Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Jaques Cousteau's Famous Ship Calypso Enters Rehab

I was a huge, huge fan of in my youth of Jacques Cousteau so this is very interesting news:

The widow of legendary marine explorer Jacques Cousteau said Tuesday she is trying to relaunch his iconic ship the Calypso — sunk, badly damaged and now in rehab — in time to mark the centennial of his birth.

Aboard the Calypso, Cousteau unlocked the mysteries of the sea for tens of millions of TV viewers in the 1960s and 1970s with his riveting documentary series, "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau."

Francine Cousteau and the Cousteau Society announced a year of events what would have been the 100th birthday of the undersea pioneer, who with his red cap for a time became synonymous with the underwater universe.

The relaunching of the 140-feet ship would be a centerpiece of the centennial, which begins this week. Cousteau was born June 11, 1910, in Saint Andre de Cubzac in southwest France. He died 13 years ago at the age of 87.

"The Calypso is really the Eiffel Tower of the oceans," Francine Cousteau told a news conference. But funding to put it back in the water by May 2011 for a world educational tour is only a hope.

Cousteau did more than anyone to bring the wonders of the undersea world to your living room and democratize the sport of scuba and the art of underwater photography. With cable, we now see more beautiful underwater images than Cousteau managed to bring us but he was the first and lead the way. I thought for a time I'd like to have some kind of career like his until I learned that oceanography and ichthyology was more about lab work and the study of tides and waves than it was about exploration. Still, I was a card carrying member of the Cousteau Society and even way back then they were sounding the alarm of the demise of the seas that would surely come in the next few years. Like most environmentalism, in never happened, but, hey, it's their bread and butter, so they're still doing it, no matter how wrong they've been in the past.

Oh, look, The Cousteau Society's PR machine's running at ramming speed. They manage to tie in Cousteau's centennial and Calypso's restoration with the BP oil spill. Excellent spin!

The launch of the year honoring Cousteau could not have come at better time, as the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has underscored the importance of ocean conservation, the organization said. An early defender of marine life, Cousteau long railed against ocean drilling by the oil industry and instead urged "more direct access to the sun's power."

"We hope that this (oil spill) will be a wake up call to help us change," said Tarik Chekchak, the Cousteau Society's director for science and environment.

Here's the ol' boat in its more glorious day:

Here it is now:

Yep, still some work to do.


  1. Pete! Excellent find!

    I just went looking on Amazon and found that his complete series is available: Link. A bit pricey--I hope that Netflix picks up and distributes.

    I loved Cousteau as a kid too and watched all his adventures. My dad had all his books, e.g.: Silent World. My son has this collection now.

  2. One of my favorite parts of Cousteau's show was Rod Serling's patented "clenched diction" narration.

  3. I agree. Maybe it's because we grew up with Serling's narration to the Cousteau documentaries but his seemed like a natural fit. Whoever took over later just didn't sound right.

    I've never seen Silent World - didn't it win at Cannes? But I think I saw just about every other one that came on television in the late 60s and early 70s. I had only one book - Shark, Splendid Savage of the Sea - about, well, sharks in the Indian Ocean. Fantastic photography, of course, and I can remember even enjoying Cousteau's prose. Like having a documentary in your hands. (And, hey, what about his cool underwater saucer? And those cool suits, with the streamlined backpacks? Wouldn't that have been something to have?)