We were very pleased at the response that we received to our recent article on Jacques Cousteau’s Red Hat and we are additionally pleased to bring you Richard Hyman’s fascinating story of traveling and diving with Cousteau and the crew of the Calypso.
Cousteau had been exploring, writing and filming since the late forties and in 1968 he launched his film series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. The series would run for nine seasons and enthrall millions of viewers with the beauty and mystery of the underwater world.
In 1973 at the age of 18 Richard met Jacques and got a job driving a supply truck, which led to diving with manatees, filming spiny lobsters and spawning groupers and exploring Belize’s Barrier Reef – and that was just the beginning. In this, the first episode, Richard describes how he met the Captain and traveled to the wintry waters of Northern Canada to film Beavers of the North Country.
Take over Richard.
Meeting the Captain
With all of Cousteau’s success, unfortunately, his business, The Cousteau Group was having great difficulty. In 1972 my father, Fred Hyman was recruited as President and CEO to lead the organization and turn it around, which he did. Also, In 1973 he co-founded and led The Cousteau Society.
In July of 1973, just after graduating from High School, dad asked if I’d like to join him on a business trip to Los Angeles to meet Cousteau and his sons Jean-Michel and Philippe. Of course I jumped at the chance.
Captain Cousteau and his sons picked us up at LAX. I remember it being a hot day and that we rode with all the windows open. There was energy and laughter. While they met at the office. I waited, viewing the vast library of photos, wondering what it would be like to go on a Cousteau expedition.
My first SCUBA lesson with Philippe Cousteau as Instructor
When their business was done, we retired to Philippe’s nearby home for a swim in his pool. That’s where Philippe Cousteau gave me my first SCUBA lesson! He was patient and calm, essential characteristics of a good diver.
Later we went to dinner, along with divers Ivan Giacoletto and Louis Prezelin. Captain Cousteau mentioned that they needed a driver. He asked if I’d like to join Ivan transporting camera equipment, SCUBA gear and other supplies from L.A. to Lac La Ronge in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. I had no idea where Saskatchewan was. (It was a time well before the Internet and smart phones so I couldn’t even look it up.) But I was curious, and excited, and said yes. The rest is history!
Off to Canada with Felix!
A few days later and we were off. Beating the daytime heat with the nighttime desert crossing. I remember driving while Ivan slept, being entertained by the vast sky and many dozens of shooting stars. Ivan spoke little English and I spoke little French. We laughed a lot, taught each other language, and became good friends.
Other team members were to trailer “Felix”, the helicopter. We were to rendezvous at the Canadian border and cross together. However, their mechanical misfortunes allowed us spare time, which we enjoyed touring both Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Eventually we met François, Anne-Lise, and Bob McKeegan at the border.
We made it to la Ronge and from there flew the transported supplies plus locally procured lumber, nails, food, etc. via seaplane to the final destination, Foster Lake. There I worked with Cree Native Americans building the cabin, which the team stayed in that winter while filming Beavers of the North Country. (photo – Richard Hyman)
The name Lac La Ronge comes from the French verb ‘ronger’, “to gnaw” and means literally “the chewed” referring to the local beaver operation and the early French fur traders. The first Lac La Ronge fur trading post was established in 1782. The photo shows me helping with the construction at Foster Lake.
At the end of August I had to leave for college. I didn’t want to go, thinking this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Little did I know that it was just the beginning.
That winter the Cousteau team kept in touch by sending me updates written on birch bark taken from trees the beavers had cut.
By Richard Hyman, contributor to Blue Ocean Network
Beavers of the North Country
Upcoming Adventures in Future Episodes
There are many more intimate glimpses of life with the Cousteaus in the following episodes, including what it was like to work on the Calypso. Diving and filming spiny lobsters and spawning groupers on the reefs of Belize and Mexico. Searching for the wreck of the USS Monitor in deep, rough waters off the Eastern Seaboard. Sailing to Martinique and diving on sunken shipwrecks. Meeting John Denver and how Denver was inspired to write his famous song Calypso. Plus, finally, how I got my own, red hat.
The True Story of My Journeys
In 2011, Richard published Frogmen: The True Story of My Journeys With Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau and the Crew of Calypso. A fascinating first-hand account of his experiences aboard the Calypso, FROGMEN 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 email@example.com or check out Richard’s website at: www.richardehyman.com
See these Blue Ocean Posts for More Ocean Authors: