Hailing from Kent, England, Charlotte Burns is not your ordinary 13-year-old girl. Near the end of September 2015, she’s planning to enter the history books as the first child to dive between the American and Eurasian continental plates at Silfra in Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park. A 200-foot (60 m) chasm filled with the clearest water on Earth, Silfra is the only place in the world where it’s possible to dive between the Earth’s tectonic plates. The site is typically strictly reserved for those aged 18 and over but after eight months of petitioning the Icelandic government for special dispensation, Charlotte has finally received permission to make her historic dive.
Charlotte is no stranger to scuba, having grown up in a family of avid divers. She claims that her inspiration to take the plunge for the first time came from her brother, Will, who became the world’s most qualified PADI Junior Master Scuba Diver at the age of 14. In recognition of his achievement Jean-Michel Cousteau presented him with an award, and it was seeing that certificate on her brother’s wall that encouraged Charlotte to follow in his fin-kicks. She enrolled in her Open Water course as soon as she was able to do so at the age of 10, and at 12 achieved her own Junior Master Scuba Diver certification — thereby beating her brother’s record. To date, Charlotte has more than 25 PADI certifications, and has completed over 130 dives all over the world.
In recognition of her achievements, Charlotte was awarded the status of PADI AmbassaDiver on July 18th, 2015 as part of the organization’s Women’s Dive Day celebrations. The AmbassaDiver program is a new initiative that aims to highlight influential divers of all ethnicities, ages and genders to encourage people from all walks of life to get involved in the sport.
“There are no words to describe [diving],” says Charlotte. “The fact that, at 13 years old, I can do it puts across a clear message that no matter what age you are, anyone can rise to the challenge and get used to diving. It works with anything no matter what age you are and no matter what you want to do, anyone can do anything.”
Charlotte’s upcoming Silfra dive is therefore about more than breaking records. She will be diving with British explorer and TV personality Monty Halls, and her experiences will be filmed for a documentary that will subsequently be used to teach geography in classrooms. Charlotte hopes that the resulting footage “teaches children about geology and diving in a modern way. The film I saw as a kid was outdated and did not connect to us. We have a chance to change that.”
She is also excited about the dive itself, which will allow her to experience water clarity of more than 330 feet (100 m), and even to touch both continental plates at the same time. Charlotte’s Dry Suit Diver specialty will come in useful at Silfra, too, where the water temperatures hover at around 36 to 40 F (2 to 4C).
Charlotte cites iconic divers and explorers Jean-Michel Cousteau, Sylvia Earle and Monty Halls as her scuba role models. Perhaps, after her imminent record-breaking dive, Charlotte’s own adventures will serve as an inspiration for the next generation of divers.