Jacques Cousteau

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11575

There is an amazing array of aquatic animals under the sea, not to mention treasures and artifacts. We may never have known about them were it not for Mr. Cousteau and the Calypso! Dive into his life!


Earth Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • How do humans know about the depths of the sea?
  • What's going on under the sea, and how do we get to find out?

The ocean is a relatively unexplored terrain, like a new frontier.

With depths of more than 30,000 feet, it is difficult even for machines to travel to the bottom of the ocean. While there is still much to be discovered, scientists did not truly begin learning about the ocean and the organisms that call it home until the mid-1900s.

Shortly after World War II, a new explorer emerged. His name was Jacques Cousteau, and he did not sail the seas in search of new land and wealth. Rather, he sailed the seas looking to find out more about what the ocean held.

He created a number of inventions that allowed scientists to stay underwater longer and made a series of television specials that introduced the world to the deep seas.

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Jacques Cousteau was born in France in 1910. After college, Cousteau entered the Navy. This career took him to sea, and he enjoyed studying the wildlife he saw and taking pictures of the ocean. Ultimately, this led Cousteau to a lifelong career at sea.

In the 1940s, Cousteau invented the aqua lung. This was one of the first devices that enabled scientists and researchers to breathe underwater for long periods of time. Over the years, this invention has evolved into the tank and mouthpiece that you see scuba divers use today.

scuba regulator invention by Cousteau

Read to learn more about Cousteau's Aqua Lung.

Cousteau began using his invention in underwater archeological expeditions, exploring underwater shipwrecks that were hundreds of years old. These types of expeditions had not been possible before because the technology had not existed that allowed people to stay underwater long enough to study the sites.

In 1950, Cousteau furthered his underwater expeditions by purchasing a ship called the Calypso. He modified the ship by adding scientific instruments and machines needed for research.

the research vessel Calypso of Captain Cousteau arriving in Montreal on August 30 1980

For nearly 50 years, the Calypso traveled the world, studying rivers and oceans. The Calypso became a symbol of Cousteau and his work.

Read to learn more about Cousteau's Calypso and the important role it played in Cousteau's research. Make sure to click on each of the video clips to see footage of the Calypso.

In addition to the aqua lung, Cousteau invented one of the first underwater cameras. With this invention, he was not only able to take pictures of what he saw, but he was also able to show the world what life underwater looked like.

Most people had never witnessed life under the sea until Cousteau began publishing his pictures.

In the 1960s, Cousteau began producing hour-long television specials. Millions of people would tune in to these specials, amazed by the underwater world they had never experienced.

Cousteau filming during an expedition

The television specials were important to Cousteau because they played a major role in financing his expeditions and allowed him to further educate the public on the importance of ocean ecosystems.

Not only did the specials teach viewers about the ocean and marine life, but they also taught about the effects of pollution on the ecosystem, and how coastal development harms sea life.

As you explore the resources below to learn more about the life and legacy of Jacques Cousteau, write down at least ten facts about Cousteau that you find interesting.

About the Cousteau Society

Jacques Cousteau

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  • Why do you think Cousteau is an important scientist to study? 

Move on to the Got It? section to discover why Cousteau's documentaries mesmerized millions of people.

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