I am an Aquanaut, Oceanographic Explorer, Environmental Advocate and Founder of [Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center](www.fabiencousteauolc.org), my non-profit to fulfill my dream of creating a vehicle to make a positive change in the world. I’m here to answer questions with help from Atlas Obscura as part of their themed Islands Week.

As the first grandson of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, I spent my early years aboard my famous grandfather’s ships, Calypso and Alcyone, learning how to scuba dive on my fourth birthday.

One of the things I am known for is my study of sharks. As an Explorer-at-Large for National Geographic from 2000-2002 I collaborated on a TV special aimed at changing public perceptions about sharks called, “Attack of the Mystery Shark”. In 2003-2006, I produced the documentary “Mind of a Demon” that aired on CBS. From 2006-2010, I was part of the multi-hour PBS series “Ocean Adventures” with my father and sister, inspired by my grandfather’s famous 1978 PBS series “Ocean Odyssey”. In 2014, my team of aquanauts and I embarked on Mission 31, the longest science expedition to take place at Aquarius, the world’s only underwater marine laboratory located 9 miles and 20 meters underwater off the Florida keys. Mission 31 broke new ground in ocean exploration and honored the 50th anniversary of my grandfather’s original underwater living experiment (Conshelf Two) by going deeper, longer and further, while broadcasting each moment live on multiple channels exposing the world to the adventure, drama and mystique of what lies beneath.

  • Find out more on www.fabiencousteau.com
  • Facebook @FCousteau | @FabienCousteauOLC
  • Instagram @FCousteau | @FCousteauOLC
  • Twitter @FCousteau | @FCousteauOLC

Proof: https://twitter.com/FCousteau/status/971859122336468992

EDIT: Thank you for all the amazing questions and comments! Wishing you all an amazing life journey, wherever it may take you. My closing thought is something my grandfather used to tell me and what we are inspired by at the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center: People Protect What They Love, They Love What They Understand, They Understand What they are Taught.

Comments: 952 • Responses: 40  • Date: 

Porkboy1696 karma

Do you think in our lifetime we will see a permanent settlement underwater? Not a base or research facility, but a place where the average person could live?

atlasobscura2083 karma

It is technically possible. Even more so than a colony on Mars… Hence why my grandfather experimented with this premise in the early 1960s with Conshelf habitats

AdamYoo778 karma

How was your diet down there? What kind of food were you eating for that time?

atlasobscura1352 karma

Really Really AWFUL!!!!! We ate freeze dried “astronaut” food morning noon and eve… 3 times as many calories yet lost over 18lbs after 31 days

etherealnoise751 karma

did you miss the stars? and how was your sleeping schedule... did night remain night?

atlasobscura1291 karma

I didn’t because the stars were everywhere on the sea floor.

Considering we dove 10-12 hours per day sleep was surprisingly not a problem. The Clayton Sleep Center was disappointed I’m sure ;-)

mergingplatypus646 karma

Could you take that shape of water guy in a fight? What would be your strategy against a man-fish?

atlasobscura625 karma

Did you see me change into my aquaman suit?

Kiu_98548 karma

I'll ask several questions, it'd be awesome if you could answer them all, if that's not the case, I'd be satisfied with getting one responded at least 😅

I. What's the rarest encounter that you've had with an animal?

II. What's something that should be common knowledge about the sea?

III. Which one's your favorite mythological underwater beast and why is that your choice?

P.s: You have an amazing life and it sounds like you enjoy what you do, that makes me happy for you 😄

atlasobscura793 karma

I. Nose to nose with 2 orcas in PNG(Papua New Guinea) playing with and eventually feeding on a 7 foot shark.

II. The ocean is life. No blue no green. Without it we do not exist. If the ocean isn't healthy neither can we , neither can our economy… simple. … The ONLY thing that makes our planet special is the water on it

III. The kraken of course! Because the thought still scares the living cr-p out of people even today… LOL

P.s: TKU! I do. It's one of the most difficult jobs out there but the experiences are priceless and I cherish each moment!

SharpieSunrise487 karma

What was the coolest thing and the hardest thing about living underwater? Would you do it again??

atlasobscura712 karma

Coolest thing was the being given the luxury of time underwater by becoming an aquanaut. It is the biggest obstacle and limitation coming from the surface. We broke the time barrier! The reverse is true too- we had a ceiling from which we could not rise above. To do so would create major DCS issues including potential death...

SharpieSunrise239 karma

I'm totally jealous, it had to be such an amazing experience! Were you ever afraid of the potential death factor? Metal groans in the middle of the night hard to get used to kind of thing... What kind of sea life did you get to see??

atlasobscura908 karma

Anything worth doing has some risk. Explorers mitigate what they can, plan for any contingency and “go for it” knowing to expect the unexpected. Death is an inevitable part of life. Living life is what we must never avoid.

okthatskooliguess456 karma

What's a common misconception about the ocean that annoys you?

atlasobscura949 karma

Its indestructible and bottomless resources… it’s quite the opposite and we are finding out the hard way

schultjh347 karma

Do you believe in sea monsters?

atlasobscura967 karma

Yes- people underwater qualify

ThronesFan123292 karma

When people say the majority of the earth’s oceans are unexplored, what does this actually mean and do you think there are as to yet undiscovered creatures that will shock and amaze the world? I’m thinking dinosaur level here.

atlasobscura496 karma

Less than 5% of our ocean world has been explored to date. Perspective: the ocean represents over 99% of our planet’s living space, some 3.4BILLION cu2 of volume… even if you take the entire scuba diving layer into account as well as all the bottom exploration in modern history including my grandfather’s pioneering exploits, thats >5%

Olddellago279 karma

Have you seen the floating patches of trash while out at sea?

atlasobscura727 karma

Yes- in every ocean. There is an average of 34,000 pieces of plastic per square mile of ocean… A testament to our complete disconnect with the impact we are having on our ocean

janeetcetc277 karma

Hi, what’s the hardest thing about conveying your experience under or at the sea via film? Thanks! You have the most incredible job.

atlasobscura426 karma

Ocean is such an alien world, alien concept, alien sensory input, that conveying to someone who hasn’t pierced the blue veneer the beauty, fragility and importance of our life support system is very difficult. It’s like trying to explain the properties of a super nova to someone who never took astronomy

StereoTypo269 karma

What is your favourite memory of your grandfather?

atlasobscura402 karma

Away from the cameras, the crowds, the events… when we spent time alone as a family or on expedition. Taking time over lunch in the carre of Calypso during lunch to have a laugh and chat about philosophy or non expedition related topics

Zodiacal_F196 karma

While you were underwater, what where your experiences with Noise Pollution; how does your research intersects with Noise Pollution?

atlasobscura364 karma

Boat noise, machinery noise, living in a sort of echo chamber makes these things even more evident. Imagine what that does to sea life, especially those animals much more sensitive to noise than we are, such as cetaceans ...

croixian1155 karma

AS an avid scuba diver myself, I used to love just sitting on a patch of sand at 80-100 feet and just watch quietly the reef for an hour. I imagine living underwater that long you had quite a bit of this enjoyment?

atlasobscura231 karma

Its home. I imagine you might feel the same. Sitting at the bottom watching the soap opera unfold in front of you is such a joy every time. Always different, always new characters, always surprising and wonderous.

librarianjenn144 karma

Please tell me you got your career inspiration from my favorite childhood movie

Edit: ah, I see you are Jacques Cousteau's grandson! Cool! Yeah, that probably had more to do with it than the movie...

atlasobscura181 karma

Life Aquatic was cool too ;-)

Zeewulfeh136 karma

What kind of equipment did you live/travel in during project 31? How long did descent/ascent take at the beginning/end?

atlasobscura156 karma

Watch the Mission 31 videos and all will be revealed: https://www.youtube.com/user/Mission31channel

djreeled23136 karma

What did you think of the movie 'The Life Aquatic'?

atlasobscura247 karma

Interesting, curious, twisted, love Bill, funny, off kilter… cult. Honor Wes Anderson thought of my family. Wish we had worked with him on it

razenastie96 karma

What does undergoing decompression feel like?

atlasobscura148 karma

A lot of waiting… in the case of M31 it was 24 hours of it...

mrsample76 karma

Did your sleep patterns remain the same while living underwater? I've heard that people devoid of normal stimuli will eventually settle into a different pattern than most of us are used to.

Also - what's it sound like down there?!

atlasobscura207 karma

Sleep? What sleep? (See above)... Mission 31 was run just like any extreme environment mission ie NASA… Military training and preparation and precise schedule are essential for everything to work. We had sleep schedules so we could keep up the grueling pace.

Sound- it’s not the silent world at all! Between the echo of machinery, the snapping shrimp on the hull, the booming and clicking of fish and other sea life, it was a cacophony of underwater symphonies

awkward_pwnguin68 karma

Hi there! I’m finishing up my undergrad degree in oceanography, hoping to forge my way into a graduate position doing trace metal ocean chemistry in the near future. I’m also an AAUS diver hoping to dive in every ocean at some point.

How widespread are the effects of human pollution that you have actually seen first hand on the ocean? Do you think humanity has a chance of cleaning up the damage we have already done?

Also, what’s the smartest animal you e encountered while in the ocean?

atlasobscura130 karma

It is a very depressing topic and one I think deserves a lot more attention, but not on this thread…

If I had no hope, I would not be doing what I do 24/7. Hope is essential for change. Change is essential for us to fathom giving back to our children what we’ve borrowed from their future.

The octopus

chrispy_bacon56 karma

What was the set up in order to accomplish that?

atlasobscura115 karma

Top secret and extremely difficult. Think NASA training and living in the Space Station… just underwater...

Olivergt199556 karma

What was the biggest surprise inconvenience that you didn't expect, when spending SO much time underwater?

atlasobscura107 karma

People- ie visits from surface dwellers. Funny how one gets used to and defensive of home. We started getting bothered by the drop ins even if they were for our benefit.

petroleumnasby53 karma

I grew up watching and adoring your grandfather. I know he invented the SCUBA system, were there any other inventions?

atlasobscura79 karma

Thank you! He and Emile Gagnan (his engineer friend from Air Liquide) co-invented the aqualung(SCUBA). My grandfather also had to invent the tools necessary to explore since none were available: underwater camera housings, the first underwater habitat, the first submersible for science research, helped develop modern side scan sonar, underwater lights, and more… It was by necessity that he did this.

ColorBlindPanda48 karma

What's the first thing you eat when you get back on land? I always crave Mexican food when I dive or surf for some reason...

atlasobscura88 karma

We all wanted a good fresh organic burger and fries… was very disappointed as I still couldn't taste much that day

suds17147 karma

Did being underwater for that long take a toll on your body? Did you notice yourself more reactive to sunlight afterwards?

atlasobscura104 karma

Reactive to sunlight not so much. We had full spectrum light in the habitat which helped… I lost weight despite the additional calories. Lost sense of taste during and a few days after. Air was thicker to breath down below so coming back up seemed like air was thin. Took time to get back to normal sleep patterns and food. I personally didn't see any permanent effects so far except for wanting to go back ;-)

Steg-a-saur_stomp36 karma

What is the best way for someone to make a career out of ocean conservation? Is it something you need to get into from the beginning or is it possible to transition mid career?

atlasobscura49 karma

Although there are opportunities, it is still a difficult journey due to our continued neglect of the value our ocean brings. Hybrid carriers are often innovative, solution focussed, and you can make a living at it ;-) . We can always use more marine experts and conservationists, just giving you the heads up.

AttainEquilibrium31 karma

Describe your aquanaut suit. How was it? How did allow you to brush your teeth, eat, drink, sleep, and expel feces? You know, everyday stuff.

atlasobscura51 karma

An aquanaut suit is no different than commercial or scuba depending on needs of the task at hand… Once done with the particular dive, you take the suits and helmets or full face masks etc, take a shower, and put on team clothes ie tshirt shorts etc… it's like coming home after work, just in a habitat 20 meters under water. The Mission 31 videos on YouTube can best illustrate this

SROTDExplorer26 karma

Hey there! If you had to recommend two books [one fiction; one nonfiction] that you love, or had some impact on your life, what would they be and why?

Also, what did you do to keep from getting bored down there?

atlasobscura54 karma

Jules Vernes- 20000 leagues under the sea

Erik Seedhouse- Ocean Outpost

Never had a chance to get bored… its the sea after all! 10-12 hours of diving and research, 1-3 hours of interviews and SITC a day, dry lab research, managing a aquanaut team as well as a film team …. No boredom here… no sleep either

Crossbowshootr25 karma

First of all, I must say I am incredibly jealous. I am enamored with undersea life, aquanautics, and the unknown, and it would be my dream to do what you get to do.

My question is, after spending a long period of time underwater, are there any roadblocks now to increase that number to a longer period of time. If so, what are they? If not, when can we see a mission for a longer period of time?

atlasobscura37 karma

Yes, human physiology, human psychological limits, accidents, economic, technology, supplies, support, etc are just a few of the obstacles. I believe it is possible depending on addressing those and other issues...

sickntwisted18 karma

Have you ever read the Rifters trilogy by Peter Watts?

atlasobscura27 karma

Unfortunately not. I’ll add it to the pile of over 135 books I’ve accumulated and promised myself I’d read ;-)

Ploomage18 karma

A lot of my questions have been answered, did you wear a dive watch? Which kind? What piece of equipment do you think people here would find interesting?

atlasobscura30 karma

I always wear a mechanical dive watch. In this case for saturation diving it was my go to since most computers aren't build for saturation diving, much less long stays… Lots of interesting tech- The PAM (pulse amplitude modulated florometer) was an interesting piece of kit (see youtube video) as well as the Ditson hand held acoustic imaging device.

KingNeptuna15 karma

What is the status on the rebuild of the Calypso?

atlasobscura19 karma

Sadly none as far as I know, but the original Cousteau family is not in control of this

imdeadinside42014 karma

did anything feel different or alien to you after coming back to the surface?

atlasobscura36 karma

My sinuses seem to feel a little different. I also think I grew gills behind my ears (joke)

checkitbec14 karma

I just went on a whale watch in Maui yesterday and learned that there had never been a whale birth witnessed. My thought was that there should be some sort of vehicle that could follow and film whales while not invading or changing their patterns...interested?

atlasobscura40 karma

A small correction- people have witnessed a whale giving birth in captivity but that is not quite the same since she was artificially inseminated and jailed her entire life

Imagine a drone following you your whole life until you gave birth … How efficient or plausible is that?

AxeDecapitation13 karma

What was the scariest moment of your underwater life?

atlasobscura30 karma

When I encounter man...

changaroo1313 karma

What’s your favorite aquatic animal?

atlasobscura37 karma

The octopus!


What was the most memorable moment for you?

What was the coolest experience you had while underwater?

Would you do it again?

atlasobscura18 karma

Looking into a child’s eyes and seeing the wonder and curiosity sparked by the story I shared of the ocean

So many it would be difficult to choose. The orca story (above) is one of my favorite growing up

Yes, Without a second of hesitation… If you have the funding ;-)

samtheonionman1 karma

You didn't sleep for 31 days? In your comments it makes it seem so.

atlasobscura2 karma

We slept as much as we could, but not nearly enough. Since this was such an epic once in a lifetime opportunity at Aquarius we wanted to maximize the opportunity. After all, we were to return to soft beds and comfy surface life after 31 days so sleep was last on our minds during ...

TheFuturePants0 karma

Why not just call yourself a "submariner" like normal people? Why do you have to be so pretentious with "aquanaut?"

atlasobscura3 karma

Submariners and aquanauts are very different. One lives in a vehicle at one ATM segregated from the environment and one lives saturated and wanders free into the environment. Aquanaut is an official term for this.