Were he alive today, Jacques-Yves Cousteau would have celebrated his 102nd birthday this past week.
Born in France on 11 June 1910, this explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, innovator, author and researcher co-developed and perfected the aqua-lung with French engineer Emil Gagnan, making it possible for us to experience the wonders of the underwater world as we do today.
Cousteau is well known for bringing the world of whales, dolphins, sharks and sunken treasure into the homes of the public through his pioneering Television series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. He was also extremely active in drawing attention to the irreversible effects of environmental destruction and co-founded the Cousteau Society for the Protection of Ocean Life in 1973, which today boasts over 300 000 members.
In order to continue his explorations and to further public awareness of environmental issues, Cousteau bought the ship Calypso in 1948. This was financed through the production of numerous films such as his renowned “The Silent World” (1956) and World Without Sun (1966).
He also wrote many books and in his first book “The Silent World” published in 1953, he correctly predicted that porpoises used echo-location for navigation after watching how a group of porpoises navigated their way through the Straits of Gibraltar.Cousteau died on June 25, 1997 at the age of 87. Although his scientific credentials have been challenged by some, Cousteau never claimed expert status in any discipline, referring to himself as “an oceanographic technician”.
And as Jacques-Yves Cousteau so rightly said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever”.