Jacques-Yves Cousteau

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From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.
~ Cousteau, 1960

Jacques-Yves Cousteau, AC (11 June 191025 June 1997), commonly known in English as Jacques Cousteau, was a French naval officer, explorer, conservationist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water. He co-developed the Aqua-Lung, pioneered marine conservation and was a member of the Académie française.

  • From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.
    • Time (28 March 1960)
  • Buoyed by water, he can fly in any direction — up, down, sideways — by merely flipping his hand. Under water, man becomes an archangel.
    • Time (28 March 1960)
  • The sea is the universal sewer.
    • Declaring the sea to be "where all kinds of pollution wind up", to the US House Committee on Science and Astronautics (28 January 1971)
  • We must plant the sea and herd its animals … using the sea as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization is all about — farming replacing hunting.
    • Interview (17 July 1971); Cited in: Elizabeth Brubaker et al. (2008) Breath of Fresh Air, p. 180
  • Farming as we do it is hunting, and in the sea we act like barbarians.
    • Interview (17 July 1971): Cited in: Jane Goodall et al. (2005) Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating.
  • If we go on the way we have, the fault is our greed — if we are not willing — we will disappear from the face of the globe, to be replaced by the insect.
  • What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what’s going on.
    • Christian Science Monitor (21 July 1971)
  • Man, of all the animals, is probably the only one to regard himself as a great delicacy.
    • Octopus and Squid: The Soft Intelligence (1973)
  • I am not a scientist. I am, rather, an impresario of scientists.
    • Christian Science Monitor (24 July 1986)
  • I said that the oceans were sick but they're not going to die. There is no death possible in the oceans — there will always be life — but they're getting sicker every year.
  • In the last few decades, a terribly pernicious rumor has been circulated by the press. It claims, exhibiting a level of stupidity heretofore considered impossible, that a human being could crawl through the arteries of a blue whale. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. I do not know why this deleterious rumor has been systematically repeated, but its very existence is an ugly cancer upon the face of science.
    • Octopus and Squid: The Soft Intelligence (1973)
  • We have to prepare for what life could become in 40 years. We need to outline what is possible and what is impossible with the non-renewable resources of the Earth. What role will technological improvement play? Taking all this into account, what kind of life can we produce in the best way for 10 billion people? That's a problem that needs to be solved.
  • Sometimes we are lucky enough to know that our lives have been changed, to discard the old, embrace the new, and turn headlong down an immutable course.
    • The Silent World by Capt. Jacques-Yves Cousteau with Frederic Dumas 2004 National Geographic Society, pg. 5

Quotes about Cousteau

  • Sylvia Earle's generation — they were explorers...They’re like, what is even down there? How do we understand this? And then: Oh [bleep], this is in trouble. And they all became conservationists, right? We saw that same professional transformation with Jacques Cousteau.
  • Sylvia Earle, though a great scientist, is also the heir to Jacques Cousteau, inducting the landbound among us into the mysteries of the sea, helping us to feel both astonished and at ease.
    • Bill McKibben The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean's Are One (2009)
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