Cousteau, guardian of the oceans, dies

Jacques-Yves Cousteau, everyone's favourite Frenchman, the man who brought the ocean depths into the world's living- rooms, died yesterday at the age of 87.

It is believed that Mr Cousteau will be buried at sea.

Among his scores of distinctions, two demonstrate the length of his career and the range of his achievements.

In the 1950s and 1960s, he won two Oscars, the supreme popular cultural achievement, for his pioneering films of ocean life.

In 1988 he became a member of the Academie Francaise, the supreme French literary accolade, for his books about marine ecology.

Tributes from all over the globe yesterday were led by the French President, Jacques Chirac, even though the two men fell out publicly in 1995 over the resumption of French nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean.

President Chirac said that Mr Cousteau was a "sorcerer" and a "great Frenchman who was also a citizen of the world."

"He battled across the whole planet to protect nature and the environment and the heritage we will leave to our children." The US Vice-President, Al Gore, said that Mr Cousteau was a "giant, a personal friend and a hero for very man, woman and child on the planet."

Mr Cousteau's son, Jean-Michel, said: "My father's work is a hymn to life.

"On the wall of my office, there is a quotation from my father. `Happiness, for a bee or dolphin, is to be alive. For man, happiness is knowing this fact and marvelling at it'."

Jacques-Yves Cousteau is most widely known for his series of television documentaries called the Underwater world of Jacques Cousteau, which were filmed from his converted Royal Navy mine-sweeper, the Calypso.

He was also a great pioneer and innovator, co-developing and using from 1943 the first aqualung, or autonomous diving suit (in other words the first to permit diving without recourse to permanent lifelines to the surface).

Over more then four decades, Mr Cousteau filmed nearly 80 documentaries from the Calypso, including the Cannes Palme d'or-winning Silent World in 1956 and Oscar-winning World without Sun in 1964.

His famous ship sank in Singapore harbour after being rammed there by a barge in 1996; it was salvaged and then returned to France as a museum piece.

Mr Cousteau launched an appeal for a replacement, the pounds 20m Calypso II, which is due to be launched next year.

Born beside the mouth of the Dordogne river at St Andre-de- Cubzac, near Bordeaux, Mr Cousteau's entire life was bound up in the sea. He was a naval captain who became an ocean explorer in 1950, thanks to the benevolence of the Anglo-Irish millionaire Noel Guinness, who bought and converted the Calypso.

A memorial service will be held in Notre-Dame cathedral on Monday morning.

Obituary, page 18