Photograph by Fiona Stewart/Oceans 8 Productions
Name: Jon Bowermaster
Place of birth: Normal, Illinois
Current city: Hudson Valley, New York
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I’m very fortunate because I knew at age 15 that I wanted to write about the remote corners of the world. Though I did not come from a particularly adventurous family, I got turned on at an early age to the bigger world thanks to one of my favorites pastimes: reading.
How did you get started in your field of work?
I have been traveling and writing for 25 years; my first assignment for National Geographic magazine was documenting a seven-month-long expedition by dogsled across Antarctica in 1989—3,741 miles in 221 days.
What inspires you to dedicate your life to the ocean?
My fascination with the ocean comes from the thousands of people I’ve met who live along its edges and work and depend on it. While I love being under the sea as much as anyone, I keep going out there because of what I learn from the people I meet on expeditions whose lives are linked with the planet’s one ocean.
What has been your favorite experience in the field?
For 10 years I explored the world’s coastlines by sea kayak; each expedition provided both great adventure and great education: From the coast of Vietnam, where we met hundreds, thousands of people a day, to the remote Aleutian Islands, where we saw no one for a month. Perhaps my most memorable adventures on the sea were in French Polynesia, where Westerners had arrived two centuries before us thinking they’d finally discovered paradise. It’s hard to disagree with them still today.
Do you have a hero?
I have crossed the path of Thor Heyerdahl many times during my own explorations, from Easter Island to the Tuamotus, the Canary Islands to Fatu Hiva. Anyone I’ve met who knew him said that even if you disagreed with some of his theories, you couldn’t help but admire his curiosity and even-handedness.
If you could have people do one thing to help save the ocean, what would it be?
For individual action, that’s easy: Stop using plastic.
More About Ocean Heroes
Writer and filmmaker Jon Bowermaster's blog reports on the ever-changing and ever-evolving relationship between man and the sea.
Follow Jon as he explores the Antarctic Peninsula by sea kayak, sailboat, foot and small plane, observing the fast changing evolution of this most remote place.
Explore the world's oceans from the seat of a sea kayak in this eight DVD boxset.
Ocean Photo Galleries
National Geographic Magazine
A cast of thousands clings to rocky real estate in a narrow strip of shore called the intertidal zone.
From tiny coral polyps grew a marvel: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Could it all come crumbling down?
Carbon dioxide we pump into the air is seeping into the ocean and slowly acidifying it.
Support the Ocean
Help protect the last healthy, undisturbed places in the ocean so we can learn how to help healthy reefs thrive, help unhealthy reefs recover, and better preserve the ocean.
Explore the Ocean
Order ocean books, DVDs, maps, and more from the National Geographic online store.
Explore the world's oceans, from their prehistoric beginnings to modern-day efforts to preserve their natural wonder.
Immerse yourself in the wonders of the deep through colorful maps, photos, and satellite images.
Engage, Conserve, Restore
The National Geographic Society’s freshwater initiative is a multi-year global effort to inspire and empower individuals and communities to conserve freshwater and preserve the extraordinary diversity of life that rivers, lakes, and wetlands sustain.