Jacques Cousteau was a Frenchman who revealed to the world the incredible and complex life beneath the ocean’s surface.
As a student at the French Naval Academy in the 1930s, Cousteau suffered an injury in an automobile accident that left his right arm paralyzed. A friend suggested he swim to rehabilitate his arm.
He did, and wearing goggles, Cousteau saw “a jungle of fish. That was like an electric shock.” Cousteau adapted a camera to take pictures underwater and he began thinking about a way for people to breathe underwater.
At that time, divers breathed oxygen through a tube connected to a boat. It was cumbersome and dangerous. Cousteau developed the Aqua-Lung, an oxygen tank strapped to the back of the diver that allowed him or her to swim freely.
In 1951, Cousteau sailed in a ship, Calypso, to investigate the world’s oceans. He improved the Aqua-Lung and built a camera capable of photographing life 600 feet deep. On his first voyage, to the Red Sea in 1952, he filmed and took photographs of amazing undersea life.
He made a film, The World of Silence, out of his undersea clips, which won an Academy Award in 1955. He is best known for his television show, The Undersea World ofJacques Cousteau, which ran four times a year and lasted from 1966 to 1975. But Cousteau didn’t remain happy to just film the ocean; he wanted to colonize it.
Cousteau thought of the sea as a place to be colonized using craft similar to stations in space. In 1963, Cousteau and four other men spent a month at 33 feet beneath the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt in an underwater settlement that included air conditioning and Plexiglas windows that showed ocean life swimming by.
His dreams of colonizing the ocean never materialized, but when Cousteau died in 1997, he was remembered as a passionate defender of the world’s oceans. The Cousteau Society, founded by Cousteau in 1973, continues to fight for the protection of the environment and natural resources.