Thursday, March 31, 2011

There's an ocean of careers for those who love the sea

Jacques Cousteau

In my impressionable youth, when time allowed for lemonade stands and save-the-whale campaigns, I imagined that one day I would become an oceanographer.

I grew up about as far away from saltwater as one could get, but I was born with a passion for the water. Swimming, sailing, fishing, diving, it all appealed to me. Still, it wasn't until I watched a TV special on Jacques Cousteau and the crew of the Calypso that I began to entertain notions of one day combining my love of the water with a rewarding career. I knew Costeau as the captain with the red cap and gaunt silhouette, but he was known around the world as the young co-inventor (only 33 at the time) of the aqualung, a device that enabled divers to explore ocean depths for extended periods, unearthing a place which, up until that time, was virtually unknown to humankind.

According to the Cousteau Society, he went on to pioneer many areas including documenting the sonar-like capabilities of dolphins, public demonstrations to protect the oceans from radioactive dumping and over-exploitation and profound wildlife cinematography. Before the Cousteau team explored the Antarctica in 1972, one could only imagine what the ocean was like below the icebergs and ice shelf. Just as the astronauts risked their lives to show us the dark sides of the moon, Cousteau and his crew braved deadly conditions to reveal the darkest depths of the ocean. 

On Jan. 11, 1996, Cousteau lost the Calypso. It was rammed and sunk in Singapore harbor by a barge.

On June 25, 1997, the world lost Cousteau.

It has been many years since this renowned ambassador for the seas and oceans last sailed, but his passion for creatures of the sea was inherited by his son, Pierre-Yves Cousteau, who, through the support of the Cousteau Society has been able to continue his father's work. 

In June, as part of the society's year-long centennial celebration of Cousteau's birth and lifelong achievements, it will re-launch the newly restored Calypso for a marine education tour and new Cousteau Divers program. 

AP Photos/Hawaii Dept. of Natural Resources
Saving sea turtles
In this photo, from left, Aquatic biologist Skippy Hau of Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources works with Dennis O'Donnell; state wildlife technician Stephanie Franklin; and state habitat- and fish-monitoring technician Linda Castro to return a stranded sea turtle to the ocean in Kanaha Beach Park in Maui, Hawaii.

Off to the sea!
A sea turtle at Kanaha Beach Park in Maui, Hawaii heads for the sea. This sea turtle, weighing about 200 pounds, and tilapia are among the marine life that survived becoming casualties of the tsunami that hit Maui earlier this month.

"If he were alive today, my father would surely be awed by the technology and skill behind the work of his cinematic successors, who share my father's philosophy that 'people protect what they love and we love what enchants us,'" said Pierre-Yves Cousteau, in a media advisory. "He would be gratified by the creation of marine protected areas in many countries and by the growing community of scientists working to advance understanding and conservation of ocean biodiversity such as those completing the first census of marine life and its inventory of ocean species."

I wanted to be an oceanographer because it was the one job that I knew would combine my love of the water with a rewarding career. Over the years, my lemonade stand closed and I discovered a passion for storytelling that surpassed my desire to be an oceanographer. And through my writings I have since learned that there is an ocean of careers for those enchanted by the sea.

To find out more about the "Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau" visit the Cousteau Society What can you do if you love the water? Find out more at Sea Grants Marine Careers

Today's muse
One of the biggest challenges of the future may be simply to understand what should be the relationship between the sea and humans - Jacques Cousteau.

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