Jacques Cousteau's Inventions
During 1936 a French Navy
Gunner, Jacques Cousteau waded into the
After some abortive,
nearly fatal, experiments with self-designed oxygen rebreathing apparatus in the
late 1930s, Cousteau met Emile Gagnan in
Gagnan had developed a
demand valve for feeding cooking gas automatically into converted car engines.
A few weeks later,
thrilled by Cousteauís suggestions, the first two stage diving regulator was
ready for testing. It worked when swimming horizontally, but failed to give air
when the diver had his feet above his head, and it poured air into the water
when the diverís head was uppermost.
The solution was soon
realized: the exhaust valve had to be placed as close to the intake as possible
so that pressure variations would not upset the air flow.
Initial experiments were
carried out examining and exploring wrecks, often with Cousteau behind the
camera and Dumas acting as the subject.
The Cousteau-Gagnan valve supplies air at the same pressure as the water that the diver is swimming through.
Cousteauís new apparatus, which they called the aqualung, allowed him and his team to examine sea creatures in their own element, allowing divers to remain underwater for several hours at a time! The aqua lung was put to use after World War II when divers used it to locate and remove enemy mines.
Through the successful
marketing of the 1st automatic aqualung, or scuba diving apparatus,
Cousteau became internationally known and his TV film series featuring
his ship Calypso made him a household name.
Can people live under the sea? If they can, for how long? A day, a week, a month? Captain Cousteau took these questions as a new challenge and launched his team into a mad adventure: building houses under the sea.
In 1962, Conshelf I was set
up off Marseilles at ten meters depth. Two men, Albert Falco and Claude Wesly,
were the first "oceanauts" to live underwater for a week. Christened Diogenes,
this strange steel cylinder, 5 meters long and 2.5 meters in diameter, served as
home and laboratory for its two inhabitants.
Despite its small size, Diogenes offered every comfort: television, radio, library and bed. Observed from the surface by about thirty people, Falco and Wesly left each day to work underwater for five hours, studying interesting animals and building an underwater farm. Meanwhile, doctors monitored their health. Conshelf I was a success. The Cousteau team began preparing a more ambitious project.
It was 1963, and the first time humans had deployed such an operation under the water. Conshelf II was essentially a small village, built on the floor of the Red Sea at ten meters depth. The main house, the "Starfish", stood next to an aquarium, a garage for the diving saucer and an equipment hangar. A deep station was installed 15 meters further down. Five oceanauts would live for a month in the Starfish base. Two of them would spend a week in the deep station. Again, the project was successful and Cousteau began talking about a third project.
In 1965, near Nice, France, the ultimate stage, Conshelf III, was born. One hundred meters below the surface, a building housed six oceanauts who would live together for three weeks. They would go out each day to work on a mockup oil well, an exercise to evaluate human capabilities.
Conshelf proved that human beings can live under the sea for long periods of time but that, even though they have the physical and psychological capabilities, humans are not made to exist in a world without sun.
Nevertheless, these experiments gave rise to the training astronauts undergo today before leaving for a world of billions of suns: Space. Here, too, Cousteau was a precursor.
Home Life Expeditions Achievements Sources