Jill Heinerth
Jill Heinerth with rebreather
Jill Heinerth
Born1964/1965 (age 57–58)[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

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 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.[7] 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[8] 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.[9]

In 2015, Heinerth participated in exploring the numerous anchialine caves of Christmas Island.[10]

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.

In 2020, Heinerth spoke with the podcast This is Love about diving in ice caves in Antarctica.[11]

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

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

Personal life

Heinerth married cave diver Paul Heinerth in 1996; they later divorced.[12][2] In April 2007,[12] 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]




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][14] and Ben's Vortex.[15]

Jill hosted and shot underwater videography for the Under Thin Ice episode of The Nature of Things with David Suzuki on the CBC Television Network. Produced by the award-winning GalaFilm of Montreal, Canada.


In 2012, Heinerth was named the "Sea Hero of the Year" by SCUBA Diving Magazine.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

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’.[19]

Later that year, on 7 March 2017, the Governor General of Canada announced that Jill Heinerth was to receive the Canadian Polar Medal.[20]

In March 2018 Jill Heinerth was awarded the Beneath The Sea Diver of the Year (Education) Award.[21]

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.[22]

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.


  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. ^ Yundt, Heather (2013). "Jill Heinerth Sir Christopher Ondaatje Medal for Exploration". Canadian Geographic. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014.
  8. ^ 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)
  9. ^ Jennifer Goldblatt (13 November 2002). "Explorers' film wins top honor". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 23 October 2022.
  10. ^ Iliffe T, Humphreys W (2016). "Christmas Islands Hidden Secret". Advanced Diver Magazine. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Into the Ice". This is Love. 27 May 2020.
  12. ^ a b Heinerth, Jill (2019). Into the planet: my life as a cave diver (Kindle ed.). New York: HarperCollins. pp. 90, 274. ISBN 9780062691569.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Jill Heinerth (Director) (2012). Ben's Vortex (DVD). Heinerth Productions, Inc. ISBN 0979878985. Archived from the original on 20 March 2016.
  16. ^ Scuba Diving Magazine [1] October 2012
  17. ^ Rosemary E Lunn Tech talk: Tales of ‘Daring Do’ Xraymag, issue 54, May 2013, p.58
  18. ^ Royal Canadian Geographical Society [2] Archived 2 January 2017 at the Wayback Machine June 2016
  19. ^ Rosemary E Lunn Jill Heinerth To Receive 2017 NOGI for ‘Sports & Education’ Deeperblue.com, 10 January 2017.
  20. ^ Rosemary E Lunn Jill Heinerth To Receive Canadian Polar Medal X-Ray Magazine
  21. ^ Rosemary E Lunn Bozanic, Burroughs, Hasson, Heinerth and HDSUSA honoured with Beneath The Sea Awards X-Ray Magazine
  22. ^ ISDHF International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame’s milestone 20th Anniversary Induction