S. Speaker program ExchangeAlumni Philippe Cousteau, Jr., his family, and our planet. It led Philippe’s grandfather, Jacques Cousteau, to become a pioneer whose legacy still inspires Philippe – a TV host, producer, author, and social entrepreneur – every day.
Well, you know, for me growing up was, was — it a challenge in some ways I, you know, not knowing my father and, and having this big legacy, you know, that that was ever present was a little intimidating. You know, my grandfather Jacques Cousteau, 70, about 77 years ago, co-invented scuba diving and, you know, really opened up the world to the wonders in the ocean. He was someone that was not only a, an inventor, but also a filmmaker and storyteller and author. And, you know, for, for a long time was, was considered one of the most famous people in the world. And, and was this larger than life individual their explanation who had an enormous impact on the world and, you know, opening up the ocean. I think it’s hard for people to imagine that prior to his work inventing, you know, initially co-inventing scuba diving, um, the world knew very little about the ocean.
But what existed beneath the surface was always the mystery
Most of what we knew was that the pollution that we dumped in and the, and the seafood that we pulled out, you know, the ocean of course, has been a crossroads of civilization for millennia. And it wasn’t until, you know, my grandfather and, and an engineer named Emile Gagnan, they co-invented a valve, a regulator, which we still use today. It’s the, that we, that we use to scuba dive and then created underwater cameras and, and began to film documentaries. It wasn’t until that time that that people really began to, to know what coral reefs look like, schooling, sharks, walrus, whales. I mean, again, hard to imagine today, but all of that was virtually mystery to the world just literally a lifetime ago, 77 years. And so my grandfather was, was an extraordinary individual.
And, I mean, it was, it was like a real life, Indiana Jones in many ways
My father Philippe’s Senior joined him on expedition through the 60s and 70s as a young man and tragically in 1979, six months before I was born, he was killed in an airplane accident. And so I never knew my father, but I did have the opportunity to, to know my, my grandfather, he passed away when I was 17. And so growing up, certainly trying to connect to that legacy, getting to know my father. And in some ways I was fortunate in that I, I had his films and, and, and, you know, dozens of documentaries that he did and books, et cetera, but it was still certainly challenging to try and find my path and, and understand my place in what is truly an amazing legacy that, that that’s changed the world.
Uh, my passion for these issues wasn’t really solidified or crystallized until I was in my late teens. I always knew, you know, growing up with my, my grandfather’s stories from being a little boy, hearing about his exciting adventures all over the world. And then, when I was 16, I had the opportunity to go to Papua New Guinea with a woman who, who inspires me to this day one of my heroes, a woman named Dr. Eugenie Clark, who was, uh, one of the, the first, uh, female oceanographers ever, was a, a leading researcher and in particular shark advocate and, and scientists. And she was conducting an expedition to Papua New Guinea out to Millbay not in the, uh, southeastern part of the of, of the country.