or young Jacques Branellec, the often-overcast skies of a small port in the Brittany region of north-western France quickly gave way to the call of the open seas. His narrative—from navigator to commercial pilot to environmentalist pearl farmer to community leader—chronicles the trials and errors and often death-defying challenges, both from man and Nature, that he experienced during his many travels around the world. The book is also filled with love and laughter, friendship and family, philosophy and wisdom.
The first steps of his daring adventures took Branellec to North America, then to the lost atolls of Tahiti, where this professional pilot constructed airstrips against all odds, thus opening the islands to the world. It was also in Tahiti where he established his first cultured pearl farm, succeeding in a domain that had previously been reserved only for the Japanese. Today, the black pearls that he developed are Polynesia’s primary export.
After Tahiti, this adventurer sailed around the world, continuing his quest for the perfect pearl in the waters of the Caribbean, Panama, the Galapagos, the Marquesas Islands, Tonga, Fiji, the New Hybrides, Australia, and New Guinea. Finally, he landed on Palawan, one of the most remote islands in the Philippines. There, he discovered the Badjaos, who have, through generations, transferred the secrets of diving to depths as great as 80 metres. With the help of these “gypsies of the sea”, Branellec collected giant oysters— whose size can attain an incredible 25 cm in diameter—which he used to produce the largest pearls in the world. He formed a partnership with respected Filipino businessman, Manuel Cojuangco, and together they created Jewelmer, now known for its exquisite golden pearls and fabulous golden pearl jewellery.
Over the course of his many dives, Branellec brought to light the wreck of a 15th century Chinese junk, and describes the trials and tribulations of its exploration. The wreck finally revealed a fabulous treasure comprising nearly 5,000 pieces of inestimable archaeological value.
Concerned about the eventual extinction of the archipelago’s natural oyster beds, Branellec and the Jewelmer team spent years researching and mastering the reproduction of the prized molluscs in hatcheries. The resulting highly valued jewels from the South Seas soon became the pride of the Philippines and the nation’s national symbol. Today, Jewelmer is the At an early age, Jacques Branellec had an affinity for the sea. Shown here, at 18 years old, he is aboard the on the boat’s ill-fated maiden voyage off the coast of Brittany. Concerned about the eventual extinction of the archipelago’s natural oyster beds, Branellec and the Jewelmer team spent years researching and mastering the reproduction of the prized molluscs in hatcheries.”