scuba dive and decided to study botany, the science of plant life. In 1964, she spent six weeks with a National Science Foundation expedition in the Indian Ocean. She also continued to catalog the marine plant life of the Gulf of Mexico, writing a detailed thesis for her Ph.D. that was widely read in the scientific community.
In 1970, Earle became a national figure when she led an all-female research team to live 50 feet below the ocean surface in a structure called Tektite II, Mission 6. Earle used this fame to make films and write articles about marine life and the damage pollution caused to the world’s oceans.
In 1979, Earle wore a pressurized “Jim suit” and walked on the ocean floor 1,250 feet below the ocean surface off the Hawaiian islands. No other person has repeated the feat.