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The Last Episode of The Undersea World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau

The Undersea World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau is a nonfiction television documentary series which ran for eight seasons (1968 – 1976). The episodes document the aquatic explorations of renowned French filmmaker and sea explorer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and the crew of his ship, the Calypso: an ex-Royal Navy minesweeper. The series is narrated by Rod Serling and Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and immensely contributed to the public’s fascination of marine sea life and exploration.

The first episode was aired January 8, 1968, and was entitled “Sharks”. The episode explored the behavior of sharks who inhabit the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. The last of the thirty-six episodes aired April 1976, and was entitled “The Incredible March of the Spiny Lobsters”. In the episode, Cousteau and his crew study the spiny lobsters who inhabit the rock and shore waters of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. The completion of the documentary series did not mean the end of Cousteau’s career. He went on to make several more movies and television shows, all focused on the marine environment.

Cousteau’s Undersea World series was a landmark in terms of the exploration and understanding of marine biology, as well as the technology utilized in underwater research. In the series, a broad spectrum of marine species is covered, and each episode contains a remarkable amount of knowledge about the subject. The crew aboard the Calypso travels to every corner of the globe, filming species from the Antarctic to the tropics, allowing viewers to experience places they may never see in their lifetime.

For the first time, fabulous images of charismatic megafauna, exotic environments, and the mysterious deep sea were broadcast to the public. Cousteau’s technology exposed millions to the virtually inaccessible underwater world. Viewers were captivated by life aboard the Calypso, and the crew’s exciting, free-spirited way of life. A new generation of explorers were born, eager to follow in the footsteps of Cousteau.

The Undersea World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau significantly stimulated the minds of its viewers, encouraging them to think about the interplay between humans and the marine environment. As early as the 1960’s, Cousteau was raising awareness about the fragility of marine ecosystems and the need to protect the environment.

Hawaii directly benefited from the production of The Undersea World series. Home to cetaceans, pinnipeds, and other marine megafauna, the Hawaiian archipelago attracts many environmentalists and those wishing to have their own Cousteau experience. Scuba Diving is a main attraction for the islands, and it would be remiss to not attribute some part of the continued enthusiasm for diving to Cousteau’s ventures into the underwater world. As tourism increases in Hawaii, scientists are taking a look at the effect human disturbances and interactions have on Hawaiian Spinner dolphins. Cousteau’s message of environmental conservationism has persisted through the years, and continues in today’s scientific aspirations. Following this line of thinking, it is important to monitor spinner dolphin populations inhabiting the Hawaiian archipelago in order to encourage healthy and stable populations. And chances are, the scientists in these fields have been touched by Cousteau’s films and research in some way.

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  1976  /  History  /  Last Updated August 29, 2012 by Heather Heenehan  /