Jacques-Yves was born in Saint-Andre-de-Dubzac, France, to Daniel and Elizabeth Cousteau on June 11, 1910. Cousteau always loved the water and in his early teens, he became interested in machines. At the age of 11, Cousteau built a model crane and at 13, he built a battery-operated car. Also in his early teens, Cousteau became fascinated with films. He saved his money and bought a home movie camera.
In high school, Cousteau became bored with school and began to cause trouble. As a result, his parents sent him to a strict boarding school. Cousteau excelled in this new environment and upon graduation, he entered the Ecole Navale (Naval Academy) in Brest. In 1933, Cousteau joined the French Navy as a gunnery officer. It was during this time that he began his underwater explorations and began working on a breathing machine for longer dives.
In 1937, Cousteau married Simone Melchoir, and they had two sons, Jean-Michel and Phillipe. Two years after their marriage, Cousteau fought for the French in World War II. He spent time as a spy and was awarded several medals. During the war, Cousteau still found time to continue his underwater work. In 1943, he and French engineer Emile Gagnan perfected the aqualung, which allowed a diver to stay underwater for several hours. Divers used the aqualung to located and remove enemy mines after World War II.
Cousteau was named a capitaine de corvette of the French navy in 1948, and two years later he became president of the French Oceanographic Campaigns. That same year, Cousteau purchased the ship Calypso to further his explorations. To finance his trips and increase public awareness of his undersea investigations, Cousteau produced numerous films and published many books. His films include The Silent World (1956) and World Without Sun (1966). Both won Academy Awards for best documentary. His books include The Living Sea (1963), Dolphins (1975), and Jacques Cousteau: The Ocean World (1985).
Because of his many projects, Cousteau retired from the French navy. In 1957, he became director of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco, founded the Underseas Research Group at Toulon, and headed the Conshelf Saturation Dive Program. The Conshelf program was an experiment in which men lived and worked underwater for extended periods of time.
In 1968, Cousteau was asked to make a TV series. For the next 8 years, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau introduced the public to a world of sharks, whales, dolphins, sunken treasure, and coral reefs. In 1974, Cousteau started the Cousteau Society to protect ocean life. The membership of this non-profit group has grown to include more than 300,000 members worldwide. Cousteau was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Reagan in 1985 and in 1989, he was honored by France with membership in the French Academy.
On January 11, 1996 the Calypso sank in Singapore harbor. In his last years, Cousteau was involved in a legal battle with his son, Jean-Michael over the use of the Cousteau name. Cousteau died on June 25, 1997.
Captain Cousteau shot his first film , Par Dix-huit mètres de fond (Ten Fathoms Down), in 1942, diving while holding his breath, using an old Kinamo 35mm camera in a watertight case. A year later, with the Aqua-Lung, he shot his second film, Epaves (Shipwrecks) and for this one, he could take his time. The Cousteau team's inventions have made filming undersea life possible, so that people can learn to understood and love it.
Light was the first problem that undersea expeditions confronted: the sea that is so blue and clear at the surface plunges into total obscurity at depth. Artificial lighting has resolved the obstacle of darkness and let the Cousteau team film marine life with such good results!
In 1948, Cousteau used powerful lights linked to the surface by an electric cable to produce the first underwater footage filmed in color. Cousteau team studied the behavior of light rays in water so they could refine their undersea photography and filming. Reds are absorbed first, then yellows, greens and blues. The team needed artificial lighting to render undersea landscapes with the full range of tints, beginning just a few meters below the surface.
In 1963, when World Without Sun was shot, those early days of filming were well past. Calypso had kilometers of cables and a dozen cameras available. For filming in low light, Cousteau used an " owl eye ", an electronic device that multiplies ambient light. Using the owl eye, which requires just the faintest light, he filmed the behavior of nautiluses for the first time.
Since most marine animals swim more quickly than humans, Cousteau developed underwater scooters that he used for The Silent World. These little " lawnmowers with propellers " were very maneuverable, reached a speed of 5 km/h and could operate for an hour at a time.
In 1970, compressed-air tanks inside the scooters made work easier for the divers. The " wet submersible ", refined and streamlined, with a Plexiglas nose and a brace to support the pilot's body, was connected to the user only by the mouthpiece. It proved much more practical both for launching into the water and for navigating.Continue to more Cousteau