10 Questions with Mehgan Heaney-Grier of ‘Treasure Quest: Snake Island’

Are you ready to meet the mother of all Indiana Joneses?

Image courtesy Discovery Channel
Image courtesy of Discovery Channel.

Mehgan Heaney-Grier holds a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology, as well as anthropology. She established the first U.S. freedive record for both men and women in 1996, with a dive to an astonishing 165 feet on a single breath of air. She carries a dive belt instead of a bullwhip. She’s a mom, not a professor-in-disguise with Sean Connery for a dad. No word on whether she hates snakes as much as Indy did, but we’re getting the idea that she doesn’t love them in quantity.

And she’s the sole woman on Discovery Channel’s Treasure Quest: Snake Island, which premiers tonight at 10:00 p.m. ET/9:00 p.m. CT. When Discovery offered GeekMom the opportunity to talk with her, plus exclusive sneak peeks? We jumped at the chance. So grab your snake-spray and your treasure map and come meet Mehgan!

GeekMom: You’re dive-master for the expedition on Snake Island. What does that involve? How long are the dives? 

Mehgan Heaney-Grier: It entails a little of everything, from rallying up gear and tanks, to planning the dives and working the sites. I was brought onto the team in large part for my dive expertise and water experience working on marine crews for various projects, productions, and field work—as well as my degree in anthropology and studies in archeology. I really enjoy working with a team and this expedition was no exception! Captain Keith, who is also on the team, and I worked closely together on planing the dives and dive safety throughout the expedition. He also has a background in marine archeology, so we did most of the site dives and documentation together as well… it was really amazing in the waters off of Brazil, a perfect opportunity to totally dork out on all of the historical components that were involved! Dive length would vary depending on the site and depth of course, but it is always a good day when spent underwater.

Image courtesy Discovery Channel
Image courtesy of Discovery Channel.

GM: Did you watch/read adventure stories as a kid? What kinds? 

MHG: I did! I was a big fan of adventure books when I was a kid. My all time favorite was Island of the Blue Dolphins. I also loved adventure movies and shows too, like reruns of Sea Hunt and all nature shows—I couldn’t get enough!

GM: You use a lot of math and science in your planning for the expeditions. Can you elaborate?

MHG:  That is true, but I will be the first to admit that math is really not my department. I am more of the science and water buff! We did use a lot of new technology while on our expedition, which was a true advantage, as well as science and mathematics. There was a code to be cracked and we all worked very hard… I can’t disclose much more than that though! 

[GeekMom Sidebar: We are intrigued.]

GM: When did you first realize that pushing extreme envelopes was your “geekpoint”—if it is? Do you have other things you love to do? 

MHG: I have always loved the personal challenge, so it is safe to say it is what I “geek out on.” I love to get out there, in nature, on the road, on the water… wherever! I love to explore new places, paddle board, backpack, camp, road trip, breathe in salty air, and most things that have to do with water… and sharks. Lastly, I will say that little brings me more joy than sharing adventure and the ocean environment with my kids!

GM: You’re a mom as well as an adventurer. What advice would you give your kids about following in your footsteps, or not?

MHG: I would say go for it—all of it! Not to say that I haven’t really, really stressed my poor mom out with all of my adventures. However, my husband, Silas, and I really value following your dreams and living life to the fullest—and we figure that the best way to instill that in our kids is to lead by example.

Image courtesy Discovery Channel
Image courtesy of Discovery Channel.

GM: What advice would they give you?

MHG: My kids would probably tell me to slow down a bit—and to play and laugh more!  Life can get awfully busy, and who better to remind you to play than kids!

GM: What’s been your scariest moment on Snake Island?

MHGWhew! There were a lot of hair-raising moments out there… but the days when the sun wasn’t out the snakes were literally everywhere! On sunny days, you could anticipate where they were based on the time of day and whether they would be in direct sun warming up when it is cooler out, or in the shadows cooling off during the heat of the day. When the clouds came, it was incredibly snake-y!

GM: What life experiences prepared you for this adventure?

MHGI would say that the sum of my adventures leading up to this one helped me keep my cool and work effectively with the team under extremely difficult conditions. Especially my competitive freediving though, where it is just you and the never-ending ocean. The ocean is so grand and powerful, it is humbling and demands respect—it has a way of reminding you how small you are. I think that all of these things are good reminders and can come in really handy when dealing with dangerous natural places and deadly snakes.

GM: Do you consider yourself a geek or a nerd?

MHGAbsolutely a geek. Once I get going on the topic of sharks or the ocean environment… or anything I am passionate about, I enter geek-land!

GM:  Your plan is to use the adventure, and possibly your share of the treasure, to support environmental awareness and marine conservation? How so? 

MHG: Education and understanding are key to protecting anything on this planet. If I can shine some light on and raise awareness about the issues I am passionate about—like the health of the ocean—it’s what I can do to try to be part of the solution.

Many thanks to Mehgan for sharing her time with GeekMom, and to Discovery Channel for providing the sneak peeks below for Treasure Quest: Snake Island.

Snakes! Treasure! And Adventure! Treasure Quest: Snake Island premieres July 17, on Discovery Channel! 

Go On an Adventure With Tad, The Lost Explorer

Image: Tadeojones.com

Every so often while browsing Netflix/Amazon/the internet, in search of something to provide respite from Daniel Tiger, The Octonauts, and anything Disney, we come across a gem. Admittedly, the foray into my own childhood did not prove fruitful, nor that of my husband’s. The Flumps is not as entertaining as it was in the early 80s, while The Super Mario Brothers Super Show is a touch too far on the stereotyping side of things.

But we recently discovered an animated film from Mexico, translated into English, that was not what we expected.

Tad, The Lost Explorer, or Las aventuras de Tadeo Jones, exceeded our expectations. Tad Jones is a Chicago construction worker with fantasies of being Indiana Jones, or more to the point Max Morden, his archeological hero. He is friends with a professor at the local museum, and while helping the professor get to the airport for a journey to Peru, ends up taking his place. Tad is, of course, mistaken for a professor himself and the story follows the basic formula of mistaken identity. The girl falls in love with the real guy, ditches the phony guy, our hero accidentally succeeds where he should consistently fail, etc. There are lots of misdirects as the good guys attempt to find the treasure and keep the bad guys far away.

But it works; it really works. There are great human characters and great animal roles, especially in the ever-knowing bird. There are no songs, too, which for a nation reeling from the collective rendition of “Let it Go,” is high praise. We watched it over several days, and I was reluctant to let the boys watch without me in the room. I was as into it as they were.

The American version has a few recognizable voices in it. The female lead, Sara Lavroff, is voiced by Modern Family‘s Ariel Winter, while Cheech Marin lends his comic abilities as the tour guide/street vendor/inventor on the road. For the American rendering, the two main bad guys are given a German accent and a British accent, of course. But it is only the translated voices that really harp on the stereotypes.

The movie came out in 2013, but I had not heard of it until random chance on a bored afternoon. It doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page and only the original version is referenced on IMDB.com. Yet, the movie became the highest-grossing Spanish animated feature of all time, when it snagged $24 million at the box office and the short movie on which this full length feature is based, Tadeo Jones and the Basement of Doom, won the Spanish Oscar (the Goya) for Best Animated Short in 2007.

It is definitely worth your time. Check out the the trailer below.