This is the third episode in Richard Hyman’s recollections of his adventures traveling with Jacques Cousteau and the crew of the Calypso. Enjoy the “The Fish That Swallowed Jonah.”
January 4, 1975 and we’re off. Sailing south from Isla Mujeres, Mexico to begin a new film on the subject of reefs. Next stop Chinchorro Reef, still in Mexican waters, and then the Belize Barrier Reef. More than 1,000 small islands or cays make up the 180-mile-long, second largest reef on the earth. (photo – Chinchorro, Mexican News Network)
Two unwitting hitchhikers, more like hostages – lobsters, are still in the shipboard aquarium, to eventually be released in new surrounds.
After Chinchorro, we head to Belize City. Then we’ll investigate three coral atolls, Turneffe, Lighthouse and Glovers.
The water is amazingly clear and abundant with sea life, including plentiful conch, coral and sponges. JYC (Captain Cousteau) shares with me what seems to be a recurring theme: his concern about declining populations, advocating stricter regulations and farming, to help sustain the species. (photo – Richard Hyman)
John Denver Aboard Calypso!
Eventually we make port in low-lying Belize City, only 18 inches above sea level. The water is dirty with no visibility. I explore the city, including the market, where stacks of grouper, turtles, rays, lobsters (tails only), and shark are piled atop huge thick stone slabs. (photo – Richard Hyman)
I meet up with the film crew and head to the airport, where we’ll pick up John Denver, return to Calypso, and sail to Glover. Note in the photo the red cap Cousteau is wearing, see our Blue Ocean posts on Jacques’s famous red cap: The Incredible Story Beneath Jacques Cousteau’s Famous Red Hat and An incredible Follow-Up to Jacques Cousteau’s Famous Red Hat.
We anchor 500 meters off a small island and dive in spectacular calm water with 20-meter visibility, a pure white sand bottom, and a giant coral reef off Calypso’s bow.
Belize’s Blue Hole
Cousteau returns from a helicopter scouting flight to nearby Lighthouse and tells me that it’s even more spectacular than Glover. In 1971 he was there to film the underwater sinkhole, the Blue Hole.
Then JYC, John, Kris O’Connor (John’s assistant), Bernard, Patrick and I dive at dusk. Our timing is strategic, allowing us to witness the reef’s magical changeover from day to night.
Upon return to the ship, I join Cousteau and John for the second sitting of dinner. Jacques tells us that he has studied reefs for decades, and now with the help of experts, he wants to determine the environmental impact of oil and gas exploration, hurricanes, and other natural and man-made phenomena.
The filming of “The Fish That Swallowed Jonah”
The next day we began the film about Nassau grouper, The Fish That Swallowed Jonah. Situated in between a shallow two-foot deep reef and a two thousand-meter drop off the edge of the continental shelf lay a magical spot where on a full moon the grouper congregate to court and spawn.
I dive twice and am dead tired, but it’s time for watch 2300-0100. John visits me, asks me many questions, and explains that he wants to write a song about Calypso.
To be continued….
Upcoming Adventures in Future Episodes
In the next episode Richard will share more about the grouper film, John Denver’s shipboard concert, and finally tell us about when he got his red cap. Then in his final episode he’ll tell us about searching for the wreck of the USS Monitor in deep, rough waters off North Carolina, and diving on sunken shipwrecks in Martinique.
The True Story of My Journeys
In 2011, Richard published FROGMEN: A fascinating first-hand account of his experiences aboard the Calypso. It is the inspiring story of a young man who pays homage to one of the greatest explorers and visionaries of all time. You can find your copy at Amazon.com, available in eBook and softcover. For direct shipment of signed books contact Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out Richard’s website at: www.richardehyman.com
By Richard Hyman, contributor to Blue Ocean Network
See these Blue Ocean Posts for more on Cousteau and other authors:
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