Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver

"If I die, it will be in the most glorious place that nobody has ever seen." So begins explorer Jill Heinerth's fascinating Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver. Heinerth's obsession with venturing toward the center of the Earth eventually brings her to the depths of an Antarctic iceberg, where "beauty contradicts the danger." A veteran of underground expeditions, Heinerth leads a National Geographic diving team into an iceberg that scientists call Godzilla.

Within that frozen world, trapped by shifting currents that could swiftly turn fatal, Heinerth finds beauty: a cave with a "turquoise ceiling," "a multi-colored shag carpet" of sea creatures covering its floor. Fish live within the smooth ice walls, in niches just large enough to provide a finger's grip, and the divers pull themselves up to safety. Hours after emerging from their potential tomb, they watch it shatter to "crystal shards," destroyed by relentless wind and waves.

In a life spent exploring underground rivers and caverns, Heinerth battles the sexism found in the male world of cave diving, struggles with her marriage to a man who shares her hunger for risk, and finds her career provides a motivation more compelling than adventure. In her journeys into the Earth, she tests equipment that will be used by astronauts, maps hidden environments that support our own and follows the subterranean odyssey of drinking water in an award-winning PBS series, The Water's Journey. Heinerth becomes a champion of "water literacy," promoting both awareness and conservation of this dwindling resource. --Janet Brown, author and former bookseller

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