Today in History: Jacques Yves Cousteau's Birthday
(Dive Travel Business News - June 11, 2012 ) -- Born on June 11, 1910, in Saint-André-de-Cubzac (Gironde) in France, Jacques Yves Cousteau was a French naval officer who became one of the world's greatest explorers, ecologists, filmmakers and scientists.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau entered the naval academy in 1930, was graduated and became a gunnery officer. Then, while he was training to be a pilot, a serious car accident ended his aviation career. So it was the ocean that would win this adventurer's soul. In 1936, near the port of Toulon, he went swimming underwater with goggles. It was a breath-taking revelation.
Seeking a way to explore underwater longer and more freely, he developed, with engineer Emile Gagnan, the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus, or scuba, in 1943. As the co-developer of the modern "aqualung" - the SCUBA tank and regulator - Cousteau made underwater exploration accessible to scientists and the masses alike.
After World War II, Cousteau, along with naval officer Philippe Tailliez and diver Frédéric Dumas, became known as the " mousquemers " ("musketeers of the sea ") as they carried out diving experiments in the sea and laboratory. In 1950, Calypso, a former mine-sweeper, was modified into an oceanographic vessel, endowed with instruments for diving and scientific research, and the great adventure began. She and her crews explored the seas and rivers of the world for the next four decades.
When Cousteau and his teams embarked aboard Calypso to explore the world, no one yet knew about the effects of pollution, over-exploitation of resources and coastal development. The films of Calypso's adventures drew the public's attention to the potentially disastrous environmental consequences of human negligence. Cousteau, through his life and his work, was a major player in the environmental movement.
Realizing that it would take an organized effort to protect the planet, in 1974, Captain Cousteau created The Cousteau Society, a US-based, not-for-profit, membership group. In 1977, the United Nations awarded him the International Environmental Prize.
In 1981, Fondation Cousteau (later Equipe Cousteau) was born in France. Diving saucers, undersea houses and ongoing improvements to the Aqua-LungTM showed the Cousteau touch. With Professor Lucien Malavard and engineer Bertrand Charrier, Cousteau studied how to design a new complementary wind-power system, the Turbosail™, and, in 1985, the ship Alcyone was launched, using the new invention.
Cousteau received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985. Then, in 1988, Cousteau was inscribed in the UN Environmental Programme's Global 500 Roll of Honor of Environmental Protection and received the National Geographic Society's Centennial Award. Cousteau was elected to the Académie française in 1989.
From these bases of supporters, Cousteau launched a worldwide petition campaign in 1990 to save Antarctica from mineral exploitation. His effort was successful: this pristine continent is now protected, for at least 50 years. The global reach of his influence was evident when, in 1992, the Captain received an official invitation to participate in the UN Conference on Development and the Environment held in Rio de Janeiro.
Made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor for his service in the Résistance, Captain Cousteau was promoted to the rank of officier then commandeur in recognition of his contributions to science. A member of the US Academy of Sciences, he was also Director of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco for thirty years. Showered with awards,
Capt. Cousteau's passion for the oceans and the sea life in them left an indelible mark on the world. Through more than 115 television films and 50 books, Captain Cousteau opened up the oceans to millions of households. Jacques Yves Cousteau died on June 25, 1997 at the age of 87.
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