cover image Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King

Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King

Brad Matsen. Pantheon Books, $27.95 (296pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42413-7

In his latest research effort, Matsen (Titanic's Last Secrets) aims to produce a ""respectful, honest remembrance"" of beloved oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, with admirable results. An adventurer, inventor, explorer, environmentalist and filmmaker, Cousteau, along with his talented crew and family members, developed groundbreaking tools for diving and filming underwater. Matsen traces Cousteau's career and personal life from his 1911 birth throughout the twentieth century, as he pursued military and, later, civilian life, two marriages, attempting to answer questions about the individual beneath the public figure: ""How could a man of such immense power have allowed his children... to turn against each other? Was he a tragic character hidden behind the veil of celebrity? Does he deserve our enduring love?"" While he doesn't uncover all the answers, Matsen examines Cousteau with a sensitive eye, qualifying his astounding career and lasting legacy (just in time for 2009's anticipated restoration of Cousteau's vessel Calypso). Readers will learn the particulars of Cousteau-designed Aqua Lungs and wetsuits, as well as the underwater living experiment and nonprofit corporations that Cousteau founded, without neglecting the challenges of funding his adventures. Environmentalists, divers, and armchair ocean lovers will all soak up this work.