Courtesy of: Reuter and Associated Press - Detroit
PARIS -- French oceanographer and prizewinning film maker
Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who revealed mysteries of the ocean that seemed more
fantastic than science fiction and fought to protect the environment, died
Wednesday. He was 87.
His foundation gave no cause of death, but said a memorial
service would be held Monday in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Cousteau was born June 11, 1910, in Saint-Andre-de-Cubzac, a
small town near Bordeaux. His father was a lawyer who traveled constantly. As a
result, the boy was often on the move.
He was a sickly child. Nonetheless, he learned to swim and
spent hours at the beach. Formal schooling bored Cousteau; he was expelled from
high school for breaking 17 of the school's windows.
His first dive was in Lake Harvey, Vt., in the summer of
1920. He was spending the season away from New York City, where he and his
parents lived briefly.
In 1930, Cousteau passed the highly competitive entrance
examinations to enter France's Naval Academy. He served in the navy and entered
naval aviation school.
A near-fatal car crash at age 26 denied him his wings, and he
was transferred to sea duty, where he swam rigorously to strengthen badly
The therapy had unintended consequences, as Cousteau writes
in his 1953 book, The Silent World.
"Sometimes we are lucky enough to know that our lives
have been changed, to discard the old, embrace the new, and run headlong down an
immutable course," he wrote. "It happened to me ... on that summer's
day, when my eyes were opened to the sea."
Cousteau made his first underwater films in the mid-1940s
and, with engineer Emile Gagnan, perfected the piece of equipment that he said
enabled him to be a "manfish" -- the aqualung, an underwater breathing
apparatus that supplies oxygen to divers.
In 1950, Cousteau bought the 400-ton former mine-sweeper
Calypso. He converted it into a floating laboratory outfitted with the most
modern equipment, including underwater television gear.
He authored countless books and, in 1977, made the Cousteau
Odyssey series for PBS. Seven years later, the Cousteau Amazon series premiered
on the Turner Broadcasting System. In all, his documentaries have won 40 Emmy
In the 1970s, he formed the Cousteau Society, an
environmental group based in Norfolk, Va.
He had his critics. Some said he lacked scientific training.
A biographer, Bernard Violet, said he mistreated animals during the filming of
some documentaries, and that he once bought lobsters at a market in Marseilles
and used them in a film about the Red Sea.
Cousteau had no plans of slowing down. He was building
Calypso II to replace the original, which sank off Singapore last year.
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