Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jacques Cousteau

Along with "Wild Kingdom," the "Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau" was a mainstay of my childhood - and I still find the sound of Jacques Cousteau's voice very soothing.

Cousteau left quite a legacy when he died at 87 in 1997. As a French naval officer, he received the Légion d'Honneur and the Croix de guerre; as an ecologist, he brought environmental awareness to public attention, founded an environmental protection foundation that now has 300,000 members, and received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom; as a filmmaker and photographer, he produced and directed dozens of films and television episodes, winning 3 Oscars, the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and 10 Emmy Awards; as an author, he wrote more than 50 books, the 1st of which sold more than five million copies in 22 languages; as an explorer, he explored the world's oceans, financed many expeditions aboard the converted 66' minesweeper that he rechristened Calypso, uncovered the wreck of HMHS Britannic, and is credited with inspiring an entire generation of young scientists to become oceanographers; and as a scientist and innovator, he co-invented the aqua-lung, the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) that allowed untethered undersea diving, discovered that dolphins used sonar echolocation as a means of navigation, and was admitted to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and was elected to the French Academy of Science.

Of diving, Captain Cousteau said, ''From birth man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to the Earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free. Buoyed by water, he can fly in any direction -- up, down, sideways - by merely flipping his hand. Under water, man becomes an archangel.'' His son Jean-Michel (with whom he both collaborated and quarreled) said, "The work of my father was a hymn to life." Another hero...

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