Robert C. Cowen

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 465

Reading Jacques-Yves Cousteau's captivating new book ["The Living Sea"], I had a strong impulse to hand in this review and immediately take off to find Calypso. From this, his oceangoing research ship, the famed French undersea explorer has helped to open a fascinating and challenging underwater world.

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Some academic oceanographers have found it fashionable to discount his exploits. But the years of effort that have been compressed into the pages of this book speak for themselves of the great contribution Captain Cousteau has made to oceanographic science.

He would himself lay no claim to being a scientific expert. Yet from the aqualung to his most recent innovation of the diving saucer, a jet propelled submarine, which will carry two men comfortably to depths of 1,000 feet, he has done as much if not more than any other contemporary marine explorer to open the way to a new opportunity for undersea research.

In "The Living Sea," as in his earlier best seller "The Silent World," Captain Cousteau conveys the sense of adventure and the vision that continue to inspire his work. Perhaps the most striking comparison between the two books is that the enthusiasm has not flagged at all while the vision has greatly matured.

Captain Cousteau has always seen his work as an advancement of men's capabilities as well as a personal adventure. He has never been content to rest at one level of achievement, such as perfecting aqualung diving. Instead he has moved steadily to enlarge men's undersea explorational capabilities in imaginative yet practical ways.

His latest effort, the one with which the book ends, is his now-famous experiment in undersea living. In this, two of his men lived in a watertight "hut" on the continental shelf for several days, when not working with aqualung. It is the forerunner of what may one day be submarine research communities in which men can live at the pressure of the water in which they explore without having to return to the surface every few hours as in ordinary diving.

In short, Captain Cousteau sees mankind entering an era in which the sea will become for it a new environment to be understood, worked with, and beneficially exploited.

At the same time, he sees great need for men to re-orient their viewpoint to this new perspective. The time has come to stop thinking of the sea merely as a dumping ground and hunting preserve or a highway for ships….

Readers of the National Geographic magazine, to which Captain Cousteau contributes regularly, will recognize many familiar episodes in his book…. Yet for them, and for new reader acquaintances, he has presented an exciting and thought-provoking new statement of his work.

Robert C. Cowen, "The Sea As a Dwelling Place: Cousteau's Wet World," in The Christian Science Monitor, April 25, 1963, p. 11.

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