Mission Blue is an inspiring documentary about legendary oceanographer, marine biologist, environmentalist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle and her campaign to create a global network of protected marine sanctuaries she calls Hope Spots. With icon status as a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, Earle was a female biologist in “a time of bearded scientists,” one whose ongoing efforts to save the ocean have been recognized by presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Meet the passionate and brilliant girl, woman, mother, wife, ex-wife and lover who wrote her own script while her contemporaries were indelibly trapped in the myth of American Leave It to Beaver suburban ideals with its restrictive gender constructs.
Sylvia Earle is now a fearless 78-year-old woman. In her scuba gear (sexy!), which is like a second skin for her still, Earle plunges into the water and swims alongside majestic creatures that can be up to 40 feet in length. As Earle has no problem being in the water for 12 hours at a time, the ocean is as much a comfort zone for her as is land for the rest of us, and it’s heartbreaking for her to have witnessed its decline. “Sixty years ago, when I began exploring the ocean, no one imagined that we could do anything to harm it,” she says. “But now we’re facing paradise lost.” A heart-stopping moment comes toward the end of the film when Earle returns to a location 100 miles into the Coral Sea that she visited decades before and remembers for its vibrant array of ocean wildlife. Only, as we see with her on this dive, now there are barely any fish; only coral reef ruins. It looks like a graveyard.