Jacques-Yves Cousteau

The sea is the universal sewer.
- Cousteau, 1971

Jacques-Yves Cousteau (11 June 191025 June 1997) was a French naval officer, inventor, explorer and researcher.


  • From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.
    • Time (28 March 1960)
  • Buoyed by water, he can fly in any direction — up, down, sideways — by merely flipping his hand. Under water, man becomes an archangel.
    • Time (28 March 1960)
  • The sea is the universal sewer.
    • Declaring the sea to be "where all kinds of pollution wind up", to the US House Committee on Science and Astronautics (28 January 1971)
  • We must plant the sea and herd its animals … using the sea as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization is all about — farming replacing hunting.
    • Interview (17 July 1971)
  • Farming as we do it is hunting, and in the sea we act like barbarians.
    • Interview (17 July 1971)
  • If we go on the way we have, the fault is our greed — if we are not willing — we will disappear from the face of the globe, to be replaced by the insect.
    • Interview (17 July 1971)
  • What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what’s going on.
    • Christian Science Monitor (21 July 1971)
  • Man, of all the animals, is probably the only one to regard himself as a great delicacy.
    • Octopus and Squid: The Soft Intelligence (1973)
  • I am not a scientist. I am, rather, an impresario of scientists.
    • Christian Science Monitor (24 July 1986)
  • I said that the oceans were sick but they're not going to die. There is no death possible in the oceans — there will always be life — but they're getting sicker every year.
    • Interview (March 1996)
  • In the last few decades, a terribly pernicious rumor has been circulated by the press. It claims, exhibiting a level of stupidity heretofore considered impossible, that a human being could crawl through the arteries of a blue whale. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth. I do not know why this deleterious rumor has been systematically repeated, but its very existence is an ugly cancer upon the face of science.
    • Octopus and Squid: The Soft Intelligence (1973)
  • We have to prepare for what life could become in 40 years. We need to outline what is possible and what is impossible with the non-renewable resources of the Earth. What role will technological improvement play? Taking all this into account, what kind of life can we produce in the best way for 10 billion people? That's a problem that needs to be solved.
    • Interview (March 1996)
  • Sometimes we are lucky enough to know that our lives have been changed, to discard the old, embrace the new, and turn headlong down an immutable course.
    • The Silent World by Capt. Jacques-Yves Cousteau with Frederic Dumas 2004 National Geographic Society, pg. 5


  • A lot of people attack the sea, I make love to it.
  • And let us remember too that life, in its exuberance, always succeeds in overflowing the narrow limits within which man thinks he can confine it.
  • However fragmented the world, however intense the national rivalries, it is an inexorable fact that we become more interdependent every day.
  • I believe that national sovereignties will shrink in the face of universal interdependence.
  • If we were logical, the future would be bleak indeed. But we are more than logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we have hope and we can work.
  • It is certain that the study of human psychology, if it were undertaken exclusively in prisons, would also lead to misrepresentation and absurd generalizations.
    • On studying sea life in artificial environments.
  • It takes generosity to discover the whole through others. If you realize you are only a violin, you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert.
  • Mankind has probably done more damage to the Earth in the 20th century than in all of previous human history.
  • No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.
  • No sooner does man discover intelligence than he tries to involve it in his own stupidity.
  • People protect what they love.
  • The awareness of our environment came progressively in all countries with different outlets.
  • The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.
  • The future is in the hands of those who explore... and from all the beauty they discover while crossing perpetually receding frontiers, they develop for nature and for humankind an infinite love.
  • The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it.
  • The impossible missions are the only ones which succeed.
  • The real cure for our environmental problems is to understand that our job is to salvage Mother Nature. . . We are facing a formidable enemy in this field. It is the hunters... and to convince them to leave their guns on the wall is going to be very difficult.
  • The sea, once it casts its spell, holds on in its net of wonder forever .
  • The sea, the great unifier, is man's only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: We are all in the same boat.
  • To yackety-yak about the past is for me time lost. Every morning I wake up saying, "I'm still alive — a miracle." And so I keep on pushing.
  • Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.
  • We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.

  • When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.

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Last modified on 15 April 2014, at 12:03