Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King (for a Time)


My review of Brad Matsen's new book Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King is out today at SEED Magazine today (the SEED graphic is so cool). In reviewing the book two things struck me: 1) that I knew actually very little about a man who is considered a founding father of marine conservation and 2) that there had to be a reason for my ignorance (other than the obvious). My hypothesis is that his tumultuous personal life, particularly the loose strings left at death, has contributed to why the Cousteau legacy is fading. See if you agree.

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Interesting review, Jennifer. I'm of the generation that did grow up watching JYC on TV. And your question about why he has faded in memory is one that I have wondered about a number of times. I knew that the death of Philippe was devastating, but did not know of the other in-fighting. It is a shame. It is also interesting to read of his evolution into an environmentalist - it shows that thoughtful people can learn and grow and change. Thanks.

By Dave Gill (not verified) on 03 Nov 2009 #permalink

Thanks for this review, I may be interested in this biography. I am French and fondly remember following almost religiously with my family each episode of Cousteau undersea documentaries, during the 70's and 80's.
My fascination for nature and science was definitively feed by these movies.
Today, whenever I am talking of Cousteau, peoples never heard the name before. I was assuming that it was because I am now in North America, but even in France, his fame completly faded away. So is his legacy.
A pity. He was making us so proud while he was alive, and actually managed to put into mainstream some ecological concerns. Today, all we have left are either ecological loonies or green politicians, none of them I can trust.

By The_Librarian (not verified) on 04 Nov 2009 #permalink

As a long-time admirer of Captain Cousteau, I was puzzled by the way his work faded from the scene (along with the Norfolk, Virginia-based Cousteau Society) after his death.

The revelations in your review shed some surprising light on that. I knew about the bad feeling between Cousteau's second wife and his son Jean-Michel, but not the rest of it.

My respect for the Cousteau legacy remains intact. (You may be interested in reading my review of The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus, where it's expressed more fully. See http://www.chris-winter.com/Erudition/Reviews/JY_Cousteau/Huma_Orchi_Oc… ) I look forward to reading The Sea King for the insights it provides.

By Chris Winter (not verified) on 06 Nov 2009 #permalink