Legacy of a leg­end

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - T PEOPLE - –ByAl­lanKoay

THIS year marks the 100th an­niver­sary of the birth of a pi­o­neer who changed the world and its oceans for­ever. The le­gendary Cap­tain Jac­ques-Yves Cousteau orig­i­nally planned to pur­sue a ca­reer in naval avi­a­tion. But a road ac­ci­dent dashed his hopes and he turned to the oceans in­stead.

Born in 1910 in Gironde, France, Cousteau grad­u­ated from the French Naval Academy as a gun­nery of­fi­cer. He started his un­der­wa­ter ex­per­i­ments even while in the navy. He worked in in­for­ma­tion ser­vice and was sent on mis­sions to var­i­ous coun­tries in the late 1930s.

A few years af­ter his mar­riage to Si­mone Mel­chior, World War II broke out and the cou­ple and their two sons, Jean-Michel and Philippe, moved to Megeve where Cousteau met moun­taineer Mar­cel Ichac. Shar­ing a love for ex­plor­ing the un­known, Cousteau and Ichac made the first French un­der­wa­ter film, 18 Me­tres Deep, shot by free-div­ing into the sea. The film won a prize at the Congress Of Doc­u­men­tary Film in 1943. Also in that year, Cousteau, then 33, used a pro­to­type of the aqualung which he had de­vel­oped with French-Cana­dian en­gi­neer and in­ven­tor Emile Gag­nan.

Af­ter un­der­tak­ing var­i­ous ex­pe­di­tions and an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dive to a wreck in Tu­nisia, Cousteau left the navy in 1949. The next year he founded the French Oceano­graphic Cam­paigns, and leased the now-fa­mous Ca­lypso, retrofitting it with a lab­o­ra­tory. Among the things he pi­o­neered dur­ing his long ca­reer, Cousteau – along with Jean Mol­land – cre­ated the div­ing saucer, a mini-sub­mersible that car­ries a crew of two and can go as deep as 350m. In the 1960s, an­other smaller, one­man ver­sion called the

Sea Flea was cre­ated that could dive to a depth of 500m.

And while as­tro­nauts ex­per­i­mented with liv­ing in space sta­tions, Cousteau had the vi­sion of “ocea­nauts” liv­ing un­der­wa­ter for long pe­ri­ods. The Con­shelf was cre­ated as a kind of “un­der­wa­ter vil­lage”. By 1965, the Con­shelf III was born which could house up to six ocea­nauts for up to three weeks.

Cousteau also en­vi­sioned a propul­sion sys­tem that partly uses clean re­new­able en­ergy such as the wind, and the Tur­bo­sail was born. He also cor­rectly pre­dicted the sonar-like ca­pa­bil­i­ties of dol­phins when he no­ticed the move­ments of a group of por­poises that fol­lowed his re­search ves­sel.

Through­out his ca­reer, Cousteau made over 120 TV doc­u­men­taries and wrote over 50 books. In 1956, his film, The Silent World, co-pro­duced with a young Louis Malle, won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val.

Parts of the film were later crit­i­cised, such as where Cousteau and crew blow up a co­ral reef to as­cer­tain the num­ber of sea crea­tures that lived there. In an­other scene, the crew bru­tally and venge­fully kills a school of sharks that is feed­ing on a whale calf ac­ci­den­tally killed by the Ca­lypso’s mo­tors.

How­ever, Cousteau later went on to spear­head ma­rine con­ser­va­tion and brought to the world’s at­ten­tion var­i­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues plagu­ing the oceans. In 1960, he man­aged to rally sup­port through a pub­lic­ity cam­paign that ul­ti­mately stopped the dump­ing of toxic waste into the sea by the French Atomic and Al­ter­na­tive En­er­gies Com­mis­sion.

Af­ter his wife’s death in 1991, Cousteau mar­ried Francine Triplet, who is to­day the pres­i­dent of The Cousteau So­ci­ety. In 1996, the Ca­lypso was rammed by a barge in Singapore and sank. A year later, Cousteau died in Paris at the age of 87.

To mark the an­niver­sary, a year-long cel­e­bra­tion is on-go­ing till June next year, and part of it in­cludes the restora­tion and re­fur­bish­ment of the Ca­lypso which will go on a global tour as an ed­u­ca­tional ex­hi­bi­tion.

The Cousteau So­ci­ety (www.cousteau.org) is also es­tab­lish­ing an ocean-mon­i­tor­ing pro­gramme called Cousteau Divers which will bring to­gether divers world­wide for ma­rine con­ser­va­tion.

Last June, the Na­tional Geo­graphic So­ci­ety went on a month-long film­ing ex­pe­di­tion to doc­u­ment changes in the Mediter­ranean since Cousteau’s first films in the 1940s, and to pro­mote the ex­pan­sion of ma­rine re­serves.

Around the world: The le­gendary Ca­lypso, the boat used by Capt Cousteau on his fa­mous ex­pe­di­tions. It sank in Singapore in 1996 but restora­tion is un­der­way as part of the 100th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions of Cousteau’s birth. (Pic left) Capt Cousteau on one of his many dives. He helped to de­velop the aqualung which led to to­day’s mod­ern scuba gear. – Pics cour­tesy of The Cousteau So­ci­ety

The div­ing saucer de­vel­oped by Capt Cousteau and Jean Mol­land. The min­isub­mersible can carry a crew of two and go to a depth of 350m.

The cap­tain in his sig­na­ture red cap. His pi­o­neer­ing work changed deep-sea div­ing and our un­der­stand­ing of the oceans for­ever.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.