GALLANT, Jeffrey J., M.Sc.
Canada (1966- )
Last updated: November 30, 2017 at 16:04 pm
Jeffrey is the Editor-in-Chief of the Diving Almanac and Book of Records, which he first published in 2006 (2007 Edition). He is also the President and lead scientist of the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group (GEERG). Jeffrey started diving with the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets in 1982 at the age of 14. He has since led several research and training expeditions around the world. Among other accomplishments, Gallant was trained as an aquanaut (underwater habitat operations) in Romania in 1995, he was the founding Diving Safety Officer (DSO) of the Quebec Aquarium in 2002, he dove with Équipe Cousteau in 1999, he co-led the first shark observation cage dives in Canada, he led the first underwater tagging of Greenland sharks on scuba, he deployed the first shark observation cage under ice, he published the first online dive magazine, and he has served as a scientific adviser and dive leader on expeditions and fact-finding missions in Labrador, Nunavut, Iceland, Greenland and Ghana. An award-winning underwater photographer and videographer, Jeffrey has contributed to several dive publications, books, as well as television and film documentaries on sharks and diving, including National Geographic, Discovery Channel, History Channel, BBC, CBC, Radio-Canada and Explora. He has been a contributing editor of Vancouver-based DIVER Magazine since 1997. Jeffrey was elected a Fellow of the Explorers Club in 2010, and he was presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his contributions to underwater science and exploration in 2012. In 2014, the CCID elected Jeffrey as an Ambassador of the City of Drummondville where he teaches at the CEGEP.
“Fear and apathy bite deeper than any shark.” — Jeffrey J. Gallant
Interview by DIVER Magazine | Volume 42 Number 6 | November 2017
Name: Jeffrey Gallant, M.Sc.
Profession / Title: Shark ethologist, author, aquanaut.
How long have you been diving? 35 years (2017)
What was the defining moment that made you want to become a diver? Watching The Undersea World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau in the 1970s.
What is your most memorable marine life encounter? My first Greenland shark in 2003. It was the culminating point of an exhausting search, and the start of a life-changing scientific endeavour.
How did diving change your life? As a child, I quickly realized that sticking my head underwater offered me the chance to explore an alien and enticing world with limitless possibilities. This fueled my desire to become a marine biologist, and it was also through diving that I met my research colleagues who set me on the path to sharks.
What does diving mean to you? My diving experiences have left me with a profound sense of my vulnerability and individuality; of being a minute part of a gigantic and universal whole. And yet, despite this sense of insignificance and graceless presence, I never feel out of place. Being underwater grounds me, and instantly makes all my worries disappear.
Who is your go-to dive buddy? Many of my most rewarding dives have been with Dr. Chris Harvey-Clark.
What is your favourite dive site? The Arctic Ocean, but I also love diving everywhere else in Canada. The colder and the more remote, the better.
Where would you like to dive but haven’t yet? Norway, Svalbard, Lake Baikal, and the wrecks of Franklin’s lost expedition. Diving in a deep submersible and being a mission aquanaut aboard the Aquarius habitat are also near the top of my bucket list.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen underwater? The tree-felling incisors of a furious beaver aiming for my face at ramming speed after I got too close to its lodge. It was the only time I have ever screamed out of fright while diving.
Favourite dive snack? Post-dive poutine with extra cheese.
You can take any 5 people, past or present, on a dive, who would they be? My daughter Béatrice who is still mastering how to walk; Jacques-Yves Cousteau to say thanks and for the subsequent meal and cognac aboard Calypso; Peter Sellers in character as Inspector Jacques Clouseau on a cage dive at Guadeloupe; and Donald Trump with Kim Jong-un for so many reasons…
Favourite diving movie? The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Ever since I watched it for the first time, Papa Steve has reminded me that although prolonged adversity may eventually turn you into a cynical malcontent, you can still find the proverbial jaguar shark if you never give up.
Proudest diving moments or achievements? Publishing the first edition of the Diving Almanac & Book of Records in 2007, diving with childhood heroes aboard Cousteau’s windship Alcyone in 1999, and becoming an aquanaut during a multi-day underwater habitat mission in Romania in 1995.
Favourite piece of equipment? I have always dove with a camera and Force Fins since the 1980s.
What’s next? The new and ever-expanding Diving Almanac website is the crowning achievement of 10 years trial and error, and unrelenting determination against all odds.
One piece of advice for divers: This may come as a paradox from someone who publishes the only Who’s Who of diving, but I think too many divers get caught up in lifestyle branding, i.e. I am as passionate about diving as the next person but I no longer let it define my existence. If the oceans all dried up tomorrow, we’d sure be a sad lot with nothing left to live for… so try to find some balance. And speaking of labels, the tribal split between the technical, recreational, and freediving communities is dividing our fraternity at a time when, more than ever, we need to be united to better the industry and help save the world ocean. For most of us, the fundamental aim of diving is to see what discoveries await beneath the surface. With this mindset, all we need is a mask and a foot of water to cross into the unknown and become explorers and custodians, brothers and sisters, one and all.