Sylvia A. Earle: 2010

World-renowned oceanographer, marine biologist, deep sea explorer and author

Sylvia Earle speaking at the America and the Sea Award GalaThe America and the Sea Award honors and celebrates those who embrace the scholarship, exploration, adventure, aesthetics, competition and freedom the sea inspires.

Sylvia A. Earle received the award Wednesday, November 3, at a gala held in her honor at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City.

The America and the Sea Award recognizes an individual or organization whose contributions to the history, arts or sciences of the sea best exemplify the American spirit and character. Previous winners have included pre-eminent yacht designer Olin J. Stephens II, respected author and historian David McCullough, President and CEO of Crowley Maritime Corporation Thomas B. Crowley, Jr. and philanthropist William I. Koch.

“Sylvia has significantly contributed to the maritime traditions that Mystic Seaport was founded to cherish, preserve and share,” said Mystic Seaport President Steve White. “She is an intrepid voyager whose scientific journey has uncovered vast new terrain. The Museum is honored to present Sylvia, former Trustee and friend, with this distinguished award.”

Sylvia EarleEarle has been at the forefront of deep ocean exploration for four decades. She has been called Her Deepness by The New Yorker and The New York Times, and named Time magazine’s first hero for the planet. She was the first woman to walk freely on the ocean floor, and currently is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. She most recently led the Google Ocean Advisory Council, a team of 30 marine scientists providing content and scientific oversight for the Ocean in Google Earth.

The legendary oceanographer is the former chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and founder of three marine technology companies including Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, DOER, a company that designs, builds, supports and consults on piloted and robotic subsea systems and implements solutions for even the most challenging underwater tasks.

She has led more than 70 expeditions, including leading the first team of women aquanauts during the Tektite Project in 1970, and has logged more than 7,000 hours underwater. In addition, she has broken several deep-diving records, including solo diving to a depth of 1,000 meters (3,300 feet).

As author of more than 175 scientific, technical and popular publications, Earle has contributed a prolific and distinguished body of work to the field of maritime studies. Her research focuses on marine ecosystems with special reference to exploration and the development and use of new technologies for access and effective operations in the deep sea and other remote environments. She is currently proposing to establish a global network of marine protected areas that she calls Hope Spots, marine preserves that range from oceans to reefs.

Earle has also founded the Mission Blue Foundation and is chair of the Advisory Council for the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. She sits on numerous boards for corporate and nonprofit organizations within the marine biology field. Earle earned her B.S. from Florida State University, an M.S. and a Ph.D. from Duke University and has received 15 honorary degrees. She has received more than 100 national and international awards and honors.