Jill Heinerth

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Jill Heinerth

November 21, 2011 - 19:02
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Jill Heinerth, whose first job was a newspaper route in her home town of Toronto, Canada, is today a pioneer technical diver and instructor, a renowned explorer of underwater caves who owns a record for the deepest and longest cave dive, and a record for the longest dive into an Antarctic iceberg.

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Heinerth currently resides in High Springs, Florida, with her husband, Robert McCellan, who is not only her life partner but her business partner, too. He has a background in concert promotion, as a studio engineer and a Navy SeaBee combat photojournalist—all critical tools at Heinerth Productions.
 Heinerth earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications Design from York University. “It is a highly specialized and competitive four-year degree that puts out creative professionals. My advanced education is in curiosity,” she commented.

BHM: When and where did you become interested in SCUBA diving?

JH: I was a volunteer swim instructor and lifeguard at a local swimming pool when, at age 16, I got a chance to try scuba. I was hooked. I finally got certified in university. I had been wanting to do it all my life, but I had to earn the cash to take the classes. My early years in diving were in Tobermory, Canada, in the wreck capital of the Great Lakes.

BHM: Did you have a hero when you were growing up that influenced your desire to dive and explore?

JH: This may sound obvious, but I loved Jacques Cousteau’s Undersea Adventures. It was on on Sunday night, and we were permitted to have our dinner in the living room to watch the show. That was a real treat. I also thought the astronauts were pretty cool.

BHM: Diving, writing, filmmaking, photojournalism – which came first, how did you connect them and why?

JH:I had a small advertising and graphics company in Toronto and taught diving at night. The ad agency was the money. The diving was the relaxing bit. I knew I needed to find a way to bridge my two loves, so I sold the business, packed up and moved to the Cayman Islands for almost three years working as a dive instructor, guide and managing the marketing for the resort. In terms of photography, I think I have always been the person to document life and share it.

BHM: If you could switch professions, what would it be?

JH: That’s tough, because I am living my dream.

BHM: What do you do when you are not working?

JH: My husband and I have a really weird yard. We grow as much of our food as possible and built an outdoor shower, a yurt and a geodesic greenhouse. We love working on our mini-farm and yard art. We are also avid cyclists and paddlers.

BHM: What is the one thing about you that your colleagues may not know?

JH: That one thing is actually two. I am a painter and love to watch “Dancing with the Stars”. My husband loves watching, too. We watch very little TV; we don’t even have cable or satellite; we have to rely on what we can get with our antenna.

BHM: What are the greatest challenges you have faced in your career?

JH: I’ve faced numerous challenges being a woman in a man’s world. Whether it is in the field of technical diving or filmmaking, that said, the older I get, the more our world seems to embrace talent in either gender.

BHM: What are the most important attributes of a person who wants to get involved in the work you do?

JH: I think humility is the key… perhaps in all aspects of life. Tenacity is critical, too. If you have a dream, you can accomplish anything you set your sights on, but it will take tenacity and really hard work to succeed.

BHM: How do you prepare for the demands of tech-diving?

JH: In diving, fitness is ideally important and that includes physical and mental fitness. I manage to put in hundreds of dives every year, but I still focus on rehearsal and currency. I have a lot of diving toys and have to remain fresh and current before taking those toys out on a job. Then, Practice, Practice, Practice and always accept new learning opportunities.

BHM: What kind of person do you want diving on the same team as you?

JH: Open minded. Comfortable in their own skin. Versatile, creative thinkers and hard workers. ...

Originally published

on page 43

X-Ray Mag #45

October 28, 2011 - 16:44

The Red Sea: Discover Nuweiba with Charles Stirling and Taba with Peter Symes; Charles Stirling also takes us to the Canary Islands' oasis of Lanzarote; Discover the Wanli wreck with Carol Tedesco; Bonnie McKenna interviews cave diver, Jill Heinerth; Learn the do's & don't's of shark diving with Andy Murch; Educate yourself on managing narcosis with Dr Barry Fowler; How to use flash in underwater photography with Lawson Wood; Don Silcock shows us the B17 Black Jack wreck in Papua New Guinea; plus news and discoveries, equipment and training news, underwater photo and video equipment, squid news, shark tales, whale tales and much more...

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