Last year, dive instructor Sarah Gauthier set herself a lofty goal: to dive all seven continents. More than 100 dives and 11 countries later, Sarah Gauthier has possibly become the youngest woman to do just that, although she has so far been unable to confirm the record. But during a phone interview with Gauthier, aka Scuba Sarah, earlier this year it was evident that she doesn’t care as much about breaking records as spreading awareness for the oceans.
She recalled “getting really depressed after watching documentaries and viral videos about shark killings on Facebook.” In late 2017, an idea popped into her head while working in the Cayman Islands, an idea she felt “was big enough to have my voice heard.” She wanted to dive all seven continents while documenting every step of her trip online. If she could garner enough excitement and interest by sharing her unique experiences with the world, hopefully it would inspire and encourage others to care for the oceans like she does.
In seven months between fall 2018 and early 2019, Gauthier made it happen. The diving alone took the 27-year-old just five months, but with the extra training needed for her dives in Antarctica, the entire process ended up taking longer. In the end, it was worth the extra time. “It was the best birthday present, turning 27 the day I finished my dives in Antarctica,” she said.
Originally from Quebec, Canada, Gauthier took up scuba diving about five years ago during her time at the University of Montreal. Inspired by her mother’s stories of traveling and diving in the Caribbean for almost 20 years, Gauthier wanted to be able to experience the sport with her mom. What she didn’t know at the time was that she would instantly become hooked.
Gauthier’s love of scuba diving and the ocean pushed her to get advanced certifications and eventually land a job as a dive instructor in the Cayman Islands. When we spoke over the phone after she completed her seven-continent dive expedition, she shared that she was “getting really frustrated with the amount of pollution I would see in the water.” The problem, she recalled, was not unique to the Cayman Islands. She had also noticed the same pollution issues in Honduras and the Philippines, other locations where she worked as a professional diver.
Her journey began in Iceland and ended in Antarctica but along the way she logged 110 dives. When asked her favorite, she couldn’t name just one but instead listed three bucket-list-worthy highlights:
• Witnessing a baby shark in a mermaid’s purse in the Philippines. A mermaid’s purse is essentially a protective sack that surrounds a developing baby shark.
• Swimming with dugongs in the Red Sea in Egypt
• Being approached by a leopard seal carrying a dead penguin in its mouth in Antarctica
But when asked about her most challenging dive, there was no hesitation: Diving under the ice in Quebec ranked at the top of her list. She described it as “very psychologically challenging because you are under something.” At that point, she wasn’t as comfortable diving with a drysuit yet. It was one of her first really cold-water dives while she trained for diving Antarctica.
So what’s next for Scuba Sarah? It’s the question that makes Gauthier the most anxious right now, but she excitedly shared that she is working on a website launch while continuing to spread awareness for protecting and loving the ocean.
She has been sharing her passion with others through conferences at schools and universities where she speaks to kindergarteners all the way up to university students about conservation and the tools they can use to reduce consumption of plastic. She says it’s her personal stories, videos and photos that inspire younger children the most.
But her most important message? “It doesn’t matter where you are from, color of skin, religion or gender, and it doesn’t matter what is your passion and what you want to do in life, we all have the power to make change, and we can do it together,” she said.
Where did Scuba Sarah dive?
- Lebanon: Dive the Med Club
- Philippines: Quo Vadis Dive Resort
- Indonesia: Blue Season Bali, Manta Dive Gili, Gili Divers, Blue Corner Dive and Freedive, Liquid Adventures Liveaboard, Nataraja Liveaboard
South America - Galapagos Islands: Albatros Tours and Dive Resort
Antarctica: Oceanwide Expeditions
You can follow @ScubaSarah on Instagram to keep up with her adventures.