87-year-old woman has been exploring ocean floors for 70 years and doesn't want to stop: 'Why should I?'



People working corporate jobs generally aim to retire as soon as possible. Retirement plans offer people the hope that one day they can stop exhausting themselves and just live life on their terms. However, for this 87-year-old, retirement is not a goal as she has spent her life doing something she loves. Sylvia Earle is a well-known oceanographer and holds the world record for the deepest untethered walk along the seafloor. For 70 years she has been exploring ocean floors and she has no desire to ever retire from her work. She told CNN, "I’m still breathing, so why should I?" Earle is from Dunedin, Florida, and still spends her time fulfilling her curiosity about the ocean floors. "Every time I go into the water, I see things I’ve never seen before," she said.

This is especially true in the waters around Florida, where development and environmental disasters have harmed the shoreline and wildlife. Earle has seen seagrass habitats dredged and filled to make a place for coastal homes. She witnessed the impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which released 168 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico; and Caribbean monk seals, who could once be seen lazing on Florida's beaches, have become extinct in her lifetime.

Earle said, "It’s nothing like the paradise that I knew. Nature is resilient, that’s cause for hope. But we need to give nature a break, take the pressure off."

She now travels the world, telling her ocean stories and demanding environmental action at schools, UN general assemblies, and the US Congress. Earle's unwavering devotion to the ocean has won her several names, ranging from "Her Deepness" to "Queen of the Deep" to "Sturgeon General." She is recognized for breaking down barriers for women in ocean research, becoming the first female top scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 1990, and pioneering the use of submersibles for deep ocean exploration.

She told the outlet, "There was a time in the 1970s when access to the skies above and the depths below was roughly in parallel, but then the focus on aviation and aerospace took off. Until very recently, more people had been on the moon than to the deepest parts of the ocean." She thinks that by returning to the surface with information about ocean floors, humanity would comprehend the worth of life underwater and begin to treat it differently.

She said, "We measure ocean wildlife by the ton, we don’t even accord them the dignity of how many individual tunas are there. It just shows we don’t regard these as living creatures, as individuals." Although Earle feels her message is starting to get through, she believes that extending access to the deep ocean and allowing people to witness life for themselves would help to properly solidify it.

According to her daughter Liz Taylor, president, and CEO of DOER Marine, a business started by her mother in 1992 that develops submersibles, her mother's main ambition is to construct new submersibles that provide regular people direct access to the deep ocean.

Earle says, "I can, in a way, forgive a lot of the terrible things that we’ve done to the water, to the air, to the soil, and certainly to life in the sea … because we did not have the understanding." However, she says that in today's time there are so excuses to ignore the effects of our activities on the environment. She said, "We’re armed with the knowledge that did not and could not exist until right about now."




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