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Underwater Explorer Jacques Cousteau Remembered by Son in Memoir

Underwater Explorer Jacques Cousteau Remembered by Son in Memoir
Underwater Explorer Jacques Cousteau Remembered by Son in Memoir

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Faiza Elmasry

Legendary underwater explorer and filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born 100 years ago this month (June 11, 1910). To celebrate Cousteau's remarkable life and legacy, National Geographic Books is publishing a memoir by his eldest son Jean-Michel, founder and president of the Ocean Futures Society.

Growing up with an adventurous father who loved to explore the world beneath the waves was exciting.

"As a kid, when I first put a tank on my back, I was seven years of age. My late brother was four and half. And we went and we started exploring the Mediterranean Sea," said Jean-Michel Cousteau.

Early on, Jean-Michel Cousteau says he started to learn from his father.

"He was telling us, not only our family, but more and more the public, 'Don't use the ocean as a garbage can, as a universal sewer because it's a life support system.

In his memoir, My Father, The Captain, Cousteau examines his relationship with the pioneering explorer.

"My dad was my father, of course, he was a friend in many ways and he was also my boss when we were working. And so I had to juggle that all the time," he said.

Jean-Michel Cousteau explains how Jacques Cousteau became fascinated with the ocean, and how curiosity and determination was the driving force behind his achievements.  Jacques-Yves Cousteau had always wanted to see more and deeper, and to stay longer underwater.  He created what was required to do that, from the Aqua-Lung, better known by the acronym scuba, to submersibles.

"That gave him the freedom to swim like a fish with a camera and be able to record what he was seeing," noted Jean-Michel Cousteau.  "Because of that, over time he realized that we were abusing the ocean, but people up there didn't know that because they had never seen what was underwater."

Jean-Michel Cousteau says that's when his father realized he had a mission.

"The mission was to communicate with people more and more and more about what was there and he used to tell me all the time - and I quote him, 'People protect what they love.' So it's a matter of exposing people and making them care and love and want to protect," he added.

Jacques Cousteau exposed people to the undersea world through dozens of films and documentaries.  He won three Academy Awards, including best documentary in 1956 for "The Silent World," and again in 1964 for "World Without Sun."  

As an environmentalist and a filmmaker, Jean-Michel Cousteau is continuing his father's mission. His upcoming TV project deals with the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It's going to affect the marine life.  It's not only the fishing industry, the tourism industry, the hotel industry, the restaurants, the gift shops, transportation, taxis and so on… All of that is being affected right now.  So it's a major, not only an environmental, but human catastrophe," he noted.

Jean-Michel Cousteau is working to ensure that his father's legacy will inspire more people around the world to learn about our oceans, seas and rivers, care about them and protect them.

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