Who are our women dive pioneers?

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The Dive Pacific Challenge

  • How should we recognise our female dive pioneers and champions? Who are they
  • This is your invitation to nominate the women you believe have been pioneers underwater in the Pacific region.
  • They might have been extraordinary for their feats in diving in exotic locations, trying out new gear, in ocean conservation, exploration, in a related sport such as underwater hockey, or?

Who are the women of the Pacific – New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands – who have made contributions greater than the everyday to the development of underwater activities?


In recent years the scuba diving industry has grown significantly – with dive centres like PADI and SSI offering scuba training and certification courses around the world. With this growth, we have seen an increase in the number of women joining the scuba diving community.

However, rewind to the 1940s, 50s, 60s and the following decades when gender equality was a far cry from what it is today. The majority of professional scuba divers were male – it was rare for women divers to be featured in the mainstream media – who are they, and where are they today?

Please, do email us and give us your suggestions. Nominate the women who inspired you, with a brief outline on why they deserve recognition. Send your suggestions to: divenz@divenewzealand.co.nz Below we profile some of the women in the United States who were underwater pioneers.

There have been some exceptionally powerful female role models who have shown the world that women can scuba too, and their success has undoubtedly played a major role in encouraging other women to enter the sport.

  • Dottie Frazier

    Dottie Frazier

    A true pioneer in the world of scuba diving, Dottie Frazier, was born in 1922 in Long Beach, California. She was swimming by age 3, rowing her own skiff at 5, and by 10 she was using one of the masks her dad made for them out of pieces of fire hose, glass, tape, glue and straps from an old inner tube. She became especially proficient at spearing fish. By the time she was a teenager, getting lobsters was her specialty. She challenged the social expectations of women at the time and became the first female hard-hat diver, the first female scuba instructor and the first woman to own a dive shop.

    Source: SkinDivingHistory

  • Charlotte Hildegard Baierl

    Charlotte Hildegard Baierl

    Often referred to as “the first lady of diving”, Charlotte Hildegard Baierl is a remarkable woman who came to fame following a filmmaking expedition with her husband in the Red Sea in the early 1950’s. The film, Under the Red Sea won first prize at the Venice Film Festival. Despite receiving offers from Hollywood, Lotte chose to dedicate her career to becoming an underwater photographer and explorer. In 2015, Lotte sadly passed away, however, she’ll always be remembered as one of the first women divers.

  • Zale Parry

    Zale Parry

    Another diving hero, Zale Parry started her diving career in the 1950’s, and went on to set a new deep-diving record for women while testing the Hope-Page non-return valve mouthpiece in open water. She helped to build California’s first civilian hyperbaric chamber, and was the first woman to complete a 300 metre test dive.

  • Dr Sylvia Earle

    Dr Sylvia Earle

    Dr. Sylvia Earle is a marine biologist and diving legend. The first female chief scientist of the U.S.

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and named by Time Magazine as its first Hero for the Planet in 1998, Sylvia is a fantastic role model for women, and a true inspiration.

  • Eugenie Clark

    Eugenie Clark

    Often referred to as The Shark Lady, Eugenie Clark sadly passed away in 2015. She was one of the first females to enter the field of scuba diving for research purposes.

    Eugenie was recognised as a figure of authority in marine biology, specialising in fish behaviour, as well as being a big advocate for marine conservation.

  • Diving For Ocean Conservation: Project Aware

    A SLO-active core mission is to preserve and protect our oceans, and to do this they have chosen to partner with organisations like Project AWARE who share our vision and are committed to achieving the same goal.

    Over the past 27 years, Project AWARE has been fighting the marine debris crisis through a range of successful programmes and initiatives. One of the largest and most successful to date is their flagship citizen-science programme – Dive Against Debris, which encourages divers to participate in the removal of marine debris from the ocean, and report data on the types, quantities and locations of items found. The impact of the program has been fantastic with more than 50,000 community members in over 114 countries removing over 1.3 million debris items from the ocean since its launch in 2011.

    Project AWARE has also created the Project AWARE Specialty Course, which empowers individuals to make their own personal commitments and take further action to help protect our oceans.

  • Staying safe, from the sun

    When diving, protecting yourself from the sun is important – particularly if you’re diving in parts of the world where the rays are at the strongest.

    But studies have shown that chemicals found in sunscreen are creating disastrous consequences for our coral reefs, causing coral bleaching and death among thousands of organisms. It’s estimated that around 14,000 tons of sunscreen is deposited into our oceans annually, with popular reef areas such as Hawaii and the Caribbean suffering the most damage.

    The same goes for many other products including lip balms, body lotions, shampoo and conditioners.

  • What you can do

    Thankfully an increasing number of brands including EIR NYC, All Good Products, Stream2Sea and Badger Balm, have recognised the issue and created a range of mineral based products that are free from chemicals and labelled as ‘reef-safe’. So you can protect yourself – while caring for the reefs too.

    PADI International Women’s Dive Day: https://www.sloactive.com

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