Famous Oceanographer Brings Love of Sea to Sausalito

By Joe Rosato Jr.
|  Thursday, Sep 20, 2012  |  Updated 3:02 PM PDT
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Cold Creatures

Joe Rosato Jr.

Jean Michel Cousteau leads a class on sea creatures for young students at Sausalito’s Marine Mammal Center.

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Anyone interested in oceanography knows the name “Cousteau.”

The great explorer and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau took many generations along on his sojourns beneath the seas to encounter rare sea creatures in places other than a dinner table.

Today his son Jean Michel Cousteau, who grew-up combing the world’s oceans alongside his famous family, brought his lifetime of watery wisdom to Sausalito’s Marine Mammal Center. Cousteau made a guest appearance at the center, leading classes for local elementary students, explaining the difference between harbor seals and sea lions, and the importance of caring for the oceans.

“For me reaching out to children who are the decision makers of tomorrow is the best investment one can make,” said Cousteau between classes.

Cousteau has made 70 documentary films about ocean life, and travels the world spreading the lessons he’s gleaned through a lifetime in the sea. To him, everything charts back to the sea.

“One has to remember, every time you drink a glass of water you’re drinking the ocean,” he said. “You go skiing on the mountain, you’re skiing on the ocean.”

To mark the occasion, vets at the mammal center released three rehabilitated sea lions on Rodeo Beach. Elementary school students and on-lookers formed a corridor leading from the three cages to the water’s edge, where a pack of surfers looked on.

Cousteau leaned on one of the cages as it opened, watching with a broad smile as the furry occupants made a dash for the water, disappearing into the churning surf. “You can have the best programs on television and a website on your phone, on your computer,” said Cousteau minutes after the release.

“There is nothing that can replace being there, seeing, smelling, touching.” Once the beach hoopla died down, Cousteau posed for countless pictures and then gave an interview to a pair of intrepid eighth-graders.

“It really shows that there are things you can do to make a change,” said interviewer Misbah Mamoon of her famous subject.

“And it makes things a lot more real.”

Cousteau recalls growing-up on his father’s explorations – how his dad tossed him in the water when he was seven years old to learn to swim. 

“When I was a teenager I would go away from school three or four months a year,” said Cousteau, “on the ship, gone… somewhere.”

Today Cousteau feels a responsibility to share his watery birthright, to instill in young people the same oceanic awareness he learned at their age.

“Of course we have a mission,” he said, gazing out as waves slapped Rodeo Beach. “We want to share with people what we had had the privilege to see.”

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