This month marks the 20th anniversary of Jacques Cousteau’s death. The inventor of scuba diving, a marine conservationist and a filmmaker (to name but a few of his achievements), Cousteau’s work is still widely celebrated to this day! Most importantly, he has left a legacy which means that his important work continues to protect marine life.
Scuba Diving and Conservation
In the 1940s, Cousteau extended the amount of time he could stay underwater by adding a ‘demand regulator’ to his breathing apparatus. This new invention was the first ‘aqua-lung’, which enabled divers to breathe underwater for long periods of time and explore the oceans like never before.
With the invention of this exciting new apparatus, Cousteau began building underwater cameras and he wrote several books about the fascinating creatures he encountered during his dives. His books The Silent World (1953), The Shark (1970) and Dolphins (1975) became hugely successful. He went on to create films and documentaries that highlighted the desperate need for marine conservation, passing on his knowledge to the public.
The TV series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau was hugely successful and ran for nine seasons. Millions of people tuned in to watch Cousteau travel the world and reveal how the amazing habitats of rare sea creatures were being affected by humans.
In addition to creating films and writing books about his underwater adventures, Cousteau’s invention of the aqua-lung still made a significant and lasting contribution to marine conservation. Divers continue to use apparatus that is based on the aqua-lung to explore the oceans, improve our knowledge of sea life, and highlight environmental concerns.
To cite just one example, diving groups monitor the decline of coral reefs around the world, look into the effects of marine pollution, and analyse fragile underwater ecosystems – all thanks to scuba equipment.
The Cousteau Society
Cousteau’s exploration of the world’s oceans and his concerns about marine pollution led him to establish the Cousteau Society in 1973. It is still running today and it has more than 50,000 members worldwide. Run by Jacques Cousteau’s widow Francine, the society conducts many explorations of ecosystems around the world and aims to educate people about the importance of marine conservation.
To date, the Cousteau Society has produced an astonishing 115 films and more than 100 books that document the devastating effects of marine pollution in a wide variety of habitats, including Cuba, Haiti, Antarctica, Thailand, Borneo, Indonesia and South Africa.
In 1990 the society launched a petition to protect Antarctica, and these efforts brought about international protocol which means that mineral activities cannot be conducted in the area for 50 years, protecting the rare marine life that lives there.
In 1963, Cousteau lived underwater for an astonishing 30 days in a specially designed marine laboratory. The vessel was sat on the bed of the Red Sea while he and his team conducted many experiments into life under water.
As testament to Cousteau’s legacy, his grandson Fabien lived underwater for a remarkable 31 days in 2014. The main aim of Fabien’s experiment was to draw attention to the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans, and what the overconsumption of natural resources means for humans and marine life.
An Important Legacy
By raising awareness of conservation issues, developing technologies that allowed the world to see the effects of marine pollution, and creating films that brought these issues to the forefront of society, the work that Cousteau conducted during his lifetime benefited the world’s oceans significantly.
What’s more, his legacy continues to ensure that we sustain marine life and habitats. The films and books he created still have a popular following, and his invention of the aqua-lung has helped divers to uncover the amazing oceans of our planet.
Here at SEA LIFE Blackpool we support and continue Cousteau’s amazing work by putting conservation at the forefront of everything we do. We breed, rescue, and protect vulnerable species who are in danger of becoming extinct. Our charity, the SEA LIFE Trust helps to develop and support projects around the world that protect marine wildlife.
Last year alone we raised over £300,000 and we hope to raise more going forward. Find out more about how you can help our conservation campaigns and make sure that our oceans are sustainable for years to come.