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The mysterious world of underwater caves | Jill Heinerth

The mysterious world of underwater caves | Jill Heinerth


I’m an underwater explorer, more specifically a cave diver. I wanted to be an astronaut
when I was a little kid, but growing up in Canada as a young girl,
that wasn’t really available to me. But as it turns out,
we know a lot more about space than we do about the underground waterways
coursing through our planet, the very lifeblood of Mother Earth. So I decided to do something
that was even more remarkable. Instead of exploring outer space, I wanted to explore
the wonders of inner space. Now, a lot of people will tell you that cave diving is perhaps
one of the most dangerous endeavors. I mean, imagine yourself
here in this room, if you were suddenly
plunged into blackness, with your only job to find the exit, sometimes swimming
through these large spaces, and at other times
crawling beneath the seats, following a thin guideline, just waiting for the life support
to provide your very next breath. Well, that’s my workplace. But what I want to teach you today is that our world
is not one big solid rock. It’s a whole lot more like a sponge. I can swim through a lot of the pores
in our earth’s sponge, but where I can’t, other life-forms and other materials
can make that journey without me. And my voice is the one
that’s going to teach you about the inside of Mother Earth. There was no guidebook available to me when I decided to be the first person
to cave dive inside Antarctic icebergs. In 2000, this was the largest
moving object on the planet. It calved off the Ross Ice Shelf, and we went down there
to explore ice edge ecology and search for life-forms beneath the ice. We use a technology called rebreathers. It’s an awful lot like the same technology
that is used for space walks. This technology enables us to go deeper than we could’ve imagined
even 10 years ago. We use exotic gases, and we can make missions
even up to 20 hours long underwater. I work with biologists. It turns out that caves
are repositories of amazing life-forms, species that we never knew existed before. Many of these life-forms
live in unusual ways. They have no pigment
and no eyes in many cases, and these animals
are also extremely long-lived. In fact, animals swimming
in these caves today are identical in the fossil record that predates the extinction
of the dinosaurs. So imagine that: these are
like little swimming dinosaurs. What can they teach us
about evolution and survival? When we look at an animal
like this remipede swimming in the jar, he has giant fangs with venom. He can actually attack something
40 times his size and kill it. If he were the size of a cat, he’d be the most dangerous
thing on our planet. And these animals live
in remarkably beautiful places, and in some cases,
caves like this, that are very young, yet the animals are ancient. How did they get there? I also work with physicists, and they’re interested oftentimes
in global climate change. They can take rocks within the caves, and they can slice them
and look at the layers within with rocks, much like the rings of a tree, and they can count back in history and learn about the climate on our planet
at very different times. The red that you see in this photograph is actually dust from the Sahara Desert. So it’s been picked up by wind,
blown across the Atlantic Ocean. It’s rained down in this case
on the island of Abaco in the Bahamas. It soaks in through the ground and deposits itself
in the rocks within these caves. And when we look back in the layers
of these rocks, we can find times when the climate
was very, very dry on earth, and we can go back
many hundreds of thousands of years. Paleoclimatologists are also interested in where the sea level stands were
at other times on earth. Here in Bermuda, my team and I embarked on the deepest manned dives
ever conducted in the region, and we were looking for places where the sea level
used to lap up against the shoreline, many hundreds of feet
below current levels. I also get to work with paleontologists
and archaeologists. In places like Mexico,
in the Bahamas, and even in Cuba, we’re looking at cultural remains
and also human remains in caves, and they tell us a lot about some of the earliest
inhabitants of these regions. But my very favorite project of all
was over 15 years ago, when I was a part of the team
that made the very first accurate, three-dimensional map
of a subterranean surface. This device that I’m
driving through the cave was actually creating
a three-dimensional model as we drove it. We also used ultra low frequency radio to broadcast back to the surface
our exact position within the cave. So I swam under houses and businesses
and bowling alleys and golf courses, and even under a Sonny’s BBQ Restaurant, Pretty remarkable, and what that taught me was that everything we do
on the surface of our earth will be returned to us to drink. Our water planet is not just
rivers, lakes and oceans, but it’s this vast network of groundwater
that knits us all together. It’s a shared resource
from which we all drink. And when we can understand
our human connections with our groundwater and all of our water resources
on this planet, then we’ll be working on the problem that’s probably the most important
issue of this century. So I never got to be that astronaut
that I always wanted to be, but this mapping device,
designed by Dr. Bill Stone, will be. It’s actually morphed. It’s now a self-swimming autonomous robot, artificially intelligent, and its ultimate goal
is to go to Jupiter’s moon Europa and explore oceans beneath
the frozen surface of that body. And that’s pretty amazing. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The mysterious world of underwater caves | Jill Heinerth”

  1. lmao did you see how much they have to carry with them underwater 2:13 thats a huge load. no thank you can't pay me enough to risk my life like that. especially to record no plankton.

  2. Probably pretty tough to edit out the white people in the audience scenes. Kudos for very subtle Political Correct, TED!!

  3. her voice is the most boring voice ive ever heard, not only dont I want to go caving now I never want to hear her voice again,

  4. “We know a lot more about space, than we do about the underground water ways…..” Makes no sense. I don’t think this lady realizes how big the universe is, no wonder she’s not an astronaut.

  5. The anonymity of the internet brings out people’s true personality. There are way many more dicks in this world than I thought

  6. Interesting (and scary) job she has! Not a good presenter though.. I can feel her reciting her script verbatim.

  7. People that cave Dive and post the videos are total assholes!! Because I watch from my comfortable home and start hyperventilating just watching these people squeezing themselves into places nobody has been before!! LOL!! In all seriousness, I’ve always been a person that liked to conquer my fears and my whole life I have done just that… until I discovered cave diving!! This is the one thing that completely conquers me mentally! I told my sister that if the only way to save her life was to do some extremely tight cave dive I don’t know if I could do it!!
    I really have all the respect in the world for these incredible maniacs!! And even though I’d never do it, thank god there are people willing to push the boundaries of the human body and mind!!!
    Cheers!!

  8. How many stupid people do we have here? stop talking about her weight, she is just trying to explain her work and about our ocean, couldn't you give more useful comments?

  9. 🌸 Very nice, very exciting, and very dangerous exploration indeed- we see. "Amazing".

    Its really miraculous how much creations of God that our "limited" knowledge still discovers..
    and still.. can't reach its endless limit.

    The Holey Quran says:
    { And He creates that which you do not know }
    { This is Allah's creation, but show Me what those besides Him have created. Nay, the unjust are in manifest }.
    { Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought }
    .
    .

    By the way.. why every one keep calling the earth mother?! Who was that cleaver one gave it this name!
    Now people are destroying their mother!!!!?
    How auwful savage uncivilized humans we are! 💦

  10. What's even more ironic is a very good chance of becomming ONE with the cave as in see you in 20,000 years. We'll not aaaaah well perhaps not me ….perhaps human replacements in 49,000 years from now be ready to say "cheese"
    It's what's for dinner. ……

  11. One of my greatest dream is to become a skilled technical cave rescue scuba diver (or whatever its called). But so very sadly that would stay on forever as a dream cause i dont have the resources and dont live anywhere near that promotes this as a profession. 🙁

  12. This person is awesome. Fearless. SHE is pretty amazing.

    But she is probably gonna die in an underwater cave or ice cavern.

  13. She has a new book out, "Into the Planet", and a very interesting interview on NPR's Fresh Air program. Hats off to her with her work. But, she should listen to her husband and quit while she's ahead. It's an extremely dangerous activity… over one hundred of her friends and colleagues have died while diving, she said.

  14. The creatures swimming around are the same as the those in fossils and she asks," what does that tell ya?" That evolution is fake..nothing evolved

  15. 4:51 the girl with spec and wearing blue shirt 😍 wow!! Never hav i come across such beauty, that I'd post a comment

    (Edit) she appeared again at the end.

  16. Anybody else this it’s really fucking weird how she calls it Mother Earth rather than just calling it Earth or the planet? (Oh an that job is pure nightmare fuel when you see how small some of the channels they swim through are)

  17. I hate caves but for some reason… them underwater aren’t scary to me… it’s actually kinda pleasing for some reason

  18. I would be terrified and stressed if something was to come at me under those tunnels and having limited movement and oxygen.

  19. Absolutely absurd, the shrimp is a dinosaur yet still the dead diatomaceous coral came from the Sahara and seeped through the ground.

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