World marks marine pioneer Cousteau's 100th birthday

Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:30pm EDT
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By Sophie Taylor and Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. Congressional honors, sea-going missions and fundraising to restore the world's most famous marine exploration ship marked the 100th anniversary of French maritime pioneer Jacques Cousteau's birth.

Although Cousteau died in 1997 and it's been decades since most television audiences have heard his thick French accent describing life aboard his ship the Calypso, his son and wife marked his birth by reminding the world of the importance of maritime conservation at a time of crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.

Cousteau, who captured the earliest images of life deep beneath the waves, would have been 100 years old on Friday.

"Captain Cousteau left in the collective memory the image of a man who loved life, nature, the water, who loved to protect," his widow Francine Cousteau told Reuters by telephone.

A former naval officer who became an explorer and environmental campaigner, Cousteau shot the film "The World of Silence," which won the Palme d'Or in Cannes in 1956, from his ex-minesweeper Calypso. The film was made with skin-diving gear co-invented by Cousteau in 1943, which freed divers from heavy helmets to float as if in space.

A number of projects are underway that have been inspired by the explorer who former President Jacques Chirac called an "enchanter" and probably the best known Frenchman in the world for his pioneering films ranging from the Antarctic ice shelf to the blue lagoons of coral atolls.


Cousteau is the inspiration for a scientific and filming mission in collaboration with the National Geographic Society to investigate environmental damage in the Mediterranean Sea.   Continued...