Jill is an underwater explorer, writer, photographer, speaker, and filmmaker. A pioneer of technical rebreather diving, she has led expeditions into icebergs in Antarctica, volcanic lava tubes and submerged caves around the world. Jill is the first Explorer-in-Residence of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Her book, INTO THE PLANET, has been lauded by the Wall Street Journal, Oprah Magazine, and the New York Times. Jill is a Fellow of the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame, Underwater Academy of Arts and Sciences, Women Divers Hall of Fame, National Speleological Society, and the Explorers Club which awarded her with the William Beebe Award.
What (or who) persuaded you to become a professional diver?
I owned an advertising business in Canada and was teaching scuba as a hobby on nights and weekends. I knew that I wanted to turn my life around and become a creative professional that works underwater. I sold everything I owned to make it happen.
Describe your biggest challenge when diving.
Being an underwater professional can be challenging. I have to maintain a lot of skills in different areas to be able to continue my dreams. I'm stressed when the work is thin, like now with Coronavirus lockdowns, but stressed when I have too much on my plate. I've developed literacies from coding my own website to every aspect of publishing my own line of textbooks. By doing most of the work myself, I can live simply and focus on diving projects and expeditions.
Which diving achievement are you most proud of?
In 2020, I was added to the esteemed fellowship of the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. I am incredibly honored to be recognized for my life's work.
What was your first diving experience like?
As a child, my family told me that it was too cold to dive in Canada but when I jumped into the bracing waters of Fathom Five National Marine Park, I was immediately hooked. Based on my excitement from the pool training, I had already bought all of my gear for the training dives. I knew those dives would be a pivot point in my life. Despite the cold, my open water dives took place on 200-year-old wooden shipwrecks, a steep limestone wall, and a remarkable cavern in the Niagara Escarpment. There was a lot to be excited about!
Why do you prefer rebreather?
For me, rebreathers have been a tool for exploration. I first dived rebreathers in the mid-1990s as I prepared to participate in the Wakulla2 U.S. Deep Caving Team project in Florida. I trained and organized for two years to be a part of that remarkable project. We completed dives as long as 22 hours and created the world's first accurate 3D map of a subterranean space. That project convinced me that rebreathers would usher in a new age of exploration.
What's your favorite diving gear?
My underwater camera and I are nearly inseparable. I feel naked if I dive without a camera and always regret missing a great shot. I use a Canon 5D mkiv in an Aquatica housing. Over the years, I have used dozens of different cameras, but there is always one in my hand when I dive.
What's your favorite diving spot?
If I could only ever dive in one country, then I am living in the right place in Canada. It is tough to pick a favorite location, but here in Canada I have dived ancient wrecks, swam with humpbacks, narwhal, and polar bears. I have 10 km of cave passages within an hour of my home and I can jump on a plane to swim with sealions, explore a flooded mine or WWII shipwrecks that are as beautiful as Truk Lagoon. Yes, it is cold, but the experiences are priceless.
For anyone that wants more information about my work: www.IntoThePlanet.com
My book INTO THE PLANET can be found on Amazon worldwide.