Fabien Cousteau aims to beat grandfather’s underwater record by staying submerged for 31 days

 

Filmmaker and sea explorer Fabien Cousteau is attempting to outdo his celebrated grandfather by staying 31 days underwater without surfacing.

Mr Cousteau, 47, and a team of five, dived to a bus-sized underwater laboratory off the Florida coast at the weekend and will not see daylight again until early July.

The aim is to exceed the 30 days underwater achieved by the French film-maker Jacques Cousteau in the Red Sea in 1963. The footage filmed by the older Cousteau was made into an Oscar-winning film, World Without Sun. This was the precursor of a series of TV programmes – the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau – which transfixed the world in the 1960s and 1970s.

Fabien’s expedition – called “Mission 31” – is intended as a tribute to his grandfather, who died in 1997. It is also intended to raise funds for Aquarius Reef Base, the laboratory 60ft underwater off the Florida Keys, whose future is threatened by cuts in US federal spending.

Other undersea explorers and naval submariners have spent longer than 30 days underwater since Jacques’s expedition 51 years ago. However, Fabien’s team hopes to beat the record for time spent underwater by a film crew and the record for the longest unbroken period of time spent in the Aquarius base.

“I imagine we’ll want to stay down once we get comfy,” Mr Cousteau told the Associated Press. “We won’t want to come back up to the surface because it’s such a magical place.”

Fabien is the son of Jean-Michel Cousteau, who was assistant to his father Jacques on most of the dives and filming for the original Cousteau series. Although born and brought up in France, Fabien has spent most of his life in the United States. Before his death, Captain Cousteau, as he liked to be called, became one of the most celebrated TV performers in the world and an early advocate of the need for government, and private, action to protect the environment. Since his death his reputation has been somewhat tarnished by family quarrels and allegations he occasionally mistreated sea animals to make his documentaries.

Jacques Yves Cousteau achieved 30 days underwater in the Red Sea Jacques Yves Cousteau achieved 30 days underwater in the Red Sea (AFP) His grandson’s expedition will be broadcast live online. Team members will be able to speak to the public through social media. They will lecture students on land through video links. “For the first time I’m able to invite the world on a Cousteau expedition in real time,” he said.

Researchers from Florida International University and Northeastern University will also study the effects of climate change and pollution on coral reefs. The team will use experimental sonar technology to film without lights that disturb underwater life.

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