My Mother, The Real Captain of Calypso

March 28, 2013

My Mother, The Real Captain of Calypso: Simone Cousteau

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Simone Cousteau

This past Saturday at the Annual Beneath the Sea Dive and Travel Expo in New Jersey, I was proud to accept on behalf of my mother, Simone Melchior-Cousteau, the award as member of the Woman Divers Hall of Fame. My mother joins my daughter Céline as a member of this distinguished group of woman aquanauts.

When I think of the amazing adventures with my father Captain, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the countless voyages, the discoveries, the inventions and the lifelong friendships, the true heroine of the adventure is Simone Cousteau, my mother.

Simone Cousteau

The daughter and granddaughter of French Admirals – she longed for a life at sea. The unofficial captain of Calypso. A woman in love with the sea and my father. She hid from the cameras but she spent more time on Calypso than my brother, my father and I combined. Calypso was her home. The crew were her boys. And she was the heartbeat of much of my father’s success.

JYC, Simone and Bulle

Before Scuba was invented, Simone accompanied my father and his buddies on their dives in the South of France. A day at the coast was an amazing adventure.

Simone’s father introduced Jacques Cousteau to engineer Emile Gagnan and together they created the first demand valve regulator. The new aqualung allowed divers to swim freely underwater like never before.

JYC and Simone

She was part of the team that tested the Cousteau-Gagnan prototype regulators, and as a free diver she witnessed Jacques on his first underwater excursion using one in the Marne River outside Paris.

Within hours she used the same rig to become the first woman to use scuba and participate in events that could truly be considered as the birth of modern scuba diving.

A passionate diver, she was a full member of the team that eventually became known worldwide for the films that literally established scuba not only as a sport but also as an essential tool for exploration, science, military and commercial operations.

Acting as mother, healer, nurse and psychiatrist to the all-male crew of Calypso for 40 years, her nickname was “La Bergere,” the Shepherdess.

Simone Cousteau holding Jean-Michel

I miss her tremendously and am so proud that her legacy will continue to inspire.

Warm Regards,


Jean-Michel Cousteau

First Photograph: Simone Cousteau Photo courtesy Private Collection

Second Photograph: Simone Cousteau Photo courtesy Private Collection

Third Photograph: Jacques and Simone Cousteau with their dog Bulle aboard the Calypso. Photo courtesy Private Collection

Fourth Photograph: Jacques and Simone Cousteau prepare to make a dive. Photo courtesy Private Collection

Fifth Photograph: Simone Cousteau holding Jean-Michel. Photo courtesy Private Collection