Cousteau’s Alcyone sails Mediterranean once more

National Geographic and the Cousteau Society begin rediscovery of the Mediterranean: Will revisit sites where Jacques-Yves Cousteau first filmed underwater 65 years ago


Alcyone, Enric Sala, Francine Cousteau, Pierre-Yves Cousteau. Photo by Jean-Claude Coutausse

The Cousteau Society and National Geographic scientists and filmmakers launched an expedition from Marseille, France, today aboard Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s legendary research vessel Alcyone to explore the Mediterranean now–and in the past. The journey begins just one week before the June 11th centennial of Cousteau’s birth.


Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Photo courtesy the Cousteau Society

This expedition forms part of National Geographic Fellow Enric Sala‘s research to establish baselines of ocean health. Working with Pierre-Yves Cousteau, Jacques’ youngest son, the team will contrast historical footage from Cousteau’s work in the 1940s with new footage to capture a unique snapshot of Mediterranean marine environments then and now.

“The health of the Mediterranean Sea has been precious to the people living around it since antiquity. And it has meant much more to many more people since Jacques Cousteau brought us its underwater treasures through his films and voyages many years ago,” said Sala. “We know that so much has been lost since then, and we need to see how it looks today to determine what we can do to bring back marine abundance.”


Enric Sala, Francine Cousteau, Pierre-Yves Cousteau. Photo by Jean-Claude Coutausse

“My father, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, was born 100 years ago this year,” said Pierre-Yves Cousteau, president of Cousteau Divers. “He explored the underwater world for more than 60 years, with a special affection for the Mediterranean Sea. He captured pictures fostering appreciation of both the beauty and fragility of the seas. In a world that has undergone so many changes, these images are today a treasure, a unique testimony of the historical evolution of the oceans under constant human impact.

“I hope that using his archival footage as a touchstone will both raise public awareness and convince European and international leaders to expand ocean protections so that future generations can continue to marvel at the richness of the seas, as my father did 60 years ago.”


Pierre-Yves Cousteau, Enric Sala, Francine Cousteau on Alcyone. Photo by Jean-Claude Coutausse

The Alcyone will set an easterly course from Marseille to the Scandola Nature Reserve in Corsica, on to Spain’s Medes Islands, and finally to Cabrera National Park south of Mallorca.


Alcyone. Photo courtesy the Cousteau Society

The expedition, which will be filmed for a National Geographic Channel documentary, aims to assess current science about the health of the Mediterranean, including the abundance of large fish and precious red coral, which have been exploited for millennia. Sala and Cousteau will report findings to national and community leaders, as well as online via National Geographic and The Cousteau Society throughout 2010.


Alcyone’s logo depicts the second daughter of the Greek god of the wind, Aeolus, resurrected as a kingfisher bird, or halcyon, and as a star in the Pleiades constellation. Photo by Lucie McNeil

The expedition is supported by International Watch Company, the Waitt Family Foundation, and the National Geographic Society. During the expedition, the team will post some of its findings, images, and video here on NatGeo News Watch, on National Geographic BlogWild, and on the National Geographic Ocean site.

Follow Cousteau Divers on Facebook.

Changing Planet