Interview by Roy Leonard
This interview with Jacques Cousteau was recorded in 1978. We found it via the Roy Leonard Audio Archive at WGN Radio.
Dig into the interview in our podcast. Oliver Sacks and George Washington Carver round out the special episode on self, sight, and deep-sea diving.
The Animated Transcript
Will you actively participate in diving yourself?
I was there three days ago. Yes, I do dive.
You are an amazing man. You are now 65?
You are as trim and healthy looking as a human can be…
That’s something I don’t understand. I don’t see any difference between the capability that I enjoy now and the ones I enjoyed for 20 years ago. I don’t see any difference. So I don’t understand these questions.
We heard the great news a few weeks ago that you and your crew and the Calypso and all sorts of gear were going to try to find the lost continent of Atlantis. This is not just mythological, there really is something to look for?
Well once more, our intentions have been slightly changed in the announcement because, of course, you are not looking for the lost continent of Atlantis at all. Because I don’t think there was a lost continent of Atlantis. But there certainly was something at the origin of the legend, and that’s what we are investigating.
Well what leads you to believe you will find something there?
I did not say that I would find something. I would say that my inquiry would tell the truth about it. I think this is a major subject for the public to know the truth about because we’re reading so many contradictory news. The Atlantis is found in the Atlantic, in the Pacific, in the North Sea, in the Sahara, I don’t know where. So we’re going to investigate every single one of these hypotheses, and we’ll tell you what we think is the truth about it.
Unfortunately Captain, if you didn’t know it, I better tell you but that motion picture Jaws opens on the continent this week. There have been many killings of the great white shark by man because of the movie
Yeah. The great white shark is a rare and almost an endangered species. So instead of being frightened by the great white sharks, we should protect them. What we can do is to protest against these killings as strong as we can and eventually to go and say to the fishermen, aren’t you ashamed of yourself.
The Cousteau society is a not for profit organization, is it not?
Bien sur. Of course.
Because I read your financial statement, in fact you’re not in the black by any means.
The Cousteau society is dedicated to improving our life and the perspectives of life of our children and grandchildren by protecting the water system of this planet by all means. It intends to achieve these goals by using all the communication methods possible. Television. Film.
Another one of the ABC specials, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau is about to be seen on television.
We are starting our ninth season.
That is an amazing record for you.
Because we produced four films a year and this will complete the series to 36. [laughs] Three dozen.
This is amazing.
What we’re doing really is the beginning of a big strong, long difficult fight, and we need the support of all our members. Their very close support.
What is a day on the Calypso like for the crew. An average day when… well what are you doing?
Well, the day starts in the evening.
All right. That’s a good place to start.
The day starts in the evening when, around the dinner table we all discuss about the program of the next day. If the plan is appealing enough, then maybe we would open a bottle of cognac and carry on a little longer in the evening. Then the next morning very early, we are all on deck. Everybody knows what he has to do and the sailing unrolls itself like a smooth, well-oiled machine and the divers go one after, all in all, doing their job. Then we find ourselves back at the dinner table in the evening for the next day.
Do you have… it sounds delightful, do you have divers from the world over who would like to become part of the crew of the Calypso?
Oh yes. We see a great number of applications. Unfortunately the turnover is very slow. People stay with us. We have very rarely an opportunity for a new diver to be wedged in.
I can easily see, I think, why those who associate themselves with Jacques Cousteau would want to make it a life’s work. You have made it your life’s work.
And to you we offer thanks.
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