2 October 1967 |
|Alma mater||Boston University|
|Occupation||Filmmaker and explorer|
|Relatives||Céline Cousteau (sister)
Jacques Cousteau (grandfather)
Fabien Cousteau (born 2 October 1967) is an aquanaut, ocean conservationist, and documentary filmmaker. As the first grandson of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Fabien spent his early years aboard his grandfather’s ships Calypso and Alcyone; learning how to scuba dive on his fourth birthday. He is known for his study of sharks and from 2000-2002, Fabien was an Explorer-at-Large for National Geographic and collaborated on a TV special aimed at changing public conceptions about sharks called, “Attack of the Mystery Shark,”. Then in 2003-2006, he produced the documentary, “Mind of a Demon,” that aired on CBS. With the help of a large crew, Fabien created a 14-foot, 1,200-pound, lifelike shark submarine called “Troy” that enabled him to immerse himself inside the shark world.
For the next four years (2006-2010), Fabien was part of a multi-hour series for PBS called, “Ocean Adventures” with his father, Jean-Michel Cousteau, and sister, Céline. Inspired by his grandfather’s 1978 PBS series, “Ocean Adventures”.
In early 2009 Fabien began working with local communities and children worldwide to help restore local water ecosystems. He continues to presently fulfill these initiatives through Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center] ("OLC") his non-profit 501(c )(3) founded in early 2016 dedicated to the restoration of the world's water bodies through active community engagement and education.
Early life and education
Fabien Cousteau is the grandson of famed oceanographic explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and son of Jean-Michel Cousteau who assisted Jacques-Yves on most of his expeditions. Fabien Cousteau was born and raised in France, although he has lived in the United States for the majority of his life. He has a sister, Céline Cousteau.
Cousteau's first scuba dive came at age four when Jacques-Yves Cousteau strapped a custom made scuba tank to his back and sent Fabien Cousteau off into the Mediterranean Sea. His interest in sharks began at a young age, about 6 or 7, and was piqued when he sneaked into a showing of Jaws. The film perplexed him – "It went against everything I had ever learned about sharks ... Great white sharks don't go around chopping up boats," he explained – and started him on a mission to clear up "the gross misconceptions we have about sharks".
At age seven, Cousteau accompanied his grandfather and father on the first of many sea trips aboard the Calypso and Alcyone, the ships that transported the explorers to their dive locations. He official joined the crew at age twelve; his first job was to remove barnacles from Jacques-Yves Cousteau's boats.
After school, Cousteau worked as a marketer for Seventh Generation. "I decided to start up in a different career, in which my name would not help me, just to see if I could survive", he explained. After three years, he returned to the family business, working for his father at Deep Ocean Odyssey, an exploration company founded by his grandfather. Cousteau said he did "very well" in business, "but it really left me kind of empty." He then spent time as a diving and underwater product tester while looking for a company to appoint him "explorer-in-residence".
In 2002, Cousteau went out on his own, launching his first expedition without family help: a dive where filmed his interactions with bull sharks in the Bahamas. He spent three months filming sharks for what would become his first National Geographic Explorer special, "Attacks of the Mystery Shark". In filming, he was "shocked at how few encounters we had. We would go past a school of 50 or 60 sharks during feeding and not one paid any attention to us." The episode, which debuted on 4 August 2002, investigated a recent rise of bull shark attacks and a 1916 incident when a shark was blamed for four deaths in New Jersey, two of them upstream in Matawan Creek. The Globe and Mail described the special: If you "get through the corny setup ... this special offers some good television." A second shark documentary followed shortly thereafter. Also in 2002, Cousteau began work on a children's book called The Prince of Atlantis and founded an online conservation organization named Planet Riders.
In 2004, Cousteau was asked to make a new shark documentary. Having already made two, he was hesitant until he remembered a Tintin story he had read as a kid. In Red Rackham's Treasure, Tintin explores the ocean while on a treasure hunt using a shark-shaped submarine. "When I thought back on that, I thought it was a really good idea", Cousteau recalled. "I wanted to film these sharks without any of the artificial stimuli". Normally, sharks' behavior is affected by the attempts to observe them, with chumming and shark cages leading to footage of aggressive, open mouthed sharks that does not represent their natural behavior.
In order to make his vision a reality, Cousteau contracted with Hollywood engineer and family friend Eddie Paul. After a year of development, "Troy", a 14-foot (4.3 m) long, 1,200-pound (540 kg) submarine shaped like a great white shark, was ready for testing. Cousteau's initial attempts to drive Troy were "a disaster" as he was unable to get it to move straight. Once he mastered the steering, Troy was capable of fish-like motion. A wet sub, it was filled with water while operating. To breathe, Cousteau carried full diving equipment weighing about 80 pounds (36 kg), which provided about 6.5 hours of air. He lay on his stomach, propped up on his elbows to operate Troy. The submarine was designed to survive a shark attack.
Sharks appeared to view Troy as another shark. They stayed about 23 to 29 feet (7.0 to 8.8 m) away from it, the length of an adult shark, and rolled their eyes, puffed their gills, and changed directions in response to it. These behaviors were observed only in the presence of the submarine, not with free divers, although Cousteau said he was hesitant to say it proved the sharks saw Troy as a shark. Cousteau called the experience of being surrounded by up to five great white sharks at once a "humbling experience. They're like 747s underwater ... but they are so graceful and so deceivingly calm, and very sure of themselves."
For several weeks in 2005, Cousteau navigated among the sharks near Guadalupe Island, Mexico. The resulting documentary, entitled Shark: Mind of a Demon, aired on CBS in 2006. In total, Cousteau filmed 170 hours of footage which were made available for scientific study. According to Cousteau, his crew was able to get good data on great white territorial boundaries. One night, while operating Troy, Cousteau lost contact with his support vehicles. "I ended up anchoring Troy and swimming 230 feet (70 m) in absolute darkness to Isla de Guadalupe", he recalled. "That was the fastest I've ever swam." On another occasion, Troy broke got pinned at the bottom of the sea. After some tense moments, his dive team was eventually able to free Cousteau and bring him to the surface. After the project was complete, he declared "I'm done with sharks for now. There are so many [other] things I want to explore".
From August 2005 to March 2006, Cousteau and his sister led a series of dives at the United States' 13 marine sanctuaries. The footage was turned into a two-part episode of Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures called "America's Underwater Treasures." Among other things, the team captured footage of goliath groupers, humpback whales, a rare giant Pacific octopus, and spawning coral. They also visited various shipwrecks including a sunken Civil War battleship, and talked ecologists. Cousteau said the goal of the show was to "make these special places real for viewers everywhere". The Cousteau family's acclaimed PBS series "Jean-Michel Cousteau Ocean Adventures" continued on thru 2009, with its expeditions spanning from the Arctic to Papua New Guinea to the Amazon and covering topics from climate change to indigenous cultures.
Originally scheduled for November 2013, Mission 31 was postponed to June 2014 due to a US federal government shutdown. From 1 June to 2 July, Cousteau spent 31 days underwater filming and collecting scientific data as a tribute to his grandfather. In doing so, he set the record for longest time underwater for a film crew, surpassing his grandfather's 30 days set in 1963. However, people on submarines have spent a longer amounts of time living underwater, so it was not an absolute record. Cousteau got the idea for Mission 31 when visiting the undersea laboratory Aquarius during a fundraiser aiming to keep it operating in the wake of federal budget cuts. It was his first saturation dive.
By working out of Aquarius instead of diving from the surface, Mission 31 crew members were able to scuba dive up to nine hours without surfacing or undergoing decompression. After the expedition concluded, Cousteau remarked "I didn't know how I was going to react – physically, psychologically – [but] it was amazing how much it felt like home." He estimated his team had collected the equivalent of two-year's worth of data during the mission, enough for ten scientific papers, and said he "would have loved to have continued beyond 31 days".
As of 2002, Cousteau lived in an apartment near Sutton Place, Manhattan with a dog named Heidi. He has been described as "dashing", a "hunk", and filled with showmanship. In 2002, he was selected by People magazine as the "sexiest explorer" in the magazine's annual listing of the sexiest living men.
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- Karen Bale (24 June 2006). "The Jaws of Death". Daily Record. p. 23.
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- Linda Stasi (27 June 2006). "Jump the Shark: Cousteau's Hunk Grandson Goes Deep". The New York Post. p. 79.
- Tracy Conner (21 November 2002). "Ben There, Done That, Says J.Lo". New York Daily News. p. 4.