The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: cousteau

Wish You Were Here: Kayaking Through Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD

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The Cook Strait is a tricky but enchanting body of water. It’s best to get on it early in the morning before the afternoon breeze kicks up. Photo: Owen James Burke.

Find a kayak, shove off the gold sand beach into gin-clear water and weave your way between granite and limestone cliffs. That’s the first thing you have to do when you get to the shores of Abel Tasman National Park. the rest is up to you, but I assure you, there’s no shortage of wonders small or large.

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Wish You Were Here: Sipping Espresso Aboard Jacques Cousteau’s Old Ship, Physalie (Now Espresso Ship), Port Tarakohe, New Zealand

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD

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I was convinced this was a gimmick, and you might imagine my immediate disbelief after haphazardly stumbling upon Cousteau’s old ship amidst this craggy, rusty old shipyard in–for all intents and purposes–the middle of nowhere. Photo: Owen James Burke.

The other morning, I was driving along a coastal road in New Zealand’s Golden Bay looking for a place to sit by the water and have an espresso. Coming out of a hairpin turn through a cave-tunnel in the road, I saw a sign for the “Espresso Ship”. Perfect, I thought. Plainly and simply rhapsodic. Those may well be the two things I love and covet most in this world.

Little did I know, as I would soon come to learn, this floating cafe formerly belonged to my late hero: a French naval officer, scientist and explorer by the name of Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

How had I never heard of this boat?

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

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Wish You Were Here: Diving with Jacques and Jean-Michel Cousteau, Sanary-sur-Mer, France, 1953

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Above, Jacques-Yves Cousteau adjusts 10-year-old son Jean-Michel’s aqualung before a dive into the Mediterranean Sea off Sanary-sur-Mer, France in 953. Photographer unknown. Photo via MotW.

“When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.” — Jacques Cousteau.

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The Last Dive Into Devil’s Hole.

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James Houtz came into this world nearly 80 years ago during a raging snowstorm. He lived the first three years of his life in a tiny Colorado outpost called Allen’s Park, but at the age of four, he and his older sister moved to Catalina Island after their mother was offered a job running a popular Girl Scout camp. When the Houtz’s weren’t on the island, they lived in an equally remote cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains above Los Angeles. Jim was rarely indoors, spending his early years hiking playing and hunting in the hills or diving and spearfishing in Catalina’s crystalline waters. Eventually he also took up surfing, growing particularly fond of the long pointbreak rollers around Santa Barbara.

A fanatical obsession with diving eventually led Houtz to enlist in the U.S. Navy’s submarine forces on an underwater demolition team – the precursor unit to the SEALS. He dove to recover spent torpedoes and Regulus II missiles (the first nukes ever to be launched from submarines) and led in acoustical experiments aimed at helping ships and subs run silent through the water.

Houtz was honorably discharged in 1960. He became a diving instructor and fell in with a team of experimental mermen who were working determine what sorts of exotic cocktail of oxygen, nitrogen, helium and other inert gasses might prevent the deadly state of deep dive drunkenness known as nitrogen narcosis.

By the early mid 1960’s, Houtz began a well-publicized mapping exploration of the deepest depths of a gigantic, tidally influenced western aquifer whose sole connection to the earth’s surface is a tiny volcanic fissure near Death Valley – a scar called Devils’ Hole. The hole is home to a critically endangered species, the Devil’s Hole Pupfish, and is steeped in lore. Native Americans held that a beast hid in its depths that would leap from the water and pull careless humans to their deaths. The Reverend Ethan Allen believed it a gateway to Hell, while Charles Manson thought his Family could hide safely in its depths during the coming chaos of Helter Skelter, and find a lost city of gold.

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Merl Dobry and Jim Houtz inch their way through a narrow passage on the way to Brown’s Room. The photograph illuminated a world of utter darkness darkness at 92 feet. Photo courtesy, Jim Houtz.

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How Calypso, Jacques Cousteau’s Famed Research Vessel, May Rust to the Ground

Aye Calypso the places you’ve been to,
The things that you’ve shown us,
The stories you tell.

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Calypso sits sadder and lonelier than ever at the Piriou shipyard in Brittany, France. Photo: Olivier Bernard/Creative Commons.

In 1950, Undersea explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau leased a decommissioned Royal Navy minesweeper (then operating as a ferry to and fro Malta) from the Guinness family, for one franc per year. He modified the 400-ton vessel into a mothership of ocean science: additions included a state-of-the-art marine research lab and a film studio.

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Jacques Cousteau kicks back Calypso’s radio room. Photo: Musée Océanographique Monaco.

Jaques Yves Cousteau would spend almost forty years thereafter exploring the oceans, seas and rivers of the world at her helm. From Calypso he brought us “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau,” and influenced – and inspired – millions.

By the mid 1990’s, a long life of diving, filming and research at sea was starting to wear on Cousteau and his health. Calypso was in Singapore, and for once, fortunately Mr. Cousteau was not. In the year before his death in 1997, a barge accidentally rammed his 43-meter, 40-year-long companion and she sank to the bottom of Singapore harbor. She rested there for 17 days until being raised and brought back to the south of France, but she had to undergo extensive, expensive renovations just to remain intact. Now, per a settlement in a French Court which gave Francine Cousteau until March 11th of 2015 to settle a $300,000+ bill, the Brittany boatyard in which Calypso sits has the right to auction her off.

Take a tour through the Calypso with John Denver, who wrote the celebratory song about the famed research vessel that accompanies this video (above).

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Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Secret Ocean 3D, Narrated by Dr. Sylvia Earle

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The ocean is coming to 3D theaters, thanks to new technology developed just for this film, and who better to bring it to us than Jean-Michel Cousteau and Dr. Sylvia Earle with their new state-of-the-art documentary film, Secret Ocean 3D?

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Gypsy Cameras: 1960s Underwater Cameras Are Being Shot and Shipped Around the World for a Global Scrapbook of Surfing

Surfer at Tai Long Wan: Big Wave Bay, Hong Kong, 2012

Tai Long Wan Bei, Hong Kong, 2012 (Photo: Stephen Milner)

One of the first widely available underwater cameras, the Nikonos was co-invented in 1963 with the help of none other than Jacques Yves Cousteau. These 35mm film cameras are no longer manufactured, but they can be found for as little as $100 on eBay, and this is where mastermind Brandon Jennings got the idea to buy as many as he could find and ship them around the world. Why? He’s only building what may become the most eclectic surfing scrapbook in history.

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Life in Salt: Mission Blue Photographer and Expedition Leader Kip Evans on Life in Exploration Through Photography

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Kip Evans with a submersible (Photo courtesy of Kip Evans)

Kip Evans has logged over 1,500 hours of diving and participated in or led over 50 expeditions throughout over two decades of exploring the world. He grew up as a Navy brat in the best possible sense; his father, a Navy doctor, led the family around the world instilling them with a sense of wonder and stewardship for the sea and the wild. While his father was stationed in Taipei, Kip found himself in the jungle, collecting snakes and spiders and whatever other deadly, venomous critters he could get his hands on. The family traveled to the Philippines, Tahiti, Thailand, and beyond, almost always staying on the water.

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A young Kip Evans and brother Sam, on vacation in Tahiti while the family was stationed in Taiwan (Courtesy of Kip Evans)

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