To Historic Sites Aboard the Alcyone


Photo by Pierre-Yves Cousteau, copyright the Cousteau Society

In collaboration with the Cousteau Society and in recognition of the hundredth anniversary of Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s birth on June 11, 2010, National Geographic Fellow and marine ecologist Enric Sala has set sail aboard Cousteau’s ship Alcyone with the legendary marine explorer’s youngest son, Pierre-Yves Cousteau. The expedition is reexamining undersea Mediterranean destinations visited and documented by Jacques Cousteau more than half a century ago. Learn more about the expedition and explore the ocean with National Geographic.

The Expedition Team

The Cousteau Society crew and National Geographic team are getting along marvelously. Enric is a brilliant expedition leader and Patrice an exceptional ship captain. Our cook, Pascal, is keeping us all in high spirits with his exquisite cuisine. “The technology of the Alcyone is surpassed only by its cuisine,” one can read in the kitchen.

Leo and Manu are the underwater cameramen. They are amazing artists with fascinating stories about their past expeditions with NatGeo that they recount around dinner. Dave is a hyperbaric medicine specialist and underwater photographer who is always helping out on board. Neil is a land cameraman and producer who joined us in Scandola and will be shooting above the water for the rest of the mission. Joaquim, a good friend of Enric’s and a marine biologist, has joined us in Scandola to help point out the areas of interest in the reserve.

Frank is one of the original Cousteau Divers who has been diving on board Alcyone for almost twenty years. Romain, our chief engineer, was part of a Cousteau expedition in New Caledonia in 1992. That’s when we first dived together! I was just 10 years old at the time, and I have to admit I hardly remember. Last but not least, Fabrice is a skilled sailor who packs a strong Tarot game!

First Dive at Le Veyron

After leaving from the port of Marseille with the Alcyone …


Photo by Pierre-Yves Cousteau, copyright the Cousteau Society

… we arrived at the dive site. Just as we prepared to begin the dive, an SOS from a leisure boat arrived and we went to assist them. Then we returned and made the dive.

The spot was quite nice, with a high algae diversity. Very cold waters though! 18° C at the surface and only 13° at the bottom!

I used this first dive to test the draft Cousteau Divers methodology elaborated by Rebecca Klaus. Cousteau Divers is a participative science project in which recreational divers worldwide become active agents of the study and protection of the marine environment. They do so largely by recording their underwater observations on a survey form…


Photo by Pierre-Yves Cousteau, copyright the Cousteau Society

… that I am developing and testing during this trip. It was a lot of fun to search for the biophysical indicators underwater.

Finally, Frank and I discovered the exact same cave that Jacques-Yves Cousteau had shot images in in 1946! At the time, the site was lush with life and large animals. He returned to the site in the 1970s and literally observed an underwater desert!

Today, it seemed to me that the site was recovering slowly from the ‘70s. Jo Harmelin, a marine biologist who had been diving onboard Calypso at the time, was there with us. He explained that since those days, Marseille had installed a sewer water treatment plant and that grouper fishing was prohibited since 1993. This largely explains why today the site is beginning to recover. Life comes back, slowly.

After the dive, we returned to Marseille for the night.


Photo by Pierre-Yves Cousteau, copyright the Cousteau Society

Learn more about the expedition and the Cousteau Society, become a Cousteau Diver, or explore the ocean with National Geographic. You can also join the Cousteau Society’s Facebook group and get updates from Cousteau Divers on Facebook and Twitter.


Photos copyright the Cousteau Society

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