I do one of the world’s most dangerous jobs – even though I’ve lost lots of colleagues


‘Most people look into the darkness of a cave and see only terrifying blackness. I see an unexplored world of possibilities.’

So says Canadian Jill Heinerth, a cave diver for 30 years, in fascinating new book Adventuress: Women Exploring the Wild (£39.99/$55, Prestel), a tome that profiles 20 ‘extraordinary’ women ‘with a deep desire for adventure’.

Jill, a filmmaker and photographer, acknowledges that her job is said to be the most dangerous in the world and that one mistake could cost her her life.

But ‘despite the risks’, underwater caves ‘represent the ultimate challenge’ for Jill and ‘leave her feeling like a kid in a candy store’.

She writes: ‘People look at my work and suggest that documenting the world of underwater caves might be the most dangerous job in existence.

'Most people look into the darkness of a cave and see only terrifying blackness. I see an unexplored world of possibilities.' So says Canadian Jill Heinerth (above), a cave diver for 30 years, in fascinating new book Adventuress: Women Exploring the Wild. Above: Jill slips through a narrow gap wearing a special life support device called a rebreather

‘Most people look into the darkness of a cave and see only terrifying blackness. I see an unexplored world of possibilities.’ So says Canadian Jill Heinerth (above), a cave diver for 30 years, in fascinating new book Adventuress: Women Exploring the Wild. Above: Jill slips through a narrow gap wearing a special life support device called a rebreather

Jill, a filmmaker and photographer, acknowledges that her job is said to be the most dangerous in the world and that one mistake could cost her her life. She's pictured above in a cave in Abaco in The Bahamas

Jill, a filmmaker and photographer, acknowledges that her job is said to be the most dangerous in the world and that one mistake could cost her her life. She’s pictured above in a cave in Abaco in The Bahamas

‘I have been burdened with the grief of countless colleagues’ deaths, some of whom made unwise choices in the blackness of underwater cave systems.

‘Their names have been added to a long list of divers who ran out of air, got lost in a labyrinth, or pressed too far into new exploration before turning back.

‘[But] to a filmmaker and photographer, underwater caves represent the ultimate challenge: I create art while monitoring delicate life support equipment at task loads that take my mind and body to the limit. Despite the risk, I’m like a kid in a candy store, working with biologists discovering new species, physicists tracking climate change, and hydrogeologists examining our finite freshwater reserves. Probing the underground pathways of the planet.

‘With training, preparation, and dedication to proper safety procedures, I have maintained a career of nearly 30 years of exploration and science. It would be arrogant to say that I will never make a mistake or poor choice that could ultimately cost me my life, but I believe that following the ultimate rule for survivors can help. Be willing to assume risk. Be ready to push the razor’s edge of possibility. Be bold and confident in whatever you take on in life.’

Jill (above) says: 'Be willing to assume risk. Be ready to push the razor's edge of possibility. Be bold and confident in whatever you take on in life'

Jill (above) says: ‘Be willing to assume risk. Be ready to push the razor’s edge of possibility. Be bold and confident in whatever you take on in life’

Jill is pictured here at Florida¿s Ginnie Springs. She reveals: 'I've lived near here for more than a decade, making hundreds of dives into the caves onsite'

A cave called 'The Pit' in Mexico¿s Yucata

LEFT: Jill is pictured here at Florida’s Ginnie Springs. She reveals: ‘I’ve lived near here for more than a decade, making hundreds of dives into the caves onsite.’ RIGHT: A cave called ‘The Pit’ in Mexico’s Yucata

The Explorers Club Fellow, who has dived everywhere from Egypt to the Antarctic and Mexico, explains how she stays alive.

She writes: ‘When trapped in a claustrophobic cave underwater in the darkness of a total silt-out, I must summon the calmness necessary to make the next best step towards survival.

‘If a rock has me pinned, I use logic to figure out how to free myself. If the safety guideline breaks, I methodically deploy my cave diver’s reel and patch the broken guideline.

‘I must do all of these things in the absence of panic. Every breath I take has to be measured and calm. I must keep my heart rate low and focus on the next best course of action.

Jill peers into an unusual waterhole in a hyper-saline lake in Egypt. She says: 'With training, preparation, and dedication to proper safety procedures, I have maintained a career of nearly 30 years of exploration and science'

Jill peers into an unusual waterhole in a hyper-saline lake in Egypt. She says: ‘With training, preparation, and dedication to proper safety procedures, I have maintained a career of nearly 30 years of exploration and science’

‘Unchecked emotions won’t serve me in this life-threatening situation. They will only distract me from success and use up precious air.

‘[And] when the hair stands up on your neck, alerting you to danger ahead, you must be willing to let go. As you reach for the tempting summit of the mountain or the new exploration in a virgin cave, remember you also have to get home safely.

‘Knowing when to turn back is as essential as embracing fear.’

Adventuress: Women Exploring the Wild by Carolina Amell (Prestel) is out now, priced £39.99/$55

Adventuress: Women Exploring the Wild by Carolina Amell (Prestel) is out now, priced £39.99/$55



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