Jacques Cousteau

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Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1976
Born 11 June 1910(1910-06-11)
Saint-André-de-Cubzac, Gironde, France
Died 25 June 1997 (aged 87)
Paris, France

Jacques-Yves Cousteau (French pronunciation: [ʒak iv kusto]; commonly known in English as Jacques Cousteau; 11 June 1910 – 25 June 1997)[1] was a French naval officer, explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water. He co-developed the Aqua-Lung, pioneered marine conservation and was a member of the Académie française. He was also known as "le Commandant Cousteau" or "Captain Cousteau".

Contents

Life

"The sea, the great unifier, is man's only hope. Now, as never before,
the old phrase has a literal meaning: We are all in the same boat."
—Jacques Cousteau

Early life

Cousteau was born on 11 June 1910, in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, Gironde, France to Daniel and Élisabeth Cousteau. He had one brother, Pierre-Antoine. Cousteau completed his preparatory studies at the prestigious Collège Stanislas in Paris. In 1930, he entered the École Navale and graduated as a gunnery officer. After an automobile accident cut short his career in naval aviation, Cousteau indulged his interest in the sea.

In Toulon, where he was serving on the Condorcet, Cousteau carried out his first underwater experiments, thanks to his friend Philippe Tailliez who in 1936 lent him some Fernez underwater goggles, predecessors of modern diving masks.[2] Cousteau also belonged to the information service of the French Navy, and was sent on missions to Shanghai and Japan (1935–1938) and in the USSR (1939).[citation needed]

On 12 July 1937 he married Simone Melchior, with whom he had two sons, Jean-Michel (born 1938) and Philippe (1940–1979). His sons took part in the adventures of the Calypso. In 1991, one year after his wife Simone's death from cancer, he married Francine Triplet. They already had a daughter Diane Cousteau (born 1980) and a son Pierre-Yves Cousteau (born 1982), born during Cousteau's marriage to his first wife.

Early 1940s: Innovation of modern underwater diving

In 1943, they made the film Épaves (Shipwrecks), in which they used two of the very first Aqua-Lung prototypes. These prototypes were made in Boulogne-Billancourt by the Air Liquide company, following instructions from Cousteau and Émile Gagnan.[3][4] When making Épaves, Cousteau could not find the necessary blank reels of movie film, but had to buy hundreds of small still camera film reels the same width, intended for a make of child's camera, and cemented them together to make long reels.[5][6]

Having kept bonds with the English speakers (he spent part of his childhood in the United States and usually spoke English) and with French soldiers in North Africa (under Admiral Lemonnier), Jacques-Yves Cousteau (whose villa "Baobab" at Sanary (Var) was opposite Admiral Darlan's villa "Reine"), helped the French Navy to join again with the Allies; he assembled a commando operation against the Italian espionage services in France, and received several military decorations for his deeds. At that time, he kept his distance from his brother Pierre-Antoine Cousteau, a "pen anti-semite" who wrote the collaborationist newspaper Je suis partout (I am everywhere) and who received the death sentence in 1946. However this was later commuted to a life sentence, and Pierre-Antoine was released in 1954.

During the 1940s, Cousteau is credited with improving the aqua-lung design which gave birth to the open-circuit scuba technology used today. According to his first book, The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure (1953), Cousteau started diving with Fernez goggles in 1936, and in 1939 used the self contained underwater breathing apparatus invented in 1926 by Commander Yves le Prieur.[7] Cousteau was not satisfied with the length of time he could spend underwater with the Le Prieur apparatus so he improved it to extend underwater duration by adding a demand regulator, invented in 1942 by Émile Gagnan.[8] In 1943 Cousteau tried out the first prototype aqua-lung which finally made extended underwater exploration possible.

Late 1940s: GERS and Élie Monnier

In 1946, Cousteau and Tailliez showed the film "Épaves" to Admiral Lemonnier, and the admiral gave them the responsibility of setting up the Groupement de Recherches Sous-marines (GRS) (Underwater Research Group) of the French Navy in Toulon. A little later it became the GERS (Groupe d'Études et de Recherches Sous-Marines, = Underwater Studies and Research Group), then the COMISMER ("COMmandement des Interventions Sous la MER", = "Undersea Interventions Command"), and finally more recently the CEPHISMER. In 1947, Chief Petty Officer Maurice Fargues became the first diver to die using an aqualung while attempting a new depth record with the GERS near Toulon.[9]

In 1948, between missions of mine clearance, underwater exploration and technological and physiological tests, Cousteau undertook a first campaign in the Mediterranean on board the sloop Élie Monnier,[10] with Philippe Tailliez, Frédéric Dumas, Jean Alinat and the scenario writer Marcel Ichac. The small team also undertook the exploration of the Roman wreck of Mahdia (Tunisia). It was the first underwater archaeology operation using autonomous diving, opening the way for scientific underwater archaeology. Cousteau and Marcel Ichac brought back from there the Carnets diving film (presented and preceded with the Cannes Film Festival 1951).

Cousteau and the Élie Monnier then took part in the rescue of Professor Jacques Piccard's bathyscaphe, the FNRS-2, during the 1949 expedition to Dakar. Thanks to this rescue, the French Navy was able to reuse the sphere of the bathyscaphe to construct the FNRS-3.

The adventures of this period are told in the two books The Silent World (1953, by Cousteau and Dumas) and Plongées sans câble (1954, by Philippe Tailliez).

1950–1970s

In 1949, Cousteau left the French Navy.

In 1950, he founded the French Oceanographic Campaigns (FOC), and leased a ship called Calypso from Thomas Loel Guinness for a symbolic one franc a year. Cousteau refitted the Calypso as a mobile laboratory for field research and as his principal vessel for diving and filming. He also carried out underwater archaeological excavations in the Mediterranean, in particular at Grand-Congloué (1952).

With the publication of his first book in 1953, The Silent World, he correctly predicted the existence of the echolocation abilities of porpoises. He reported that his research vessel, the Élie Monier, was heading to the Straits of Gibraltar and noticed a group of porpoises following them. Cousteau changed course a few degrees off the optimal course to the center of the strait, and the porpoises followed for a few minutes, then diverged toward mid-channel again. It was evident that they knew where the optimal course lay, even if the humans did not. Cousteau concluded that the cetaceans had something like sonar, which was a relatively new feature on submarines.

Cousteau won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956 for The Silent World co-produced with Louis Malle. With the assistance of Jean Mollard, he made a "diving saucer" SP-350, an experimental underwater vehicle which could reach a depth of 350 meters. The successful experiment was quickly repeated in 1965 with two vehicles which reached 500 meters.

In 1957, he was elected as director of the Oceanographical Museum of Monaco. He directed Précontinent, about the experiments of diving in saturation (long-duration immersion, houses under the sea), and was admitted to the United States National Academy of Sciences.

In October 1960, a large amount of radioactive waste was going to be discarded in the Mediterranean Sea by the Commissariat à l'énergie atomique (CEA). The CEA argued that the dumps were experimental in nature, and that French oceanographers such as Vsevelod Romanovsky had recommended it. Romanovsky and other French scientists, including Louis Fage and Jacques Cousteau, repudiated the claim, saying that Romanovsky had in mind a much smaller amount. The CEA claimed that there was little circulation (and hence little need for concern) at the dump site between Nice and Corsica, but French public opinion sided with the oceanographers rather than with the CEA atomic energy scientists. The CEA chief, Francis Perrin, decided to postpone the dump.[11] Cousteau organized a publicity campaign which in less than two weeks gained wide popular support. The train carrying the waste was stopped by women and children sitting on the railway tracks, and it was sent back to its origin.

A meeting with American television companies (ABC, Métromédia, NBC) created the series The Underwater Odyssey of Commander Cousteau, with the character of the commander in the red bonnet inherited from standard diving dress) intended to give the films a "personalized adventure" style.

In 1970, he wrote the book The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea with Philippe, his son. In this book, Costeau described the oceanic whitetip shark as "the most dangerous of all sharks".

In 1973, along with his two sons and Frederick Hyman, he created the Cousteau Society for the Protection of Ocean Life, Frederick Hyman being its first President; it now has more than 300,000 members.

Three years after the volcano's last eruption, on 19 December 1973, the Cousteau team was filming on Deception Island, Antarctica when Michel Laval, Calypso's second in command, was struck and killed by a propeller of the helicopter that was ferrying between Calypso and the island.

In 1976, Cousteau uncovered the wreck of HMHS Britannic. He also found the wreck of La Therese in Crete island

In 1977, together with Peter Scott, he received the UN International Environment prize.

On 28 June 1979, while the Calypso was on an expedition to Portugal, his second son, Philippe, his preferred and designated successor and with whom he had co-produced all his films since 1969, died in a PBY Catalina flying boat crash in the Tagus river near Lisbon. Cousteau was deeply affected. He called his then eldest son, the architect Jean-Michel Cousteau, to his side. This collaboration lasted 14 years.

1980–1990s

In 1980, Cousteau traveled to Canada to make two films on the Saint Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, Cries from the Deep and St. Lawrence: Stairway to the Sea.[12]

In 1985, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan.

On 24 November 1988, he was elected to the French Academy, chair 17, succeeding Jean Delay. His official reception under the Cupola took place on 22 June 1989, the response to his speech of reception being given by Bertrand Poirot-Delpech. After his death, he was replaced under the Cupola by Érik Orsenna on 28 May 1998.

In June 1990, the composer Jean Michel Jarre paid homage to the commander by entitling his new album Waiting for Cousteau. He also composed the music for Cousteau's documentary "Palawan, the last refuge".

On 2 December 1990, his wife Simone Cousteau died of cancer.

In June 1991, in Paris, Jacques-Yves Cousteau remarried, to Francine Triplet, with whom he had (before this marriage) two children, Diane and Pierre-Yves. Francine Cousteau currently continues her husband's work as the head of the Cousteau Foundation and Cousteau Society. From that point, the relations between Jacques-Yves and his elder son worsened.

In November 1991, Cousteau gave an interview to the UNESCO courier, in which he stated that he was in favour of human population control and population decrease. The full article text can be found online.[13]

In 1992, he was invited to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the United Nations' International Conference on Environment and Development, and then he became a regular consultant for the UN and the World Bank.

In 1996, he sued his son who wished to open a holiday center named "Cousteau" in the Fiji Islands.

On 11 January 1996, Calypso was rammed and sunk in Singapore harbor by a barge. The Calypso was refloated and towed home to France.

Death

Jacques-Yves Cousteau died on 25 June 1997 in Paris, aged 87. Despite persistent rumors, encouraged by some Islamic publications and websites, Cousteau did not convert to Islam, and when he died he was buried in a Roman Catholic Christian funeral.[14] He was buried in the family vault at Saint-André-de-Cubzac in France. An homage was paid to him by the city by the inauguration of a "rue du Commandant Cousteau", a street which runs out to his native house, where a commemorative plaque was affixed.

Honors

During his lifetime, Jacques-Yves Cousteau received these distinctions:

Legacy

Cousteau's legacy includes more than 120 television documentaries, more than 50 books, and an environmental protection foundation with 300,000 members.[17]

Cousteau liked to call himself an "oceanographic technician." He was, in reality, a sophisticated showman, teacher, and lover of nature. His work permitted many people to explore the resources of the oceans.

His work also created a new kind of scientific communication, criticised at the time by some academics. The so-called "divulgationism", a simple way of sharing scientific concepts, was soon employed in other disciplines and became one of the most important characteristics of modern television broadcasting.

Cousteau died on 25 June 1997. The Cousteau Society and its French counterpart, l'Équipe Cousteau, both of which Jacques-Yves Cousteau founded, are still active today. The Society is currently attempting to turn the original Calypso into a museum and it is raising funds to build a successor vessel, the Calypso II.

In his last years, after marrying again, Cousteau became involved in a legal battle with his son Jean-Michel over Jean-Michel licensing the Cousteau name for a South Pacific resort, resulting in Jean-Michel Cousteau being ordered by the court not to encourage confusion between his for-profit business and his father's non-profit endeavours.

In 2007, the International Watch Company introduced the IWC Aquatimer Chronograph "Cousteau Divers" Special Edition. The timepiece incorporated a sliver of wood from the interior of Cousteau's Calypso research vessel. Having developed the diver's watch, IWC offered support to The Cousteau Society. The proceeds from the timepieces' sales were partially donated to the non-profit organization involved into conservation of marine life and preservation of tropical coral reefs.[18]

See also

Jacques-Yves Cousteau's ships

Bibliography

Books by Cousteau

    • The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea (1970)
    • Diving for Sunken Treasure (1971)
    • Life and Death in a Coral Sea (1971)
    • The Whale: Mighty Monarch of the Sea (1972)
    • Octopus and Squid: The Soft Intelligence (1973)
    • Three Adventures: Galápagos, Titicaca, the Blue Holes (1973)
    • Diving Companions: Sea Lion, Elephant Seal, Walrus (1974)
    • Dolphins (1975)
    • Oasis in Space (vol 1)
    • The Act of Life (vol 2)
    • Quest for Food (vol 3)
    • Window in the Sea (vol 4)
    • The Art of Motion (vol 5)
    • Attack and Defense (vol 6)
    • Invisible Messages (vol 7)
    • Instinct and Intelligence (vol 8)
    • Pharaohs of the Sea (vol 9)
    • Mammals in the Sea (vol 10)
    • Provinces of the Sea (vol 11)
    • Man Re-Enters Sea (vol 12)
    • A Sea of Legends (vol 13)
    • Adventure of Life (vol 14)
    • Outer and Inner Space (vol 15)
    • The Whitecaps (vol 16)
    • Riches of the Sea (vol 17)
    • Challenges of the Sea (vol 18)
    • The Sea in Danger (vol 19)
    • Guide to the Sea and Index (vol 20)
    • Calypso (1978, vol 21)
  • A Bill of Rights for Future Generations (1979)
  • Life at the Bottom of the World (1980)
  • The Cousteau United States Almanac of the Environment (1981, aka The Cousteau Almanac of the Environment: An Inventory of Life on a Water Planet)
  • Jacques Cousteau's Calypso (1983)
  • Marine Life of the Caribbean (1984, with James Cribb and Thomas H. Suchanek)
  • Jacques Cousteau's Amazon Journey (1984, with Mose Richards)
  • Jacques Cousteau: The Ocean World (1985)
  • The Whale (1987, with Philippe Diole)
  • Jacques Cousteau: Whales (1988, with Yves Paccalet)
  • The Human, The Orchid and The Octopus (and Susan Schiefelbein, coauthor; Bloomsbury 2007]

Books about Cousteau

  • Undersea Explorer: The Story of Captain Cousteau (1957) by James Dugan
  • Jacques Cousteau and the Undersea World (2000) by Roger King
  • Jacques-Yves Cousteau: His Story Under the Sea (2002) by John Bankston
  • Jacques Cousteau: A Life Under the Sea (2008) by Kathleen Olmstead

Films

Television series

References

  1. Cousteau Society
  2. The Cousteau Foundation page about "The Captain" confirms Cousteau biography as written here.
  3. The 1943 documentary film Épaves, in Google vidéos (in French). Two early Aqua-Lung prototypes can be appreciated in the film.
  4. The Musée du Scaphandre website (a diving museum in Espalion, south of France) mentions how Gagnan and Cousteau adapted a Rouquayrol-Denayrouze apparatus by means of the Air Liquide company (in French).
  5. The Silent World. J. Y. Cousteau with Frédéric Dumas. Hamish Hamilton, London. 1953
  6. Capitaine de frégate PHILIPPE TAILLIEZ, Plongées sans câble, Arthaud, Paris, January 1954, Dépôt légal 1er trimestre 1954 - Édition N° 605 - Impression N° 243 (in French)
  7. The Silent World. J. Y. Cousteau with Frédéric Dumas. Hamish Hamilton, London. 1953
  8. The Silent World. J. Y. Cousteau with Frédéric Dumas. Hamish Hamilton, London. 1953
  9. Ecott, Tim (2001). Neutral Buoyancy: Adventures in a Liquid World. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN 0-87113-794-1
  10. Sevellec, E.-J.: Naissance du GERS et des premiers plongeurs démineurs, 1 December 2006. URL last accessed 18 February 2010. According to Sevellec, the Élie Monnier was an old German tugboat originally called Albatros and handed over to France as a war reparation, and then re-baptised in honor of the maritime engineer Élie Monnier who had disappeared while diving at Mers-el-Kébir on the wreck of the battleship Bretagne. See also Riffaud, C.: "La règne du scaphandre à casque", in La grande aventure des hommes sous la mer, ISBN 2-226-03502-8.
  11. Jacob Darwin Hamblin, Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age (Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008).
  12. Ohayon, Albert (2009). When Cousteau Came to Canada. NFB.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved on 25 October 2009.
  13. Widely quoted on the internet are these two paragraphs from the interview: "What should we do to eliminate suffering and disease? It's a wonderful idea but perhaps not altogether a beneficial one in the long run. If we try to implement it we may jeopardize the future of our species...It's terrible to have to say this. World population must be stabilized and to do that we must eliminate 350,000 people per day. This is so horrible to contemplate that we shouldn't even say it. But the general situation in which we are involved is lamentable". Full interview with UNESCO Courier digital copy
  14. Témoignage: La "conversion" du commandant Cousteau à l'Islam (French)
  15. It's an Honour
  16. http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2010/06/jacques-cousteau-would-be-hear.html
  17. http://www.cousteau.org/jyc.html
  18. IWC in homage to Cousteau
  19. Cries from the Deep. National Film Board of Canada Web site (1981). Retrieved on 20 June 2009.
  20. St. Lawrence: Stairway to the Sea. National Film Board of Canada Web site (1982). Retrieved on 20 June 2009.

External links

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Jean Delay
Seat 17
Académie française

1988–1997
Succeeded by
Érik Orsenna
Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.
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