Who will be the next Jacques Cousteau? It’s a question many of us have heard before, often from an older generation of divers. But who can fill those legendary fins?
Born on June 11, 1910 Jacques Cousteau is the grand father of scuba diving and underwater exploration. He is an internationally revered pioneer, and despite his death in 1997, his name transcends generations.
During his career Jacques Cousteau was part of more than 120 documentaries, 50 books, and countless awards and honours. He was a French Naval officer, an explorer, filmmaker, inventor, scientist, photographer, author, and marine conservation pioneer.
It is wildly unlikely any one person will ever have the same impact on ocean exploration that Jacques Cousteau did, and without him, scuba diving may not exist in the same way as it does today.
Amongst all of his achievements however, Jacques Cousteau is known for one thing above all else - brining the underwater world into the hearts and minds of people all around the planet.
He showed the human race a world that existed beyond our own. A world out of reach for many, and unfathomable by most. Cousteau’s legacy is one steeped in communication. He made the inaccessible inviting, he made the inexplicable understandable, and he made its fragility, a reality.
The world had never seen anything like it.
More than twenty years after his passing, who do we have to carry on this legacy for the next generation? Who will be the next Jacques Cousteau? The answer is actually rather obvious… its you.
And me, and your dive buddies, and all the divers around the world. We are all Cousteau's.
What Jacques Cousteau instilled upon the world was a sense of responsibility. That responsibility is now in our hands. Responsibility to influence, educate and entertain.
We now have the chance to communicate with people on a scale that Jacques Cousteau could never have dreamed of, in ways that he couldn’t have foreseen, to an audience more diverse than he ever imagined.
There is currently an estimated 7.7 billion people in the world. An estimated 6 million of them are certified scuba divers, and a further 20 million are thought to be snorkelers. That 26 million equates to roughly 0.035% of the world's population. Only that 0.035% gets to see what we see.
In stark contrast, out of these 7.7 billion people an incredible 3.4 billion of them are on social media. 2.3 billion are on Facebook, 1 billion are on Instagram, 330 million on Twitter, and just under 2 billion are on YouTube.
In comparison, when Cousteau released The Silent World in 1956, only 35 million people had a television, which of course was in black and white.
Facebook has over 8 billion video views per day. Nearly 75% of all online traffic is video. 300 minutes of video are uploaded onto YouTube every sixty seconds. 1 billion hours of video are watched every day on YouTube alone.
YouTube reaches more 18-49 year olds through mobile devices alone than Cable TV and broadcast TV combined. It has content in over 80 languages, and is available in over 91 countries.
In addition to this, capturing underwater images has never been easier, cheaper or more abundant. DSLRs, iPhones, compact cameras, and action cams all shoot stunning video and stills, and all for a relatively inexpensive cost.
We are the lucky 0.035%. We are the fortunate who’s privilege dictates that we are now the custodians of the ocean, the stewards for conservation, and the guardians of marine life. We are the hopeful ones that have the power to connect and communicate with a huge percentage of our planet's population.
Jacques Cousteau was a storyteller, and so we must rise to the example he has set. Whether it’s a Facebook status update, a Tweet, an Instagram photo, a home made video, a SnapChat, virtual reality environment, editorial article, cartoon, comic book, documentary, song, movie, poem, stage show, dance, painting, drawing, sculpture, or simply a conversation with friends and family - we are the storytellers now.
Be mindful of what you say, what you show, what you tell, and what you share. We may not realize it, but as divers and underwater explorers we inspire those that don’t venture beneath the waves. If we speak, people will listen, if we show, people will see, and if we set examples, people will follow.
We are vital to the future of our oceans.
We have the power to show those that can not see.
We are Cousteau.
Written by Russell Clark