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Cousteau activism vowed to continue

Jan 1, 2003

Although Jacques-Yves Cousteau died in June at the age of 87, the non-profit organization that he founded, The Cousteau Society, will continue with its mission to protect the natural world.

"Capt. Cousteau has returned to the silent world, but his voice will continue to be heard," said his widow, Francine Cousteau, in reference to Cousteau's famous film of the same name, in a statement the morning after his death of a respiratory illness on June 25. "Today, on this terrible day for me, I would like to express my total commitment to the pursuit of his projects and my absolute determination to continue his work."

The Cousteau Society will press on with plans to build a second Calypso to replace the original 139-foot converted wooden minesweeper that had served Cousteau for more than 40 years as a platform for his undersea research and adventures. Calypso was severely damaged by a drifting barge while at anchor in Singapore in 1996. Calypso II will have a 218-foot steel hull, monohull forward and catamaran aft, and will be powered by Voith Schneider cycloidal drives and a turbosail, an 85-foot-tall auxiliary sail that Cousteau helped develop.

Cousteau's most influential contribution to underwater exploration, what he called the "Aqua-Lung," freed divers from the surface. Before Cousteau and engineer Émile Gagnan co-invented scuba gear, divers were connected to the surface by an air hose. He first tested the device in the Mediterranean Sea off France in 1943.

Prior to his grand and often dreamy career aboard Calypso and his subsequent award-winning films, Cousteau served the French Resistance as a spy against the Italians during World War II, for which he received the Légion d'Honneur.

Cousteau will be remembered by all who knew him and those familiar with his films and books as a man of action. In a statement entitled "A Strategy for Tomorrow" to the membership of The Cousteau Society in April 1996, Cousteau implored: "People must stop letting themselves be dragged along like dead weight and rouse themselves to participate, as actors, in the wonderful adventure of humanity."


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