July 15th, 2017 is PADI Women’s Dive Day. PADI Dive Centers are encouraged to organize special activities to celebrate it.
When we first heard about this, we thought, “Hm, what is so special about women diving? Maybe it is about ocean conservation, because women are nurturing? Or maybe it is about diving to extremes because women are fierce? Or maybe it is about bringing your sister to dive class, because women are curious? Or maybe, we do not really need a Women’s Dive Day at all, because men are all of these things as well?” We asked our customers. They remained mum. We perused PADI’s materials on the topic. They were not very explanatory.
So I went online and typed in ‘women and scuba’ or some such. Lo and behold, I found a wealth of material. There is a lot of expensive neoprene marketed to the woman who wants to look sexy while diving. There are many pink accessories for our inner girl. There are recommendations on how we can keep our bodies toned through diving. There are heaps of pictures of scantily clad females scuba diving clearly just for the visual enjoyment of a predominantly male audience. “Aha,” I said to myself, “so there is a need for Women’s Dive Day, since it seems that sexism is alive and well in scuba diving.”
So I directed my research towards finding women divers who have made their mark. This is only a small selection of what I found and in no particular order, but by honoring these ladies we at Isla Nena Scuba are celebrating Women’s Dive Day. (This was supposed to be a slideshow and multimedia presentation, but we were both sick all week and incapable of putting it together, so you will just have to use your own little eyes to read about it and paint the pictures in your mind. Thank you.)
1. Shark Angels
Shark Angels is a gender-inclusive group with a disproportionally high percentage of women founders, board and team members. Of course, all divers love sharks and love to dive with them. But Shark Angels also promotes education, conservation, and opportunities for leisurely as well as scientific interaction with sharks to the general public through divers and dive events. This is from their manifesto:
[E]very single person has the power to bring about change and together, we can do just that. Not just for sharks, but for the oceans and our own futures as well.
Their campaigns include Fin Free, which has been instrumental in raising consumers’ awareness about finning and getting legislators to address the issue in Canada, Australia and the United States.
My favorite aspect of their work is their inclusion of young children, who will arguably be the most affected by uncouth ecological decisions made by their elders and who are here taking their future into their own hands. Shark Cherubs are kids, who help with shark conservation, such as Luke H., who at 7 years old collected 1000 signatures in three days for Fin Free in Toronto, which has since passed a ban on shark fins.
Thank you, Julie Andersen, Alison Kock and Kim McCoy for starting it all!
2. Simone Melchior
She was the first female scuba diver and aquanaut and at Jacques’ side for all of his explorations during her lifetime.
She raised money, made vital business connections, was instrumental in the development of the Aqualung, helped buy the Calypso and saved her in a storm, participated in and kept on track all explorations, all while mothering her two sons as well as the entire crew, by whom she was beloved and a little feared.
Her older son, Jean-Michel, has often said of his mother:
“She was the real captain of Calypso and she spent more time on Calypso than my father, brother and myself combined.”
She preferred to stay off camera and away from the press, but played a key role in the operation, wearing many hats. In 1990 she died of cancer and received a full military funeral, during which her ashes were scattered over the Sea of Monaco. Hats off to this amazing lady!
3. Sylvia Earle
Most of us have at least heard of Sylvia Earle, early woman diver, aquanaut, marine biologist, outspoken conservationist, explorer in Residence at the National Geographic Society, leader of the Google Ocean Advisory Council, which provides content and scientific oversight for the “Ocean in Google Earth” and all around remarkable human being. She is the recipient of more honors than can be recounted here, among them the 2009 TED Prize for her proposal to establish a global network of marine protected areas she calls
“[H]ope spots… to save and restore… the blue heart of the planet.”
I encourage you all to listen to her TED talk on her wish for ocean protection. After almost 40 years of setting depth records, cataloguing untold species, making pioneering discoveries, researching the ecology of coral reefs and tirelessly advocating for ocean conservation, she still has a fresh passion for the underwater world, which is delightful and infectious.
Talking about Women in Science for National Geographic, from whom she received the Hubbard Medal, the Society’s highest honor, for distinction in exploration, discovery and research, this is Sylvia:
Thank you, Her Deepness, for telling it as it is and for being a shining example to all of us.
Now go out and do some diving. And if you are a woman, play harder, study smarter, live better and reach higher, because apparently we still have to live down being beautiful. And if you are a man, treat the women in your life with respect and teach your sons to do the same, so that maybe someday a Google search for women and scuba will mainly yield results about Sylvia, Simone, the Shark Angels and their peers, rather than a load of objectifying or patronizing bull crap. Thank you.