Friday, August 3, 2012


We all know this fellow.  Maybe because it's summer, and my mind, despite the distractions of a very busy parish season, plus my wife's surgery this week, is filled with the delights of the waterman's pursuits, but I was thinking about Jacques the other day.  Maybe it was because I couldn't get that funky taste out of my scuba regulator, who knows?

Jacques Cousteau was not just the host of the very, very best National Geographic specials EVER [I had them all on videotape and then DVD; I'm going to get them all on digital as soon as they're available] but he was the developer of the underwater portable breathing device, in particular the bulbous gadget attached to the mouthpiece of a scuba ensemble.  It was marketed with the name "aqua lung", which is what they were still called when I first donned one for my federal uncle back in the 1970's.  The bundle he made from that enabled him to leave the French Navy and lease his famous ship Calypso, in order to study most directly the wonders of the oceans.

In addition to his underwater work, he also wrote some bestsellers, including my fave The Silent World, and filmed some theatrical documentaries, two of which won Academy Awards, including World Without Sun, which was one of the two films I saw while on a seaside vacation [the other was The Endless Summer] that either made my life or ruined it, depending on whom you ask. 

More of Cousteau may be found here.  You can also get a red knit cap at that site, just like the ones worn by Cousteau and his divers.  [Yes, I have one.]

I would be remiss not also to mention the fellow who formed my daydreams of scuba diving before I even heard of Cousteau.  He was fictional, but no less real to those of us in the Midwest: Mike Nelson of the TV show Sea Hunt.  The boys of my neighborhood used to pull our t-shirts partially over our heads, with our faces staring our the head hole, and would pretend to "swim" about our yards like Mike and company.  We would also make the gurgling stomach noise that Nelson's regulator always made, too.