Sylvia Earle can lay claim to the titles marine botanist, environmentalist, businesswoman, writer, and deep-sea explorer. Of them all, the last is perhaps the one that most captures the imagination. She has spent more than 6,000 hours (over seven months) underwater. In 1979, she attached herself to a submarine that took her, at times as fast as 100 feet per minute, to the ocean floor 1,250 feet below. Dressed in a "Jim suit," a futuristic concoction of plastic and metal armor, she made the deepest solo dive ever made without a cable connecting her to a support vessel at the surface. This daring dive is comparable to the NASA voyage to the moon 10 years before. In 1984 Earle became the co-designer (with Graham Hawkes) of Deep Rover, a deep-sea submersible capable of exploring the midwaters of the ocean. Their company, Deep Ocean Technology, went on to develop a second-generation submersible, Deep Flight, that can speed through the ocean at depths of as much as 4,000 feet. Currently under development is Ocean Everest, expected to operate at a depth of up to 35,800 feet, which will take scientists to the deepest parts of the sea. Although the uses of submersibles are still largely scientific, Earle hopes that they might one day transport laypeople to the bottom of the sea. She feels that the "experience of flying through a dark ocean, of watching the lights of a luminescent creature flash all around us" might help us gain more respect for the largely unexplored ocean world. In addition to the scientific work that led to her being appointed in 1990 as chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Earle has worked tirelessly to educate the public. Working with Al Giddings, she coauthored a documentary film, Gentle Giants of the Pacific, which appeared on public television in 1980. In the same year, their book Exploring the Deep Frontier appeared. It includes a discussion of the "Jim dive." Her most recent scientific and environmental work has been to assess the environmental damage caused by the Prince William Sound oil spill and the results of Iraq's destruction of some 400 oil wells during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Bill McKibben grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts. He was president of the Harvard Crimson newspaper in college. Immediately after college he joined the New Yorker magazine as a staff writer, and wrote much of the "Talk of the Town" column from 1982 to early 1987. After quitting this job, he soon moved to the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. His first book, The End of Nature, was published in 1989 by Random House after being serialized in the New Yorker. It is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has been printed in more than 20 languages. Several editions have come out in the United States, including an updated version published in 2006. His next book, The Age of Missing Information, was published in 1992. It is an account of an experiment: McKibben collected everything that came across the 100 channels of cable tv on the Fairfax, Virginia system (at the time among the nation's largest) for a single day. He spent a year watching the 2,400 hours of videotape, and then compared it to a day spent on the mountaintop near his home. This book has been widely used in colleges and high schools, and was reissued in 2006. McKibben's latest book is entitled, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. Bill currently resides with his wife, writer Sue Halpern, and his daughter, Sophie in Ripton, Vermont. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College. 030