Changing Planet

How did Cousteau Inspire You?

June 11 is the 101st anniversary of Jacques Cousteau, the Commandant, the man with the red cap who opened our eyes to the ocean like nobody did before. And no one after him has been able to share the passion about the ocean and all the life in it, and making us fall in love with it like he did. Cousteau was the first global environmental celebrity, as known worldwide as all-time soccer stars and movie stars.

Thanks in great part to Jacques Cousteau, I am now a National Geographic explorer. When I was a child growing up in Spain, Cousteau was everything: my hero, role model, and inspiration. I couldn’t wait for Sunday evening to arrive so that I could watch a new episode of “The underwater world of Jacques Cousteau.” I dreamed about being one of the Calypso divers, exploring exotic locations and making new discoveries every day. While my friends had posters of soccer players on their bedroom walls, I had photos of the red-capped divers diving in remote coral reefs, or climbing an iceberg in Antarctica. My friends dreamed about driving powerful cars and motorbikes; I dreamed of having a bunk bed on the Calypso.

That childhood dream fueled my passion for the sea for years to come. I studied biology, got a PhD in marine ecology, and then became a Professor of Oceanography and spend 10 years in academia, before joining the ranks of the National Geographic Society. I never met the Commandant, but now I am living my childhood dream, exploring and studying remote corners of the ocean, and inspiring leaders to save the last wild places of the ocean before they succumb under the global human footprint. Many people helped me along the way, but that Cousteau figure was always there, keeping me in that perpetual state of curiosity that children have and adults tend to lose.

What did Jacques Cousteau mean to you? Please share your thoughts and feelings as a tribute for his 101st anniversary, at the Cousteau Divers website. Sign the Cousteau Divers guestbook and tell us your story. Or post a personal video, like Jim Toomey’s below.

Jim Toomey’s video was a winner of the Ocean Inspiration 100 – Second Tribute to Jacques Cousteau video contest.

Get wallpaper of a vintage 1956 National Geographic photograph of Jacques Cousteau diving in the Indian Ocean.

Marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who combines science, exploration and media to help restore marine life. Sala’s scientific publications are used for conservation efforts such as the creation of marine protected areas. 2005 Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, 2006 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, 2008 Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.
  • Susan McPherson

    Oh, great video! We viewed at Celine Cousteau’s Ocean Inspiration event celebrating her grandfather. It won 1st prize.


  • […] Sala hat in “National Geographic” einen Erinnerungsbeitrag verfasst. “Cousteau hat unsere Augen für das Lebenselement Meer […]

  • Laurel

    We’re going diving off of Vancouver Island since Cousteau has called it the 2nd best place for cold water diving in the world. I’m not much of a cold water diver, but if Cousteau spoke so highly of it, it must be good.

  • Boulos Nassar

    Simply a Pioneer, people like Jacques Cousteau inspire and lead humanity beyond their instinctive nature.

  • Ivan

    Although many may think that stydying the sea is not interesting I do assure is one of the main subjects in life to study at the same level as astrology or the human body… Cousteau was a sea lover, a scientist, a remarkable man… I peobably could describe him in a few words as the authority. Of the sea of the moderrn world. His work its a vivid example of an extraordinary man who gave his life to the seaworld for humanity. Eventhough I am a lawyer his work inspires me to search for knowledge beyond the sea of law. COUSTEAU LIVES

  • Neil

    A true inspiration from childhood. The greatest gift you can give your kids is an appreciation of nature.

  • Dave

    I too watched every episode intrigued and mesmerized As a child, Cousteau showed the way to touch feel and immerse oneself in nature and to live a dream, He enabled me to live a dream or two. RIP hero.

  • Capt. Robert Turpin

    Growing up in the ’60s & ’70s, I was powerfully influenced by Jacques Cousteau’s television specials. I grew up on the water, and the Cousteau films inspired me to want to learn about the marine world. Earning SCUBA certification at 15, I spent every possible minute underwater. Like many kids, I wanted to be a marine biologist. While working for several years in the Cayman Islands as Instructor/Divemaster/Boat Captain, I made a commitment to seek a degree in Marine Biology upon my return to the US. I enrolled at University of West Florida, and was fortunate to participate in underwater field research on artificial reefs. Upon graduation, I was offered a marine resources management job. Of the many blessings for which I am thankful, my exposure to Cousteau’s “Underwater World” is one of the most important. I still have the 1961 paperback copy of The Silent World. He inspired generations to study and appreciate the world’s oceans. Happy Birthday Captain Cousteau!

  • Eric Gilchrist

    I lived for “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” as a child, and knew that I wanted to be a marine biologist when I grew up. I became a biologist, but the desire to be employed sent me in a different direction. My love for the sea has never changed though and I have experienced some of the exotic places seen in TUWOJC including the Galapagos, Australia and the Hawaiian Islands.

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