Jacques-Yves Cousteau Rachel L. Carson - Essay

Rachel L. Carson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"We have tried to find the entrance to the great hydrosphere because we feel that the sea age is soon to come."

So Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, a French navy gunnery officer, sums up his motives for devoting fifteen years to pioneering undersea explorations, in the course of which he has made more than 5,000 dives. Cousteau's work is an important milestone on the road of man's return to the sea. The era of the "menfish" began when he, along with Philippe Taillez, another naval officer, and Frédéric Dumas, an experienced civilian diver, made successful descents with the first aqualung a decade ago.

Aqualung equipment consists of one to three tanks of compressed air strapped on the diver's back, a face mask, and a mouth piece through which the diver inhales air from his tanks and exhales. He is completely self-contained….

"The Silent World" is a fascinating book, the distillation of Cousteau's experience undersea. After the war he and his associates salvaged torpedoed vessels and the scuttled French fleet, swimming freely through the rigging encrusted with barnacles, weed-hung and ghostly; they swam down shadowy gangways, passing from deck to deck and exploring drowned cabins and engine rooms. Turned archaeologists, the aqualungers found the remains of an argosy presumably sunk about 80 B.C. while en route from Athens to Rome with loot that included Ionic columns, marble statuary, and bronze figures. The divers filmed fishermen's trawl nets as they lumbered along the ocean floor, sending up fishes like frightened rabbits. They followed a submarine laying mines and photographed men...

(The entire section is 686 words.)