Jacques-Yves Cousteau: Wikis


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Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1976
Born June 11, 1910
Saint-André-de-Cubzac, Gironde, France
Died 25 June 1997 (aged 87)
Paris, France

Jacques-Yves Cousteau (French pronunciation: [ʒak iv kusto]; 11 June 1910 – 25 June 1997)[1] was a French naval officer, explorer, ecologist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water. He co-developed the aqua-lung, pioneered marine conservation and was a member of the Académie française. He was commonly known as "le Commandant Cousteau" or "Captain Cousteau".


Early life

Cousteau was born on 11 June 1910, in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, Gironde, to Daniel and Élisabeth Cousteau. He had one brother, Pierre-Antoine. Cousteau completed his preparatory studies at the prestigious Collège Stanislas in Paris. In 1930 he entered the École Navale and graduated as a gunnery officer. After an automobile accident cut short his career in naval aviation, Cousteau indulged his interest in the sea.

In Toulon, where he was serving on the Condorcet, Cousteau carried out his first underwater experiments, thanks to his friend Philippe Tailliez who in 1936 lent him some Fernez underwater goggles, predecessors of modern diving masks.[2] He later worked his way up the ranks as he became more famous and more useful to the navy. Cousteau also belonged to the information service of the French Navy, and was sent on missions to Shanghai and Japan (1935–1938) and in the USSR (1939).[citation needed]

On 12 July 1937 he married Simone Melchior, with whom he had two sons, Jean-Michel (born 1938) and Philippe (1940-1979). His sons took part in the adventure of the Calypso. In 1991, one year after his wife Simone's death from cancer, he married Francine Triplet. They already had a daughter Diane Cousteau (born 1980) and a son Pierre-Yves Cousteau (born 1982), born during Cousteau's marriage to his first wife. Pierre-Yves is currently in training to become a professional diving instructor, completing his divemaster certification in Santorini, Greece in 2009[3].

Early 1940s: Innovation of modern underwater diving

The years of World War II were decisive for the history of diving. After the armistice of 1940, the family of Simone and Jacques-Yves Cousteau took refuge in Megève, where he became a friend of the Ichac family who also lived there. Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Marcel Ichac shared the same desire to reveal to the general public unknown and inaccessible places — for Cousteau the underwater world and for Ichac the high mountains. The two neighbors took the first ex-aequo prize of the Congress of Documentary Film in 1943, for the first French underwater film: Par dix-huit mètres de fond (18 meters deep), made without breathing apparatus the previous year in Embiez (Var) with Philippe Tailliez and Frédéric Dumas, without forgetting the paramount part played, as originator of the depth-pressure-proof camera case, by the mechanical engineer Léon Vèche (engineer of Arts and Métiers and the Naval College).

In 1943, they made the film Épaves (Shipwrecks): for this occasion, they used the aqua-lung, which continued the line of some inventions of the 19th century (Rouquayrol's and Denayrouze's Aerophore) and of the early 20th century (Le Prieur). When making Épaves, Cousteau could not find the necessary blank reels of movie film, but had to buy hundreds of small still camera film reels the same width, intended for a make of child's camera, and cemented them together to make long reels.[4]

Having kept bonds with the English speakers (he spent part of his childhood in the United States and usually spoke English) and with French soldiers in North Africa (under Admiral Lemonnier), Jacques-Yves Cousteau (whose villa "Baobab" at Sanary (Var) was opposite Admiral Darlan's villa "Reine"), helped the French Navy to join again with the Allies; he assembled a commando operation against the Italian espionage services in France, and received several military decorations for his deeds. At that time, he kept his distance from his brother Pierre-Antoine, a "pen anti-semite", who wrote the collaborationist newspaper Je suis partout (I am everywhere), and was condemned to die in 1946. However this was later commuted to a life sentence, and Pierre-Antoine was released in 1954.

During the 1940s Cousteau is credited with improving the aqua-lung design which gave birth to the open-circuit scuba technology used today. According to his first book, The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure (1953), Cousteau started snorkel diving with a mask, snorkel, and fins with Frédéric Dumas and Philippe Tailliez. In 1943, he tried out the first prototype aqua-lung — designed by Cousteau and Émile Gagnan — which finally made extended underwater exploration possible.

Late 1940s: GERS and Élie Monnier

In 1946, Cousteau and Tailliez showed the film "Épaves" to Admiral Lemonnier, and the admiral gave them the responsibility of setting up the Groupement de Recherches Sous-marines (GRS) (Underwater Research Group) of the French Navy in Toulon. A little later it became the GERS (Groupe d'Études et de Recherches Sous-Marines, = Underwater Studies and Research Group), then the COMISMER ("COMmandement des Interventions Sous la MER", = "Undersea Interventions Command"), and finally more recently the CEPHISMER.

In 1948, between missions of mine clearance, underwater exploration and technological and physiological tests, Cousteau undertook a first campaign in the Mediterranean on board the sloop Élie Monnier,[5] with Philippe Tailliez, Frédéric Dumas, Jean Alinat and the scenario writer Marcel Ichac. The small team also undertook the exploration of the Roman wreck of Mahdia (Tunisia). It was the first underwater archaeology operation using autonomous diving, opening the way for scientific underwater archaeology. Cousteau and Marcel Ichac brought back from there the Carnets diving film (presented and preceded with the Cannes Film Festival 1951).

Cousteau and the Élie Monnier then took part in the rescue of Professor Jacques Piccard's bathyscaphe, the FNRS-2, during the 1949 expedition to Dakar. Thanks to this rescue, the French Navy was able to reuse the sphere of the bathyscaphe to construct the FNRS-3.

The adventures of this period are told in the 2 books The Silent World (1953) by Cousteau and Plongées Sans Câble by Philippe Tailliez.


In 1949, Cousteau left the French Navy.

In 1950 he founded the French Oceanographic Campaigns (FOC), and leased a ship called Calypso from Thomas Loel Guinness for a symbolic one franc a year. Cousteau refitted the Calypso as a mobile laboratory for field research and as his principal vessel for diving and filming. He also carried out underwater archaeological excavations in the Mediterranean, in particular at Grand-Congloué (1952).

With the publication of his first book in 1953, The Silent World, he correctly predicted the existence of the echolocation abilities of porpoises. He reported that his research vessel, the Élie Monier, was heading to the Straits of Gibraltar and noticed a group of porpoises following them. Cousteau changed course a few degrees off the optimal course to the center of the strait, and the porpoises followed for a few minutes, then diverged toward mid-channel again. It was evident that they knew where the optimal course lay, even if the humans did not. Cousteau concluded that the cetaceans had something like sonar, which was a relatively new feature on submarines.

Cousteau won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1956 for The Silent World co-produced with Louis Malle. With the assistance of Jean Mollard, he made a "diving saucer" SP-350, an experimental underwater vehicle which could reach a depth of 350 meters. The successful experiment was quickly repeated in 1965 with two vehicles which reached 500 meters.

In 1957, he was elected as director of the Oceanographical Museum of Monaco. He directed Précontinent, about the experiments of diving in saturation (long-duration immersion, houses under the sea), and was admitted to the United States National Academy of Sciences.

In October 1960, a large amount of radioactive waste was going to be discarded in the Mediterranean Sea by the Commissariat à l'énergie atomique (CEA). The CEA argued that the dumps were experimental in nature, and that French oceanographers such as Vsevelod Romanovsky had recommended it. Romanovsky and other French scientists, including Louis Fage and Jacques Cousteau, repudiated the claim, saying that Romanovsky had in mind a much smaller amount. The CEA claimed that there was little circulation (and hence little need for concern) at the dump site between Nice and Corsica, but French public opinion sided with the oceanographers rather than with the CEA atomic energy scientists. The CEA chief, Francis Perrin, decided to postpone the dump.[6] Cousteau organized a publicity campaign which in less than two weeks gained wide popular support. The train carrying the waste was stopped by women and children sitting on the railway tracks, and it was sent back to its origin.

A meeting with American television companies (ABC, Métromédia, NBC) created the series The Underwater Odyssey of Commander Cousteau, with the character of the commander in the red bonnet inherited from standard diving dress) intended to give the films a "personalized adventure" style.

In 1973, along with his two sons and Frederick Hyman, he created the Cousteau Society for the Protection of Ocean Life, Frederick Hyman being its first President; it now has more than 300,000 members.

Three years after the volcano's last eruption, on December 19, 1973, the Cousteau team was filming on Deception Island, Antarctica when Michel Laval, Calypso's second in command, was struck and killed by a propeller of the helicopter that was ferrying between Calypso and the island.

In 1976 Cousteau uncovered the wreck of HMHS Britannic.

In 1977, together with Peter Scott, he received the UN International Environment prize.

On 28 June 1979, while the Calypso was on an expedition to Portugal, his second son, Philippe, his preferred and designated successor and with whom he had co-produced all his films since 1969, died in a PBY Catalina flying boat crash in the Tagus river near Lisbon. Cousteau was deeply affected. He called his then eldest son, the architect Jean-Michel Cousteau, to his side. This collaboration lasted 14 years.


In 1980, Cousteau traveled to Canada to make two films on the Saint Lawrence River and the Great Lakes, Cries from the Deep and St. Lawrence: Stairway to the Sea.[7]

In 1985, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Ronald Reagan.

On 24 November 1988, he was elected to the French Academy, chair 17, succeeding Jean Delay. His official reception under the Cupola took place on 22 June 1989, the response to his speech of reception being given by Bertrand Poirot-Delpech. After his death, he was replaced under the Cupola by Érik Orsenna on 28 May 1998.

In June 1990, the composer Jean Michel Jarre paid homage to the commander by entitling his new album Waiting for Cousteau. He also composed the music for Cousteau's documentary "Palawan, the last refuge".

On 2 December 1990, his wife Simone Cousteau died of cancer.

In June 1991, in Paris, Jacques-Yves Cousteau remarried, to Francine Triplet, with whom he had (before this marriage) two children, Diane and Pierre-Yves. Francine Cousteau currently continues her husband's work as the head of the Cousteau Foundation and Cousteau Society. From that point, the relations between Jacques-Yves and his elder son worsened.

In November 1991, Cousteau gave an interview to the UNESCO courier, in which he stated that he was in favour of human population control and population decrease. The full article text can be found online[8].

In 1992, he was invited to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the United Nations' International Conference on Environment and Development, and then he became a regular consultant for the UN and the World Bank.

In 1996, he sued his son who wished to open a holiday center named "Cousteau" in the Fiji Islands.

On 11 January 1996 Calypso was rammed and sunk in Singapore harbor by a barge. The Calypso was refloated and towed home to France.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau died on 25 June 1997 in Paris, aged 87. Despite persistent rumors, encouraged by some Islamic publications and websites, Cousteau did not convert to Islam, and when he died he was buried in a Roman Catholic Christian funeral.[9] He was buried in the family vault at Saint-André-de-Cubzac in France. An homage was paid to him by the city by the inauguration of a "rue du Commandant Cousteau", a street which runs out to his native house, where a commemorative plaque was affixed.

During his lifetime, Jacques-Yves Cousteau received these distinctions:

Defense of the environment

Jacques-Yves Cousteau superimposed the geonymic vision of the sea and Earth elaborated in the 1930s by Jacques Grob and Philippe Tailliez with a conqueror's mentality. A cultivated explorer in the spirit of Jules Verne, he fed the public's taste for wonder. "One protects what one likes.", Cousteau repeated, "and one likes what enchanted us." As Cousteau's oceanographic and cinematographic campaigns took place over more than 50 years (1945–1997), he was able to measure the degradation of the in-situ mediums: the conqueror-explorer, sure of his technical prowess and finding it natural to drive out marine animals gradually morphed into an ardent conservationist who leveraged his worldwide notoriety to promote the idea of the Earth as a limited and fragile spaceship that needed to be preserved. He was the only non-politician to take part in the 1992 Rio Summit.

After 1975, he briefly considered founding worldwide "Cousteau Clubs" for young people, but eventually abandoned this idea in its original form (which would have involved significant work with few direct rewards) and instead published a few fanzines (Calypso Log, Le Dauphin) and made a documentary film about a trip to the Antarctic with children. Towards the end of his life, he became pessimistic and even misanthropic: An ideal planet, he confided to Yves Paccalet, would be one in which humanity is limited to 100,000 people who are both educated and respectful of nature.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau's star power rested not only on his personal image, but on the image of a united team striving towards a common goal. Late in his life, however, highly-publicized intra-family conflicts, internal divisions, and consequent lawsuits chipped away at this image, and that of his successors: Son Jean-Michel and grandson Fabien on one side, and the Cousteau Team with his third wife Francine and their children of the other, do not have the public standing of the 20th century Cousteau Team.

On the other hand, the kind of underwater and adventure film that Jacques-Yves Cousteau launched has never been more popular: Each year, hundreds of increasingly beautiful documentaries are produced, thanks to improvement of photographic techniques. The idea of a fragile planet and sea has not only made its way into the public consciousness, but also affects the political class who were slower to come to environmental awareness.


Cousteau's legacy includes more than 120 television documentaries, more than 50 books, and an environmental protection foundation with 300,000 members. [1]

Cousteau liked to call himself an "oceanographic technician." He was, in reality, a sophisticated showman, teacher, and lover of nature. His work permitted many people to explore the resources of the oceans.

His work also created a new kind of scientific communication, criticised at the time by some academics. The so-called "divulgationism", a simple way of sharing scientific concepts, was soon employed in other disciplines and became one of the most important characteristics of modern television broadcasting.

Cousteau died on 25 June 1997. The Cousteau Society and its French counterpart, l'Équipe Cousteau, both of which Jacques-Yves Cousteau founded, are still active today. The Society is currently attempting to turn the original Calypso into a museum and it is raising funds to build a successor vessel, the Calypso II.

In his last years, after marrying again, Cousteau became involved in a legal battle with his son Jean-Michel over Jean-Michel licensing the Cousteau name for a South Pacific resort, resulting in Jean-Michel Cousteau being ordered by the court not to encourage confusion between his for-profit business and his father's non-profit endeavours.

In 2007 International Watch Company introduced the IWC Aquatimer Chronograph "Cousteau Divers" Special Edition. The timepiece incorporated a sliver of wood from the interior of Cousteau's Calypso research vessel. Having developed the diver's watch, IWC offered support to The Cousteau Society. The proceeds from the timepieces' sales were partially donated to the non-profit organization involved into conservation of marine life and preservation of tropical coral reefs.[10]

Pop culture tributes and references

  • Wu-Tang Clan member Old Dirty Bastard pays homage to Jacques Cousteau in the song Da Mystery of Chessboxin' from Wu-Tang Clan's Enter the 36 Chambers. "Here I go, deep type flow. Jacques Cousteau could never get this low."
  • The song "Nice To Know You" from the American alt-rock band, Incubus, references Cousteau, saying the writer's current feeling is "Deeper than the deepest Cousteau would ever go."
  • American rapper Canibus mentions Cousteau's name in his song Bis vs R.I.P.
  • American rap group Jedi Mind Tricks uses his name as the chorus, saying "I'm a get deep like Jacques Cousteau; Jacques Cousteau could never get this low", from the song Get This Low.
  • Belgian singer Plastic Bertrand made a song about Jacques Cousteau in 1981, under the title Jacques Cousteau.
  • John Denver wrote a song called Calypso as a tribute to Cousteau, the ship, and her crew. The song reached the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
  • Cousteau was an inspiration to Stephen Hillenburg, creator of SpongeBob SquarePants, and the French Narrator (played by Tom Kenny) from the series was made in tribute to him.
  • Director Wes Anderson has referenced Cousteau a number of times. In his 1998 film Rushmore, the main character Max Fischer finds a Jacques Cousteau quote handwritten in a library book and begins a search for the last person who checked out the book. The quote was "When one man, for whatever reason, has an opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself."
  • The 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, also directed by Wes Anderson, is regarded as both a homage to and a send-up of Cousteau's career. It includes an end credit that reads "In memory of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and with gratitude to the Cousteau Society, which was not involved in the making of this film."
  • Two New Age composers, Vangelis (who was heavily involved with Cousteau in the 1990s) and Jean Michel Jarre, released albums including original numbers honoring Jacques-Yves Cousteau: Cousteau's Dreams (2000) and Waiting for Cousteau (1990).
  • The Swedish band Bob Hund performed a tribute to Jacques Cousteau on their album Ingenting, released in 2002, with songs recorded in 1992–93. They refer to him as being "a brave aquanaut".
  • The band The Flight of the Conchords references Jacques Cousteau in their song Foux du Fa Fa, when Bret holds up a fish- referring to Cousteau's study of the ocean.
  • Andrew Bird's song Lull, on his album Weather Systems, begins, "Being alone, it can be quite romantic/Like Jacques Cousteau underneath the Atlanic."
  • In Star Trek, the captain's yacht of the USS Enterprise-E is named Cousteau.
  • An internet rumour and disinformation which has been running since 1989 says wrongly that Cousteau became a Muslim upon seeing the Koran.[11]
  • Around 1980 a scale model of the Calypso research ship, complete with the marine helicopter was sold to children worldwide, along with leaflets calling for donations to the Cousteau foundation. These models are still being sold as toys.[12]
  • The futuristic novel The Deep Range written by Arthur C. Clarke mentions a research submarine named Cousteau.
  • Gwar's first album, Hell-O, included a song named "Je M'Appelle J. Cöusteaü".
  • The Actionslacks released a song titled "Jacques Cousteau" on their EP "Kids With Guitars."
  • The Swedish jazzband Esbjörn Svensson Trio tributed Cousteau on their album "Seven Days of Falling" with the track "Did they ever tell Cousteau?". Esbjörn Svensson died in a scuba diving accident on 14 June 2008.
  • In the Friends episode 'The One Where Ross Gets High', Phoebe mentions that she is 'in love with Jacques Cousteau'.

See also

Jacques-Yves Cousteau's ships


Books by Cousteau

  • The Silent World (1953, with Frederic Dumas)
  • Captain Cousteaus Underwater Treasury (1959, with James Dugan)
  • The Living Sea (1963, with James Dugan)
  • World Without Sun (1965)
  • The Undersea Discoveries of Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1970–1975, 8-volumes, with Philippe Diole)
    • The Shark: Splendid Savage of the Sea (1970)
    • Diving for Sunken Treasure (1971)
    • Life and Death in a Coral Sea (1971)
    • The Whale: Mighty Monarch of the Sea (1972)
    • Octopus and Squid: The Soft Intelligence (1973)
    • Three Adventures: Galápagos, Titicaca, the Blue Holes (1973)
    • Diving Companions: Sea Lion, Elephant Seal, Walrus (1974)
    • Dolphins (1975)
  • The Ocean World of Jacques Cousteau (1973–78, 21 volumes)
    • Oasis in Space (vol 1)
    • The Act of Life (vol 2)
    • Quest for Food (vol 3)
    • Window in the Sea (vol 4)
    • The Art of Motion (vol 5)
    • Attack and Defense (vol 6)
    • Invisible Messages (vol 7)
    • Instinct and Intelligence (vol 8)
    • Pharaohs of the Sea (vol 9)
    • Mammals in the Sea (vol 10)
    • Provinces of the Sea (vol 11)
    • Man Re-Enters Sea (vol 12)
    • A Sea of Legends (vol 13)
    • Adventure of Life (vol 14)
    • Outer and Inner Space (vol 15)
    • The Whitecaps (vol 16)
    • Riches of the Sea (vol 17)
    • Challenges of the Sea (vol 18)
    • The Sea in Danger (vol 19)
    • Guide to the Sea and Index (vol 20)
    • Calypso (1978, vol 21)
  • A Bill of Rights for Future Generations (1979)
  • Life at the Bottom of the World (1980)
  • The Cousteau United States Almanac of the Environment (1981, aka The Cousteau Almanac of the Environment: An Inventory of Life on a Water Planet)
  • Jacques Cousteau's Calypso (1983)
  • Marine Life of the Caribbean (1984, with James Cribb and Thomas H. Suchanek)
  • Jacques Cousteau's Amazon Journey (1984, with Mose Richards)
  • Jacques Cousteau: The Ocean World (1985)
  • The Whale (1987, with Philippe Diole)
  • Jacques Cousteau: Whales (1988, with Yves Paccalet)
  • The Human, The Orchid and The Octopus (and Susan Schiefelbein, coauthor; Bloomsbury 2007]

Books about Cousteau

  • Undersea Explorer: The Story of Captain Cousteau (1957) by James Dugan
  • Jacques Cousteau and the Undersea World (2000) by Roger King
  • Jacques-Yves Cousteau: His Story Under the Sea (2002) by John Bankston
  • Jacques Cousteau: A Life Under the Sea (2008) by Kathleen Olmstead


Television Series

  • 1966–68 The World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau
  • 1968–76 The Undersea World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau
  • 1977–77 Oasis in Space
  • 1977–81 Cousteau's Odyssey Series
  • 1982–84 Cousteau's Amazon Series
  • 1985–91 Cousteau's Rediscovery of the World I
  • 1992–94 Cousteau's Rediscovery of the World II


  1. ^ Cousteau Society
  2. ^ The Cousteau Foundation page about "The Captain" confirms Cousteau biography as written here.
  3. ^ http://www.navyswaterworld.gr/about-us/staff-2
  4. ^ The Silent World
  5. ^ Sevellec, E.-J.: Naissance du GERS et des premiers plongeurs démineurs, December 1, 2006. URL last accessed 2010-02-18. According to Sevellec, the Élie Monnier was an old German tugboat originally called Albatros and handed over to France as a war reparation, and then re-baptised in honor of the maritime engineer Élie Monnier who had disappeared while diving at Mers-el-Kébir on the wreck of the battleship Bretagne. See also Riffaud, C.: "La règne du scaphandre à casque", in La grande aventure des hommes sous la mer, ISBN 2-226-03502-8.
  6. ^ Jacob Darwin Hamblin, Poison in the Well: Radioactive Waste in the Oceans at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age (Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008).
  7. ^ Ohayon, Albert (2009). "When Cousteau Came to Canada". NFB.ca. National Film Board of Canada. http://blog.nfb.ca/2009/10/23/jacques-cousteau-in-canada/. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  8. ^ Widely quoted on the internet are these two paragraphs from the interview: "What should we do to eliminate suffering and disease? It's a wonderful idea but perhaps not altogether a beneficial one in the long run. If we try to implement it we may jeopardize the future of our species...It's terrible to have to say this. World population must be stabilized and to do that we must eliminate 350,000 people per day. This is so horrible to contemplate that we shouldn't even say it. But the general situation in which we are involved is lamentable". Full interview with UNESCO Courier digital copy
  9. ^ Témoignage: La "conversion" du commandant Cousteau à l'Islam (French)
  10. ^ IWC in homage to Cousteau
  11. ^ the source for this claim and its official refutation
  12. ^ Calypso model ship sold on the Internet.
  13. ^ "Cries from the Deep". National Film Board of Canada Web site. 1981. http://www.nfb.ca/film/Cries_from_the_Deep. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 
  14. ^ "St. Lawrence: Stairway to the Sea". National Film Board of Canada Web site. 1982. http://www.nfb.ca/film/st_lawrence_stairway_to_the_sea. Retrieved 2009-06-20. 

External links

Preceded by
Jean Delay
Seat 17
Académie française

Succeeded by
Érik Orsenna


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Jacques-Yves Cousteau (11 June 1910 - 25 June 1997) French naval officer, inventor, explorer and researcher.

From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.


  • From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.
    • Time (28 March 1960)
  • Buoyed by water, he can fly in any direction — up, down, sideways — by merely flipping his hand. Under water, man becomes an archangel.
    • Time (28 March 1960)
  • The sea is the universal sewer.
    • Declaring the sea to be "where all kinds of pollution wind up", to the US House Committee on Science and Astronautics (28 January 1971)
  • We must plant the sea and herd its animals … using the sea as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization is all about — farming replacing hunting.
    • Interview (17 July 1971)
  • Farming as we do it is hunting, and in the sea we act like barbarians.
    • Interview (17 July 1971)
  • If we go on the way we have, the fault is our greed — if we are not willing — we will disappear from the face of the globe, to be replaced by the insect.
    • Interview (17 July 1971)
  • What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what’s going on.
    • Christian Science Monitor (21 July 1971)
  • Man, of all the animals, is probably the only one to regard himself as a great delicacy.
    • Octopus and Squid: The Soft Intelligence (1973)
  • I am not a scientist. I am, rather, an impresario of scientists.
    • Christian Science Monitor (24 July 1986)
  • I said that the oceans were sick but they're not going to die. There is no death possible in the oceans — there will always be life — but they're getting sicker every year.
    • Interview (March 1996)
  • We have to prepare for what life could become in 40 years. We need to outline what is possible and what is impossible with the non-renewable resources of the Earth. What role will technological improvement play? Taking all this into account, what kind of life can we produce in the best way for 10 billion people? That's a problem that needs to be solved.
    • Interview (March 1996)
  • Sometimes we are lucky enough to know that our lives have been changed, to discard the old, embrace the new, and turn headlong down an immutable course.
    • The Silent World by Capt. Jacques-Yves Cousteau with Frederic Dumas 2004 National Geographic Society, pg. 5


  • A lot of people attack the sea, I make love to it.
  • And let us remember too that life, in its exuberance, always succeeds in overflowing the narrow limits within which man thinks he can confine it.
  • However fragmented the world, however intense the national rivalries, it is an inexorable fact that we become more interdependent every day.
  • I believe that national sovereignties will shrink in the face of universal interdependence.
  • If we were logical, the future would be bleak indeed. But we are more than logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we have hope and we can work.
  • It is certain that the study of human psychology, if it were undertaken exclusively in prisons, would also lead to misrepresentation and absurd generalizations.
    • On studying sea life in artificial environments.
  • It takes generosity to discover the whole through others. If you realize you are only a violin, you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert.
  • Mankind has probably done more damage to the Earth in the 20th century than in all of previous human history.
  • No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.
  • No sooner does man discover intelligence than he tries to involve it in his own stupidity.
  • People protect what they love.
  • The awareness of our environment came progressively in all countries with different outlets.
  • The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.
  • The future is in the hands of those who explore... and from all the beauty they discover while crossing perpetually receding frontiers, they develop for nature and for humankind an infinite love.
  • The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it.
  • The impossible missions are the only ones which succeed.
  • The real cure for our environmental problems is to understand that our job is to salvage Mother Nature. . . We are facing a formidable enemy in this field. It is the hunters... and to convince them to leave their guns on the wall is going to be very difficult.
  • The sea, once it casts its spell, holds on in its net of wonder forever .
  • The sea, the great unifier, is man's only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: We are all in the same boat.
  • To yackety-yak about the past is for me time lost. Every morning I wake up saying, "I'm still alive — a miracle." And so I keep on pushing.
  • Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.
  • We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.
  • When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.

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