“Living legend” oceanographer to visit Warren Wilson

Did you ever encounter a person so accomplished that it made you wince at your own insignificance, but at the same time inspired you to go out and scale great heights of your own? Maybe that’s what it will be like for the budding scientists at Warren Wilson College (women in particular) crowding into the college chapel on Thursday, April 26, to hear world-renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle speak.

Earle, who was named “Hero for the Planet” by Time magazine (in 1998) and a “living legend” by the Library of Congress, is one of the world’s best-known scientists. She has literally gone further into the ocean than any other deep-sea explorer, holding a world record for a solo dive of 1,250 feet. That achievement helped earn her nicknames in the press: “Her Deepness,” the “Sturgeon General” and “Queen of the Deep.”

In 1990, Earle was named the first woman to serve as chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She is executive director of a number of nonprofit conservation organizations, holds a doctorate from Duke University plus 15 honorary degrees, has lectured in more than 60 countries and has logged more than 6,000 hours of deep-sea diving.

In short, no one knows underwater ecosystems like Sylvia Earle. And she cautions that the oceans are out of balance as a result of human activity. “We’re not apart from nature, we’re a part of it,” she’s been quoted as saying. “And to the extent that we continue to damage the natural systems, we’re jeopardizing our own future.”

Earle’s visit to Warren Wilson coincides with the 20th annual G.D. Davidson Roundtable, part of a weeklong series of events leading up to the April 28 inauguration of the college’s new president, Sandy Pfeiffer. Earle’s talk, titled “Sustainable Seas: The Vision/The Reality,” begins at 7:30 p.m. and is free to the public.

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