Jean-Michel Cousteau: A Pioneer of Underwater Research and Environmental Discoveries

Jean-Michel Cousteau steps out from behind the scenes and starts his own non-profit institute for underwater research and environmental discoveries.


| March/April 1978



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Jean-Michel Cousteau prepares for a dive into the ocean which he has been exploring for many years.


PHOTO: ANNE MARIE COUSTEAU

"I am 39 years old, and you could say that I've been studying the oceans all my life. At the age of seven, I was pushed overboard off the Calypso with an aqualung on my back, and that was my first dive. I took to it very naturally, and since that time, I've spent every possible weekend, holiday and vacation exploring the world's oceans, studying the oceans and the effect that man has had upon them. It has been a very good education."

The man talking is Jean-Michel Cousteau. And just like his famous father — whom he definitely resembles — he is thin, wiry and exceedingly knowledgeable. Also, like his father, he delivers very powerful and quite insightful environmental statements with a deceptively soft French accent.

"I have been quite lucky. I am one of the very few who have been involved in the pioneering era of underwater research from its beginning. I have been going back and diving in the same places for 32 years, and I have watched them deteriorate before my eyes. Where I used to see a fragile and beautiful marine life ... it is not there anymore. Where I used to see a clean ocean bottom ... it is now plastic bottles and discarded cans and other trash from our throwaway society. I know very well the effect that man is having on this planet."

And it is because he does know so well that Jean-Michel Cousteau — just like his father, Jacques-Yves, and his brother, Philippe — has become one of the planet's most dedicated environmentalists.

Unlike his more famous father and brother, however, Jean-Michel (in the manner of his mother, who is the completely unknown but real captain of the Calypso!) prefers to do his work quietly and behind the scenes.

We've all seen innumerable television specials and movies in which Jacques and Philippe and 25 or 30 other hardy Frenchmen don aqualungs and plunge into this sea or that ocean ... where they then proceed to ride whales, uncover fantastic historic artifacts or make important environmental discoveries.





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