Bright Side

22 Little-Known Facts About Jacques Cousteau (Thanks to Him, Oil Isn’t Being Mined in Antarctica)

Films about the seas and oceans, the invention of scuba, and the famous red hat immediately come to mind when we talk about Jacques-Yves Cousteau. His personality is so legendary, that we can spot people imitating the inventor at the carnivals in Marseille. But there are even more facts about his life that make him an even more outstanding person. For example, he fought for a clean environment in the middle of the 20th century, even before the world had started caring about it.

Bright Side was really pleased to learn some unexpected facts about this person who explored the world around him and shared his knowledge with all of us.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s submarine, near the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

  • When Jacques-Yves and his brother were little boys, their father found a job in the US and they moved there from France. The brothers entered a local school and started speaking English really well.
  • Jacques-Yves had been dreaming of being a pilot, but he had to give up this idea due to a car accident where he broke his both of his arms.
  • In his youth, he built an electric car on his own.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau getting ready to dive, 1965

  • In 1943, to make his second film, he had to buy hundreds of small still camera film reels that were the same width and were originally intended for a child’s camera. He glued them all together to make long reels.
  • He has 3 Oscar awards. And for more than 48 years, Cousteau had been the only person who got the Palme d’Or in Cannes for his documentary film.
  • He made a film about Lake Baikal, a huge lake in Russia.
  • For a year, he worked on the team that produced a TV show called Those Amazing Animals. By the way, one of the hosts was Priscilla Presley, Elvis Presley’s ex-wife.
  • In 1985, Cousteau’s team arrived in Cuba to study the unique lobsters inhabiting this area. Fidel Castro, who read some of Cousteau’s books, decided to visit his ship and meet the author in person. During a dinner, the political leader and the researcher found common ground, and thanks to their good relationship, 80 political prisoners were later liberated.

Here, U.S. President John F. Kennedy gives Jacques-Yves Cousteau the gold medal from the National Geographic Society in the White House. On Cousteau’s right there’s National Geographic editor, Melville Bell Grosvenor. Right behind them there are French ambassador to the United States, Herve Alphand with his wife Nicole Merenda Alphand and Cousteau’s wife Simone Melchior (on the ambassador’s right).

  • Cousteau conducted his first study together with naval officer Philippe Tailliez and diver Frederic Dumas. Perhaps, because of Frederic's surname, they were called the "musketeers of the sea."
  • Thanks to Cousteau's inventions, underwater archaeology started developing. The first underwater archaeological expedition was conducted by him in Tunisia in 1948. The Roman ship discovered then is still visited by divers today.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau stands in front of a 50-meter-long balloon in the shape of a blue whale on June 25, 1989. It was a part of an advertising campaign devoted to the opening of the French Maritime Museum in Les Halles.

  • Once, Cousteau saw a ferry made from a decommissioned British minesweeper. The ferry travelled between Malta and Gozo Island. It was an ordinary vessel, but Jacques-Yves found it perfect for studying the ocean. This is how the story of Calypso, his famous research ship, started.
  • Thanks to the fact that he knew Thomas Loel, a millionaire from the Guinness family, renting the Calypso only cost him 1 franc per year. Thomas bought the vessel and asked Cousteau just 2 things, “Tell no one who helped you and never ask for money again.”
  • Studies on this vessel were conducted until 1996 when the vessel sank in Singapore after a collision with a barge. It’s currently being restored.

Calypso in Montreal, 1980

  • In the 1960s, Jacques-Yves Cousteau led a scientific program and its members used to live underwater for a long time. The laboratories, called Conshelf I, II, and III, sat at depths of 30 feet, 100 feet, and 336 feet in the Mediterranean Sea near Marseilles. The goal of the program was to find out if we could live underwater.
  • At first, 2 oceanauts dove and lived underwater for 7 days, but later 6 people at once lived in the facility for 3 weeks. The experiment was pretty successful, but it was found that the people needed more sun. The results of this study are now used for astronaut training.
  • The laboratory facilities are still located in the same place.

A diver near Conshelf II, 2017.

  • In 1960, a part of the Mediterranean Sea was planned to be used as a radioactive waste dump. The French Atomic Energy Commission even claimed that the project was supported by oceanographers, though these scientists were actually lied to and told there would be less waste. Cousteau started a big public campaign against the dump and activists even stopped the train with the waste, leaving it sitting on the railway tracks.
  • In 1990, Cousteau’s foundation launched a worldwide petition to ban mining in Antarctica. The campaign was successful and the ban came into force. Today only tourists and scientists come to Antarctica.
  • There’s a Humpback whale’s skeleton not far from the Brazilian Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station. The bones were put there by Cousteau who wanted to remind people about the whales’ tragic destinies in the 20th century.

Brazilian scientists not far from the Comandante Ferraz Antarctic Station, March 10, 2014

Have you ever watched any of Cousteau’s films? Do you find them remarkable?

Preview photo credit ASSOCIATED PRESS / East News