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Jacques Cousteau

Updated on July 9, 2013

Jacques-Yves Cousteau: Ocean Explorer, Conservationist and Father of Modern Scuba

He may have been the most famous undersea explorer of our time. At the time of Jacques Cousteau's death, CNN remembered Captain Cousteau by saying, "For millions of people who see the ocean only through the porthole of television, the voice of the sea had a soft French accent." Indeed, Cousteau brought the undersea world to millions through books and films, and also helped thousands to enjoy the undersea world themselves as the co-inventor of the Aqua-Lung, which was the precursor to modern scuba diving equipment. He also helped others bring the beauty of the ocean back in pictures; Cousteau was the person who envisioned the Calypso camera, the underwater camera that was later acquired by Nikon and became the famous Nikonos underwater cameras. In these ways, Jacques Cousteau was responsible for bringing the beauties of the ocean to the general public.

(Image from the book Jacques Cousteau: Conserving Underwater Worlds (In the Footsteps of Explorers), available on Amazon)

- 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.

- No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.

- Mankind has probably done more damage to the Earth in the 20th century than in all of previous human history.

- The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.

- A lot of people attack the sea. I make love to it.

jacques cousteau silent world
jacques cousteau silent world

A Brief Biography of Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau

An inventor, author, filmmaker and ecologist

Jacques Cousteau was born in June 1910 Saint-André-de-Cubzac, Gironde, France. He became a French naval officer, but his career in naval aviation was cut short due to a car accident. He then turned his full interests to the sea. In 1943, he and two others shared a prize from the Congress of Documentary Film in 1943 for creating the first French underwater film: Par dix-huit mètres de fond (18 meters deep). The film was made using a depth-pressure-proof camera case, but without underwater breathing gear. Cousteau had found his passion.

His next film, Ãpaves (Shipwrecks), was made using the very first Aqua-Lung prototypes, which Cousteau helped develop. The Aqua-Lung allowed divers to breathe underwater with an on-demand air valve. It revolutionized diving, which previously had been done with bulky and heavy diving helmets that didn't allow for much time underwater or for very deep dives. The Aqua-Lung made it possible for divers to go deeper and for longer period and led to the development of modern scuba.

Cousteau left the French Navy in 1949 and founded the French Oceanographic Campaigns (FOC) the next year. He leased a ship known as the Calypso, and then set out to explore the ocean. Cousteau published his first book, The Silent Ocean, in 1953, in which he identified the echolocation abilities of dolphins. The movie was the later the basis for an Academy Award-winning documentary by the same name.

In 1957, Cousteau became the director of the Oceanographical Museum of Monaco and he continued his undersea explorations. He continued to write books and create underwater documentaries and during his lifetime created 120 television documentaries, more than 50 books, and an environmental protection foundation with 300,000 members. He also racked up a number of awards and honors.

Jacques Cousteau died in June 1997, but his legacy continues on.

Jacques Cousteau Biography for Kids - Read more about this fascinating explorer

Sterling Biographies�: Jacques Cousteau: A Life Under the Sea
Sterling Biographies�: Jacques Cousteau: A Life Under the Sea
Kids will savor this fascinating trip into the life and undersea world of pioneering oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. In his quest to show off the beauty found below the waves, Cousteau dedicated himself to developing new diving technology, inventing innovative ways to photograph underwater life, and traveling the globe to explore different bodies of water. His films, including The Academy Award(R)-winning The Silent World, opened people’s eyes to a formerly unknown and spectacular marine universe. Cousteau did more than anyone to enlighten us to the stunning complexity of the oceans’ ecology, and the importance of preserving it.

"People protect what they love."

- Jacques Cousteau

The Cousteau Society

Nonprofit organization founded by Captain Cousteau

The Cousteau Society is a nonprofit organization started by Captain Cousteau in 1974 and dedicated to the "protection and improvement of the quality of life for present and future generations."

"The Society believes that only an informed and educated public can make the decisions necessary to protect and manage the world's natural resources," according to ther Society website. "Education efforts directed toward members, classrooms and the general population include membership publications Calypso Log and Cousteau Kids, individual information packets on a variety of environmental subjects, statements on developing issues, participation in special events and the innovative Cousteau in the Classroom program, to date reaching over 111,000 students in more than 2,200 classrooms. The Cousteau Society is also working to expand its presence on the Internet to make its 30 years of informative material more readily available to a global audience."

Help Save the Oceans - For Free!

A simple click of your mouse can help save the oceans Cousteau cherished

If you're an ocean lover,'s Race for the Oceans is a site you'll want to visit and bookmark. It's a quick, easy way to help save our oceans.

Simply visit the site and click the "Click to Help" button. When you do, a donation will be generated for Oceana's ocean protection programs. Contributions are funded by advertisers who have agreed to pay for clicks in exchange for being featuring on the Race for the Oceans. 100% of the net revenues are donated to Oceana, a nonprofit organization working to save the world's oceans.

In His Own Words - Cousteau on Conservation

The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World
The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus: Exploring and Conserving Our Natural World
From Amazon: Believing that "people will protect what they love," pioneering marine explorer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau (1910–97) set out to make humankind fall in love with the sea, the crucible of life. A man of sangfroid, conviction, courage, ingenuity, and perception, Cousteau not only was the preeminent guide to the surpassing beauty and mystery of the deep but also became a tireless defender of the watery realm. With the help of Schiefelbein, who wrote the narration for a number of his award-winning documentaries, Cousteau completed this defining and superlative chronicle the year before his death, and although it has taken a decade for it to reach America, it is fresh and stinging, replete with an anchoring foreword by Bill McKibben and Schiefelbein's vivid introduction and informative epilogue. Cousteau seamlessly splices amazing tales of exploring undersea caves, encountering sharks, and surviving an Antarctic blizzard with bracing eyewitness accounts of the shockingly rapid and potentially catastrophic destruction of marine life.

Captain Cousteau's son Jean-Michael served as Executive Vice President of the Cousteau Society, the nonprofit organization his father started, for nearly 20 years. He left the organization and founded the Ocean Futures Society in 1999. The society describes itself as a"non-profit marine conservation and education organization (that) serves as a voice for the ocean by communicating in all media the critical bond between people and the sea and the importance of wise environmental policy... As Ocean Futures' leader, Jean-Michel serves as an impassioned diplomat for the environment, reaching out to the public through a variety of media."

Jacques Cousteau DVDs - Go under the sea with Captain Cousteau

Jacques Cousteau was known for his amazing undersea videos and photography. These DVDs will take you below the oceans with the famed explorer.

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