Jacques Cousteau, an underwater explorer noted for his contributions to marine science and conservation, is celebrated today, on the anniversary of his birth. The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) started an official Cousteau Day, which was held on June 25, 2010, on the thirteenth anniversary of his death. At sanctuaries across the country, it was celebrated with events such as the cleaning up harbors and beaches, the reading of his books and watching of his films, events at aquariums, and events focusing on underwater exploration and the impact of humans on the marine environment. The day was also marked by the wearing of red hats—Cousteau's signature attire. There is no indication that the day officially took place on this date in subsequent years. Prior to, during, and following the ONMS Cousteau Day, the day has been unofficially celebrated on June 11, the date on which he was born in 1910.
Cousteau was not a trained scientist but became involved in underwater exploration because of his love of underwater diving and the ocean. He was a French naval officer during World War II, and began experimenting with underwater filmmaking at that time, and continued underseas investigation and research afterward. Throughout his work, he educated the public and sparked their interest in sea life and its preservation. He was an ecologist who participated in environmental activism, a photographer, a filmmaker who produced over 120 documentaries, and an author who wrote over 50 books. Most notably, he published Le Munde du silence (The Silent World) in 1953. It was made into a film in 1956 and won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the following year. He also created a documentary television program, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.
Cousteau lent his hand to various inventions as well. In 1943, he co-invented the Aqua-Lung, also known as the Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA). This led to easier underwater exploration, and to people being able to see the wonders of the underworld up close for the first time. He helped invent the Diving saucer, an early vehicle for underwater exploration, and helped create the turbosail, which became used in Cousteau's ship, the Alcyone. He also helped invent some underwater cameras.
In 1950, Cousteau retrofitted a minesweeper into a new ship and named it Calypso. He used it for research for the remainder of his life. John Denver wrote a song of the same name devoted to Cousteau, the ship, and its crew. Cousteau was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985. Formed in 1974 by Cousteau, the Cousteau Society continues his work today, focusing on the preservation of ocean life.
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by putting on a red cap and exploring things related to Jacques Cousteau! Join or donate to the Cousteau Society. Read The Silent World or one of Cousteau's other books. Watch the film adaptation of The Silent World or The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, a tribute to and parody of Cousteau that was dedicated to him, could also be watched. You could also look for events in your community dedicated to him, organize a beach cleanup, or go scuba diving.