To be completely honest, I had no idea who Jacques Cousteau was until I saw the movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. But The Life Aquatic became my favorite movie the first time I saw it, so when I learned that it was actually loosely based on/had some parallels to an actual person I was literally overwhelmingly excited. And if I’m still being completely honest, one of my initial main attractions to Cousteau was his red cap. I loved that his crew also wore the same red caps. But on a less superficial level, I also loved the idea of being an explorer. In the twentieth (and twenty-first ) century it seemed to me that there was nothing new to discover, but apparently the earth holds more wonder than I could fathom. I haven’t felt like an explorer since I was a little girl, wandering the woods surrounding my house. Cousteau’s adventures made me remember mine. He was finding new things, things that people had never seen or imagined before. BREATHING UNDERWATER! He was making the alien lives of undersea creatures of the ocean accessible. That’s so cool.
Working from his vessel Calypso, Cousteau and his colleagues pioneered the Aqualung, the original scuba dive tank without which modern scuba technology couldn’t exist. Cousteau is also well known for his many films and books pertaining to the sea. His team’s photographs and film footage opened the eyes of many people who both had lived by the ocean their entire lives, yet had never truly witnessed what happened beneath the surface, and people who had never even seen the ocean itself before.
But what Cousteau did that inspires me the most is how he used his knowledge to reach out and educate the world. Cousteau’s book The Human, The Orchid and The Octopus was what convinced me to major in biology and environmental studies, in case you didn't already comprehend how much I admire his work. In The Human, The Orchid and The Octopus I was fascinated with the way Cousteau looked at the earth so lovingly, with stern words for the people who inhabit it. I’m excited to read it again for my upcoming research paper! I’ll save some of my Cousteau-enthusiasm for that!