One morning in June 1943, I went to the railway station to Bandol on the French Riviera to collect a wooden case expressed from Paris. In it was a new and promising device, the result of years of struggle and dreams: an automatic compressed-air diving lung conceived by Emile Gagnan and myself…
The myself being Jacques Cousteau and on the next page, he gives the new toy a go.
My friends harnessed the three-cylinder block on my back with the regulator riding at the nape of my neck and the hoses looped over my head. I spat inside of my shatter-proof glass mask and rinsed it in the surf, so that mist would not form inside. I moulded the soft rubber flanges of the mask tightly over forehead and cheekbones and then fitted the mouth-piece under my lips and gripped the nodules with my teeth. A vent the size of a paper-clip was to pass my inhalations and exhalations beneath the sea. Staggering under the fifty-pound apparatus I walked with a Charlie Chaplin waddle into the sea..
Jacques Cousteau might yet be the last worthwhile Frenchman, and if he comes at the end of a long and remarkable line, still he is worthy of his position. He invented the aqualung—quickly the Americans pounced with Lloyd Bridges TV series Sea Hunt, but Jacques always stayed ahead of them. He was a microcosm of human history—he invented the tool and then put it to work to determine its limitations and see what wonders he could produce along the way. He was also responsible for the art of underwater photography which gave his invention a means of communicating the wonders he encountered with the rest of the world and it all came together in a fabulous book called The Silent World.
At 132 feet the coral looked dark blue. Here with a colour-corrected flash-photo technique we show the true colours of the blue zone for the first time.
The colour photos are a work of high art in themselves and the best thing produced until astronauts started taking pictures in space.