Jill Heinerth

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Jill Heinerth
Jill Heinerth with rebreather
Jill Heinerth
Born1964 or 1965 (age 58–59)[1]
Toronto, Canada
Occupation(s)Explorer, author, underwater photographer, public speaker, educator, cave diver
Spouse(s)Paul Heinerth,[2] Robert McClellan[3]

Jill Heinerth (born 1965) is a Canadian cave diver, underwater explorer, writer, photographer and film-maker.[4] She has made TV series for PBS, National Geographic Channel and the BBC, consulted on movies for directors including James Cameron, written several books and produced documentaries including We Are Water[5] and Ben's Vortex, about the disappearance of Ben McDaniel.

Early life and education[edit]

Jill Heinerth diving
Jill Heinerth diving

As a child, Heinerth was inspired by Jacques Cousteau's television series. In 5th grade, she gave a Science Fair project about mysterious disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle.[6] She gained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications Design at York University, and ran a small graphic design agency in Toronto while teaching scuba in Lake Huron's port of Tobermory in the evenings.[6] In 2023 Heinerth was awarded a PhD, (hc) from Victoria University in the University of Toronto.[7]


In 1991, Heinerth quit her office job and moved to the Cayman Islands to dive full-time, honing skills in underwater photography.[6] She then moved to Florida to work on cave diving, where she was mentored by documentary filmmaker Wes Skiles.[6] She collaborated with his Karst Productions, based in High Springs, Florida.[1]

In 1998, Heinerth was part of the team that made the first 3D map of an underwater cave.[8] Heinerth became the first person to dive the ice caves of Antarctica, penetrating further into an underwater cave system than any woman ever[5][dead link] In 2001, she was part of a team that explored ice caves of icebergs[9] where she and her then husband Paul Heinerth "discovered wondrous life and magical vistas" and experienced the calving of an iceberg, documented in the film Ice Island.[10]

In 2015, Heinerth participated in exploring the numerous anchialine caves of Christmas Island.[11]

In 2016 Heinerth led an expedition that explored and surveyed the flooded Bell Island Mines at Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.[12]

Heinerth is a Fellow of The Explorers Club, and the inaugural Explorer-in-Residence of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.[citation needed]

She consults on training programmes for diving agencies, publishes photojournalism in a range of magazines and speaks around the world.[6]

Heinerth has written opinion pieces and articles about exploration and climate change for global publications including the Los Angeles Times.[13]

In 2020, Heinerth spoke with the podcast This is Love about diving in ice caves in Antarctica.[14]

Jill Heinerth is a prolific public speaker and educator represented by Speaker's Spotlight agency.[15]

In 2020, Heinerth was interviewed on many radio, TV and podcasts programs including the NPR radio program Fresh Air.[16][17]

In August 2022, Heinerth led a team of expeditionary technical divers who confirmed and photographed a lost, sunken WWII bomber at the bottom of Gander Lake in Newfoundland. [18]

Personal life[edit]

Heinerth married cave diver Paul Heinerth in 1996; they later divorced.[19][2] In April 2007,[19] she married her second husband, writer, photographer, and new media expert Robert McClellan,[3] with whom she lives in Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada.[citation needed] Heinerth has described her hobbies as hiking, kayaking and cycling; "My favorite pastime is getting up at dawn and cycling to my local spring where a robust swim against the current of the Santa Fe River starts my day on the right track."[6]



  • Heinerth, Jill; Oigarden, B (2008). Cave diving articles & opinions: A comprehensive guide to cave diving and exploration. High Springs, FL: Heinerth Productions, Inc. p. 320.
  • Heinerth, Jill (2010). Digital Underwater Photography: Jill Heinerth's Guide to Digital Underwater Photograph. Heinerth Productions Incorporated. ISBN 978-0979878923.
  • Heinerth, Jill (2014). The Essentials of Cave Diving (Second ed.). HEINERTH PROD Incorporated. ISBN 978-0979878947.
  • Kakuk, Brian; Heinerth, Jill (2010). Side Mount Profiles. Heinerth Productions Incorporated. ISBN 978-0979878954.
  • Heinerth, Jill (2014). The Basics of Rebreather Diving. Heinerth Productions, Inc. ISBN 978-1940944005.
  • Heinerth, Jill (2014). Women Underwater. Heinerth Productions, Inc. ISBN 978-1940944012.
  • Heinerth, Jill; Pinto, Lesli (2015). Chester the Manatee and the Very, Very, Terribly Bad Itch. Heinerth Productions, Inc. ISBN 978-1940944081.
  • Heinerth, Jill (2016). The Scuba Diver's Guide to Underwater Video: GoPro to Professional Filmmaking. Heinerth Productions, Inc. p. 126. ISBN 978-1940944210.
  • Heinerth, Jill (2019). Into The Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver. Ecco. ISBN 978-0062691545[20]
  • Heinerth, Jill (2021). The Aquanaut. Tundra Books. ISBN 978-0735263635


She has produced TV series for PBS, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel and the BBC, consulted on movies for directors including James Cameron. She has produced documentaries including We Are Water[5][21] and Ben's Vortex.[22]

Jill hosted and shot underwater videography for the Under Thin Ice episode of on the CBC Television Network. Produced by GalaFilm of Montreal, Canada.


In 2012, Heinerth was named the "Sea Hero of the Year" by SCUBA Diving Magazine.[23]

Heinerth is a member of the Explorers Club, a fellow of the National Speleological Society, and she has been inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame.[6] She won the OZTek Media Award in March 2013.[24] In November 2013, she was awarded the first ever Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.[4]

In June 2016, Heinerth was named as the first Explorer-in-Residence for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.[25]

In January 2017, the Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences announced that Jill Heinerth was to become a 2017 AUAS Fellow by receiving an NOGI Award for ‘Sports & Education’.[26]

Later that year, on 7 March 2017, the Governor General of Canada announced that Jill Heinerth was to receive the Canadian Polar Medal.[27]

In March 2018 Jill Heinerth was awarded the Beneath The Sea Diver of the Year (Education) Award.[28]

On 18 August 2020 it was announced that Jill Heinerth would be inducted into the International SCUBA Diving Hall of Fame. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the induction will be delayed until 2021.[29]

In February 2021 Jill's Children's book The Aquanaut was selected by Dolly Parton as a Blue Ribbon Selection of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Mark Schrope (1 October 2003). "Deep Transmissions Armed with a revolutionary new tracking device, cave divers map threats to Florida's main water source". Outside Online. Mariah Media Network LLC. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b Jill Heinerth (2003). "Ice Island". Advanced Diver magazine. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Jill Heinerth Loves The Places Where Her Friends Have Gone To Die". Filmcourage. 9 March 2012. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  4. ^ a b Ghomeshi, Jian. "Best of Q: Cave diver Jill Heinerth on fear management". cbc.ca. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Andrews, Avital (14 December 2012). "My Perfect Adventure: Jill Heinerth". Outside Online.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Jill Heinerth : OceanAGE Career Profile". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA). 29 March 2013.
  7. ^ "Deep-Sea Explorer Jill Heinerth to Receive First Honorary Doctorate » Victoria University". vicu.utoronto.ca. Retrieved 16 October 2023.
  8. ^ Yundt, Heather (2013). "Jill Heinerth Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration". Canadian Geographic. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014.
  9. ^ Kendrick, DF (2009). "Science of the National Association for Cave Diving (NACD): Water Quality, Hydrogeology, Biology and Psychology". In: Pollock NW, ed. Diving for Science 2009. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences 28th Symposium. Dauphin Island, AL. Archived from the original on 5 July 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2016.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  10. ^ Jennifer Goldblatt (13 November 2002). "Explorers' film wins top honor". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 23 October 2022.
  11. ^ Iliffe T, Humphreys W (2016). "Christmas Islands Hidden Secret". Advanced Diver Magazine. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  12. ^ "Mine Quest: Diving Into Bell Island's Underwater Mines". HuffPost. 9 February 2016.
  13. ^ Heinerth, Jill (6 October 2019). "Opinion: I am a diver who documents climate change in the Arctic. And I am running out of time". Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ "Into the Ice". This is Love. 27 May 2020.
  15. ^ "Speaking". IntoThePlanet.
  16. ^ Heinerth, Jill (2 October 2020). "Cave Diver Risks All To Explore Places 'Where Nobody Has Ever Been'" (Interview). Interviewed by Dave Davies. NPR. Retrieved 14 April 2024.
  17. ^ "Jill Heinerth". 31 October 2019.
  18. ^ Bellemare, Andrea (6 September 2022). "Divers confirm location of wreck of WW II airplane in Newfoundland lake". CBC Radio.
  19. ^ a b Heinerth, Jill (2019). Into the planet: my life as a cave diver (Kindle ed.). New York: HarperCollins. pp. 90, 274. ISBN 9780062691569.
  20. ^ Harrigan, Stephen (3 January 2020). "'In Oceans Deep' and 'Into the Planet' Review: No Strangers to the Abyss". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  21. ^ Heinerth, Jill (Actor, director, narrator, Host); McClellan, Robert (Producer) (1 January 2013). We are Water (DVD). Heinerth Productions, Inc. ISBN 0979878993. Archived from the original on 20 March 2016.
  22. ^ Jill Heinerth (Director) (2012). Ben's Vortex (DVD). Heinerth Productions, Inc. ISBN 0979878985. Archived from the original on 20 March 2016.
  23. ^ Scuba Diving Magazine [1] October 2012
  24. ^ Rosemary E Lunn Tech talk: Tales of ‘Daring Do’ Xraymag, issue 54, May 2013, p.58
  25. ^ Royal Canadian Geographical Society [2] Archived 2 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine June 2016
  26. ^ Rosemary E Lunn Jill Heinerth To Receive 2017 NOGI for ‘Sports & Education’ Deeperblue.com, 10 January 2017.
  27. ^ Rosemary E Lunn Jill Heinerth To Receive Canadian Polar Medal X-Ray Magazine
  28. ^ Rosemary E Lunn Bozanic, Burroughs, Hasson, Heinerth and HDSUSA honoured with Beneath The Sea Awards X-Ray Magazine
  29. ^ ISDHF International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame’s milestone 20th Anniversary Induction

External links[edit]