Happy Birthday, Mon Capitaine
June 10, 2010 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Today is the 100th birthday of Jacques Cousteau Jacques-Yves Cousteau, inventor of the aqualung, noted conservationist, filmmaker and television documentarian, was born in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, France in 1910. He died at the age of 87 in 1997.

His lifelong work of studying the oceans and the life it contains is continued by his children and grandchildren, who have been vocal about the catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico. His famed research vessel, the Calypso, was sunk accidentally in Singapore shortly before his death, but is now being restored and will be re-launched in 2011 at the conclusion of the centennial year.
posted by briank (17 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Jacques-Yves Cousteau, inventor of the aqualung

Whereas Jethro Tull invented the seed drill.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:23 AM on June 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

I loved watching Cousteau as a kid. He was a among a handful that inspired me to become an ecologist.
posted by special-k at 11:37 AM on June 10, 2010

The legacy of Jacques-Yves Cousteau is one of the greatest gifts to the world there ever was. Granted, if not him, then someone else would have taken the path...but he is the man.

Happy Birthday!
posted by Xoebe at 11:39 AM on June 10, 2010

Before there was the Crocodile Hunter, there were Cousteau and Marlin Perkins. And their henchmen:

While Philleep wrestles with ze shark, hee must bee wary not to allow the shark to bite heem.
posted by Doohickie at 11:49 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cousteau and friends worked on a perfected the aqualung during WWII in the south of France. After the Germans conquered France they sat out the war. It was really something of a golden time for a bunch of bored young men, each day playing in the water, daring one another to go deeper. It all started from the ageless sport of who could dive the deepest and stay under the longest to impress the girls. Spearfishing for the nights fish fry on the beach, bringing up interesting things off the bottom. Some were playing around with assistant devices for staying under deeper/longer, then that became a sort of competition in its self to build wacky home-made things. When they needed more money someone considered asking the French Navy, which wasn't doing much at the time anyway, and they said sure why not and funded them some money and equipment to build the first prototypes.
posted by stbalbach at 11:55 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

He was such a big part of my childhood, such a regular character in our home, with all the TV specials and the books. My son has those books now. I feel like I knew him personally.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:57 AM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

He's one of the inspirations for me to take Oceanography. Well, him and Baywatch.
posted by arcticseal at 12:05 PM on June 10, 2010

He is the Zissou.
posted by grubi at 12:08 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cousteau was a huge part of my childhood, both the undersea specials, and the collected volumes of the Undersea World. I actually loved the historical, mythical and science fictional aspects of the books most- which is why I've always believed that colonizing the oceans will happen long before we colonize space.
posted by happyroach at 12:29 PM on June 10, 2010

The BBC World Service has an interesting segment on him, his Cannes-winning film. He's acknowledged that, while filming the movie, he intentionally injured a baby whale to create drama.
posted by ambient2 at 12:33 PM on June 10, 2010

I was mesmerized by his specials, as a child. I'm afraid to try to watch them now, lest the magic be spoiled.
posted by QIbHom at 1:24 PM on June 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I worked with a French guy in the lab where I did my PhD. He was pretty funny, speaking English with a very thick accent but treating me to a continuous barrage of extremely specific French insults, such habitually addressing me by a name that he said meant a preteen male prostitute who was just about to consummate his first act of buggery.

I returned his courtesy in kind, and we enjoyed giving each other the gears. However, one day, I went too far, launching into an extended routine in which I imitated Cousteau, in my bad French accent, asking for Falco to come into the captain's captain in his tiny little butt-crack speedos and fetch something from the upper shelf. "No, not zat one, Falco! You have to reach up to zee one on zee shelf at zee top!".

My French friend turned red and shook his finger vigorously in me face. "Non, non, non, non," he said in a dangerously quiet voice.

"Touche pas le capitaine."
posted by Turtles all the way down at 3:11 PM on June 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

inventor of the aqualung

And Jack LaLanne invented sit-ups, I suppose.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:55 PM on June 10, 2010

What's wet and smells like Ben-Gay?

Jacques Coustrap.
posted by John of Michigan at 6:18 PM on June 10, 2010

The Greatest Channel In The World, TCM will be airing a lot of the original Jacques Cousteau programs (and some documentaries) on Friday. Check your local listings! Set your DVR! This is essential viewing!
posted by Mael Oui at 8:32 PM on June 10, 2010

I remember when Jacques Cousteau died. I was on a whale watching cruise at the time with my family, and the captain of the boat came onto the loudspeaker and announced Cousteau's passing. The captain then read a quote by Cousteau and then played Calypso by John Denver. It was a beautiful moment that I'll never forget. On that same cruise, we also saw two humpback whales jump out of the water in tandem not too far off from the boat.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 7:34 AM on June 11, 2010

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