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who will be the next Cousteau?

Posted by Scuba Herald on Nov 12th, 2008 and filed under Scuba Industry. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

who will be the next Cousteau?

We all know about Jacques Cousteau, and since then it seems that a lot of people want to be the New Cousteau, the new king of the seas, the new leader of the underwater world…

When diver Jacques Cousteau died, he left behind a legacy of ocean exploration. But as his grandsons Fabien and Philippe look to seize his nautical throne, another tragic, troubled legacy has resurfaced. Is there enough ocean for all the Cousteaus to share, asks Kimberly Cutter

Not long ago, it must have seemed to Fabien Cousteau that the end of his troubles was in sight. After decades of struggling in the shadow of his ocean-exploring father, Jean-Michel Cousteau, and his iconic grandfather, Jacques Cousteau, Fabien was coming into his own.

He had completed his first self-produced film, a controversial shark documentary, Mind of a Demon; he had a starring role in his father’s hit series, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Adventures; he had a deal with a cable network to create his own series. Most important, the legal battles that had plagued the Cousteaus for the past decade seemed to be coming to an end.

True, his grandfather’s fabled ship, Calypso, continued to rot in France as a result of legal wrangling, but Fabien was done lamenting the past. He was ready to bring his grandfather’s spirit of wonder and ethos of conservation to a new generation. He was ready to be the next great Cousteau. Unfortunately for Fabien, he wasn’t the only one. In autumn 2006, his charismatic younger cousin Philippe emerged to challenge his claim to the Cousteau nautical throne. Like Fabien, Philippe is Jacques Cousteau’s grandson, but while Fabien was raised in the heart of the Cousteau kingdom, Philippe grew up exiled from it, and his life has been shaped by tragedy.

First, his father Philippe Cousteau Sr (who was groomed to take over the Cousteau franchise in the Seventies) died in a plane crash in 1979. Then, in September 2006, 26-year-old Philippe Jr was working with Steve Irwin on Ocean’s Deadliest, when Irwin was stabbed by a stingray in Australia. The beloved crocodile hunter died in Philippe’s arms. The show’s producers asked him to step in to finish Ocean’s Deadliest; when taping was over one thing was clear to everyone at Animal Planet, Philippe Cousteau was a star.

Philippe is now co-hosting the BBC’s upcoming Oceans series, and, with his 32-year-old sister Alexandra, is fast creating a multimedia undersea empire with an action-oriented environmental agenda that prompts people to do something to protect marine life. His style challenges Fabien’s education-focused efforts; as Philippe says, “Awareness is no longer enough. We must provide ways for people to change their behaviour.”

Both Fabien and Philippe are adept at pulling on and peeling off wetsuits on camera, chasing octopuses, and making impassioned pleas about the preservation of the Everglades. Both want to carry the Cousteau torch into the 21st century. Indeed, while television producers and environmentalists like to speculate about who will emerge as the leading Cousteau, what Fabien and Philippe’s rivalry reveals is a family saga that reads like a cautionary tale, a dark side of the Cousteau legacy where everyone blames everyone but Jacques himself for the mess he left in his wake.

By Kimberly Cutter

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