From the bottom of the Ocean to Your Television Screen — Jacques Yves Cousteau

Phil Plumley
3 min readFeb 26, 2021

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, ‘from the world of Jules Verne’s 20'000 Leagues under the Sea, to the actual exploration of the depths of the ocean, served to you on a television screen’.

Not that long ago, a movie called ‘the Odyssey’ retraced the story and life of the famous oceanographer Jacques Y. Cousteau.

I thought it was an entertaining movie and that it offered some great photography.

It was a nice and pleasant reminder of what the original documentaries and films were about in many ways.

Not to mention, a nice photographic experience of the beauty of the oceans.

I was however astounded at the reaction of some people when I heard them talk about the movie. I quickly realised that the movie would be divided into two types of viewers: the audience who had grown up on Cousteau programmes or the reruns, and the rest of the world.

To serve the purpose of reminding everyone why Jaques Cousteau is to be considered a phenomenon, we should be reminded that Jacques Y. Cousteau single-handedly brought to the world the images of the ocean to the television screen for viewers around the world. Inbdoing this, several generations got exposed to what the ocean looked like from inside of it and of the many topics and lives that evolve from and around the ocean.

While his films were a revolution in itself, as audiences could for the first time view what the world of the oceans actually looked like from within them, Cousteau actually went on to piece together most of what made those films possible in the first place.

From sourcing the funding, to creating the technology that would allow for divers to stay underwater for longer and longer lengths of time and at lower and lower depths, to creating underwater vehicles allowing to explore deeper depths, underwater hubs, diving machines and more. Initially though, starting with the actual technology commonly used today by most divers: underwater driving apparatus, what you commonly view as an air tank connected to a mask which allows for divers to float in the ocean and keep on breathing for periods of time.

His first display of his technology, and ability to take cameras under water is viewable in one of his first movies from 1943 called ‘Les épaves’ (known as ‘Shipwrecks’ in english). It would seem old and…

Phil Plumley

Environmentalist / Ocean Matters podcast / SDGs