Jacques-Yves Cousteau Critical Essays

Introduction

Jacques-Yves Cousteau 1910–

French nonfiction writer, filmmaker, and oceanographer.

Cousteau is widely known to the general public for his films and books about his marine explorations. He has shared the beauty and wonder of the ocean world with millions of readers and viewers in many languages. He teaches that humans must be careful to respect and conserve that world. Cousteau is also known, especially to oceanographers, for his contributions to marine research. He has helped advance the development of diving and exploration techniques, underwater photography, and nautical archaeology. Scientists sometimes point out that in his films and books Cousteau presents generalizations rather than well-documented scientific evidence. Cousteau, however, claims that he calls himself an explorer, not a scientist. Cousteau's films have won four Academy Awards, eight Emmy Awards, and two Cannes Film Festival Awards.

Cousteau served as a captain in the French navy and worked with the French Resistance during World War II. He collaborated on the invention of the aqualung, a lightweight, self-contained breathing apparatus that allows divers to swim freely underwater for extended periods. The Silent World (1953), written with Frédéric Dumas, recounts the testing of the aqualung as well as the initial voyages of Calypso, Cousteau's well-equipped research vessel from which he and his crew of divers and photographers conduct their work. This book won immediate critical and popular acclaim. The Living Sea (1963), which Cousteau wrote with James Dugan, relates the subsequent expeditions of the Calypso crew, including a successful experiment in underwater human habitation. The photographs accompanying these texts, and the motion picture documentaries of the expeditions of Calypso, have provided the public with an unusual and imaginative vantage point from which to view the sea. With his popular television series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau (1968–1976) and his series of books grouped under the title The Undersea Discoveries of Jacques Cousteau, many of which were written with Philippe Diolé, Cousteau and his crew have introduced the world of whales, sharks, dolphins, and other sea animals to mass audiences. His organization, The Cousteau Society, has published a twenty-volume reference series which offers a wide range of information pertaining to the sea. For his pioneering efforts at increasing knowledge of the marine environment and for making the sea accessible through mass media, Cousteau has won honors and awards from many nations and organizations.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 65-68.)