- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Pantheon; 1st Edition edition (October 20, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 037542413X
- ISBN-13: 978-0375424137
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,159,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King Hardcover – October 20, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Advance Praise for Jacques Cousteau
"Like the subject of this book, Brad Matsen has found his true milieu; the deep ocean. Now he brings his very special brilliance to illuminate the undersea world of Jacques Cousteau. He has done a masterful job in this much-needed, revealing biography of the ocean's most illustrious adventurer, filmmaker, conservationist, and advocate."
—Richard Ellis, author of Tuna: A Love Story and On Thin Ice: The Changing World of the Polar Bear
"Jacques Cousteau was a genius who became an icon that became a legend. His legacy continues every time anyone dons a scuba tank, or even thinks of an undersea image. Matsen's book, perfect for beachside or bedside, is a worthy chronicle of a truly whale-sized life."
—Carl Safina, president and cofounder of the Blue Ocean Institute
"A marvelous story. Matsen's biography made me realize I knew almost nothing about the incredible inventor, scientist, businessman, explorer, and environmentalist that was Jacques Cousteau. I owe my career as a professional diver to him. Undoubtedly, this biography will inspire a new generation of divers to take to the water."
—John Chatterton, celebrated scuba diver and cohost of the television series Deep Sea Detectives
"I have looked into the sea all my life, and Cousteau has always been there, leading and guiding my journey. But the heroic image of the French explorer who informed, enlightened, and entertained us was as mysterious as the depths he plumbed. Now Brad Matsen shines light on the man behind the icon. A fascinating exploration of a true legend of the sea!"
—Richie Kohler, celebrated scuba diver and cohost of the television series Deep Sea Detectives
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Top customer reviews
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The Sea king was a great way to delve more into what made the iconic Cousteau tick
Great background to a legend.
Im savoring every page and planning to read all of Brad Matsen's books!
What surprised me is that Cousteau's life story is only now being told-amazing considering Cousteau's decades-long celebrity and profound impact on both scuba diving and the conservation movement. Matsen plunges in with gusto. It's all here: the invention of the double-stage regulator (replete with near fatal experiments), the breakthrough documentary The Silent World, behind-the-scenes tales of the Calypso voyages (groupies and all), the tragic death of Cousteau's son Philippe, Cousteau's quirky successful partnership with media mogul Ted Turner, the meteoric success of the Cousteau Society and its long messy public unraveling.
Great stuff, all of it. Matsen never gets in the way, steering an even-handed course, allowing the darker revelations and less-flattering aspects of the man speak for themselves. A bonus: the book's photos, many provided by family members and never before published, are excellent. Highest recommendation.
John Grissim, author of The Lost Treasure of the Concepcion and Pure Stoke
The appearance of "The Sea King" had me excited. I wanted to find out more about this man's life, his family, career, secrets, and more of the playful and dangerous experiences from his colorful life. The book starts at a snail pace. We wade through page after page of dry facts, told with little imagination or style. This reads like a textbook on the inventor of the Aqua-Lung, lacking that spark of storytelling prowess that infused Cousteau's own work. I plugged away, skimming well-researched but tedious details about the early efforts to perfect the Aqua-Lung. In between, I caught a few glimpses of Cousteau's background, including the conflict in the family due to his brother's collaboration with Nazis during WWII.
After the first few chapters, the book picks up a bit, giving us insights into the emergence of the Calypso ship--thanks to an heir of the Guinness Beer empire--and Ted Turner's part in helping the Cousteau Society press on in the changing times. It's sad to read how "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley" (fun shows, in their own rights) pushed Cousteau's groundbreaking work into obscurity. Nevertheless, the man's face remained one of the most recognizable in the world until the late 1980's, and his impact is hard to measure.
The author gives only snippets of Cousteau's personal life, only peeks at his philandering ways, his family struggles, and his reactions to tragedy. I'm sure this was intentional, to protect the family legacy, but it only blurs the three-dimensional complexity of a man so many admired. And we are robbed of deeper understanding of his wife, Simone, who stood by him through many tough years relationally and financially. I wished for more humor, more tidbits, more insight. True, I came away with more facts about this man I once adored, but little heart connection. Sadly, "The Sea King" didn't go deep enough.