Wow! It was just twenty-four hours ago that we posted our story on Jacques Cousteau’s famous red hat. The response to this article (the most for any of our posts) was overwhelming and is testimony to the enduring legacy of Jacques Cousteau.
The Cousteau Effect
Many of us in this Blue Ocean tribe grew up watching “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” and his influence continues to inspire us to this day. This Cousteau effect is not unusual; millions watched in awe as Jacques took us on our first dive, gave us our first glimpse of coral reefs and the extraordinary beauty and bounty found beneath ocean waves. Cousteau and the crew of the Calypso told us that yes, we could grow up to be marine biologists and if not that, learn to use that wonderful, new invention called the aqua-lung. (photo – oceanfutures.org)
The Famous Red Cap
If we were really lucky, maybe we could also wear a red cap like the one that was an indispensable part of the Cousteau identity. Which brings us to a particularly interesting response spawned by a research email we sent to Tony “Knotty” Ash of Ash Diving Services in England. Tony is a commercial diver and dive history buff based on the Isle of Wight: and his story begins with an auction in 1976 at the Royal Navy Divers reunion. Knotty was the lucky bidder for the original red woolen hat worn by William Walker, the famous commercial diver that saved Winchester Cathedral and, by doing so, made the divers’ red cap famous.
Alas, after many years of continued use the red cap became the worse for wear, so Knotty commissioned a retired lady hand-knitter to produce an exact copy using old school knitting techniques. When fellow divers saw the cap he was sporting, they wanted one too, and the rest is, as they say, history. To meet the demand, Knotty had a limited number of hats knitted with close attention to the yarn, weight, dimensions and of course the bright red color of the original Walker cap.
According to our email from Knotty Ash, he continues to coerce the hand-knitter into creating made-to-order replicas of William Walker’s famous red hat. Each hat is knitted by a remarkable local lady on the Isle of Wright and takes about ten hours to make. The outcome is a hand made authentic replica, exactly as it was, brand new, 100+ years ago. No mass production or made in China here. Each cap costs £25 GB Pounds plus postage to your destination. Payment is required prior to her starting your hat. Pay Pal preferred. Here is Tony’s email – contact him directly and order your William Walker/Jacques Cousteau/Tone Knotty Ash red, woolen hat. email@example.com.
Update to Our Update: Another partner in our Blue Ocean community David Strike just sent us and interesting anecdote on the Red Hat. David’s background encompasses military, commercial, scientific, recreational and technical diving. David served with the Royal Navy and then as a commercial diver servicing oil and gas platforms in the North Sea. He moved to Australia in the seventies and has dived and travelled extensively throughout the Asia Pacific region.
David’s take on the red, woolen hat is that it was worn by hard hat divers – both commercial and military for a very practical reason. Divers wore the hat while resting on deck between dives. Since they were still wearing boots, breastplate, suit etc. with only the helmet removed, they were unable to quickly move out of the way during lifting operations. So the bright red beanie was worn to highlight the diver’s presence to crane and derrick operators. From there it was adopted as ‘standard equipment’ for all divers, both umbilical and free-swimming. Thanks Strikey
Graham Nash, David Crosby and John Denver
Another response to our post came in from the legendary Bill Macdonald – a filmmaker and change-maker well-known to many in this community – who mentioned that Graham Nash was a friend of Jacques Cousteau. Graham and David Crosby not only wrote the beautiful song Winchester Cathedral, but also Wind on the Water – a tribute to whales. Bill Macdonald produced and edited the related film visual that is still performed today. As Bill says “It was a musical video before MTV. We were ahead of the times. That’s what Cousteau education does, prepares you to envision the future.”
Talking music, remember John Denver and his iconic song Calypso? Well another member of our Blue Ocean Network community, author Richard Hyman was on the Calypso when Denver performed and will give you his insights on that historic moment in his series: Inside the World of Jacques Cousteau, so stay tuned to Blue Ocean Network!
Where is the The Underwater World Of Jacques Cousteau Today?
We have been searching to see if any of the original Cousteau episodes are alive and well on television today. So far no dice, but if you know where they might still be appearing let us know and we will share that with our community. In the meantime if you are nostalgic or wish to share Cousteau’s inspiration with a new generation here are possibilities for you to check out.
Jean-Michel Cousteau offers his intimate recollections of life and adventures with his father in this 2010 publication: My Father, the Captain: My Life With Jacques Cousteau. You can probably also find Cousteau’s Great White Shark; The Secrets of Kelp Forests; Cousteau’s Papua New Guinea Journey all at Amazon.
Or you can acquire all 12 episodes from the 1978 TV series in DVD from national Geographic: The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey – The Complete Series Another title available is: Jacques Cousteau’s Voyage to the Edge of the World
By Bob Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
See More Blue Ocean Posts on the Cousteau Legacy: