Friday, June 11, 2010

The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau

"The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know about existence and to marvel at it."
- Jacques-Yves Cousteau

That little man in the funny red stocking hat up there was the greatest undersea adventurer of the modern age, and today (were he still alive) would mark his 100th birthday.

People of my generation may have only a passing knowledge of JYC's legacy on motion pictures and of his oceanographic research, and are far more aware of the current careers of his grandchildren; Alexandra and Philippe Jr. Also of the vast references to him in popular culture. I remember reruns of The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau playing on the Disney Channel when I was a kid, and being fascinated by its scary other-worldness.

Many have marveled at the great mysteries he unraveled through a lifetime of oceanic exploration, yet still struggle to decipher the code to his private persona. For you see, not only was he an inventor/adventurer/environmentalist/philanthropist/businessman/, but he was also a very dark and haunted philanderer that physically and emotionally abandoned his own family members for years at a time. Perhaps his escape into the sea was the only way in which he could rectify the emptiness and isolation that he felt on land.

I grew up along the Gulf Coast of Texas, and to me, the sea is everything. That dark and enchanting magical mistress tempting you with its dangerous charms. That is why I am completely sickened by the catastrophic images I see daily as a result of British Petrol's little "mistake" down there. I can overlook Cousteau's 1950s offshore drilling contracts with B.P. if he could grant me one wish...

I would love to see the graceful little Calypso appear across the Gulf one last time, chugging along and bouncing across the waves with a red-topped Cousteau riding stoically at the helm. Accompanied by his merry band of adventurers they drop anchor, don their Aqua-lungs, and descend into the oily depths. He could plug this leak. I know he could.

The Aqua-lung is arguably the single greatest invention of Cousteau. Here he is as a young man sporting an early version.

The Calpyso. The Cousteau team's famed vessel.

Not familiar with the man? Read Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King. It is a fine place to start.

The Cousteau channel on YouTube has a load of historical footage.

I like this one:

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