Sylvia Alice Earle (August 30, 1935- ) is an undersea explorer, marine biologist (specializing in botany), and author. Earle has done pioneering work in studying ocean life, and she has helped develop the equipment necessary for underwater exploration. During 50 underwater expeditions and over 6,000 hours underwater, Earle has discovered many new marine species and set many diving records. In 1970, Earle led a team of five aquanauts (underwater explorers) who lived for 2 weeks (during which they experienced an underwater earthquake) in an underwater laboratory in a U.S. government project named “Tektite II.” She has discovered many underwater phemonena, including undersea dunes in the Atlantic Ocean off the Bahama Islands.
Earle’s diving records include the world’s deepest solo dive without a tether to the surface (in 1979 off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii). She descended to 1,250 feet while strapped to the front of a submarine. She then unstrapped herself and walked around the bottom, where the pressure was 600 pounds per square inch. Earle also holds the record for the deepest women’s solo free dive (going down to 3,281 feet =1 km).
Sylvia Alice Earle was in born Gibbstown, New Jersey, USA. At age 17, Early made her first helmet dive (this was before SCUBA-type gear was available). She graduated from Florida State University (1955) and got her master’s and doctoral degrees (1966) from Duke University (North Carolina). She has since received many honorary degrees. Dr. Earle has three children and three grandchildren - she now lives in Oakland, California.
Earle was the chief scientist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from 1990 to 1991 - she was the first woman to hold this position. In 1981, Earle and Graham Hawkes (her former husband) started the company Deep Ocean Engineering, Inc., which designs and manufactures underwater robots and deep sea submersibles. Earle also founded Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Inc.
A prolific author, Earle has written more than 125 scientific and popular publications, and five books, including “Sea Change” (published in 1995), “Exploring the Deep Frontier: The Adventure of Man in the Sea” (with Al Giddings, National Geographic Society, 1980), “Dive,” “Hello Fish,” and “Sea Critters.” She also lectures extensively, both in person and on TV.