This is the second episode in Richard Hyman’s recollections of his adventures traveling with Jacques Cousteau and the crew of the Calypso.
I call it a mini-expedition. Over 1974’s Thanksgiving break, my freshman year of college. I flew to Panama City, Florida where I first saw Jacques Cousteau’s famed research vessel Calypso.
I had the choice of sailing to take water samples in the Gulf, or joining a dive team bound for inland warm springs, shallow rivers and manatees. Despite the allure of Calypso, it was an easy decision. Without even setting foot on Calypso, I was off, to dive with soon to be friend and mentor Bernard Delemotte, and others.
When we returned to the Gulf, we boarded two stone crab boats. Shockingly, with our cameras rolling, the fishermen removed both claws, from males and females, not only breaking the law but also sentencing the crabs and their families’ legacies to death. The law required that males were to have only one claw removed, as it will regenerate. Females were not to be touched.
However, they were a very fun bunch of guys and I still remember a particularly raucous dinner that we had with them.
Flying with NASA
A month later I flew through Miami, where I rendezvoused with Dr. George Low, the Deputy Administrator of NASA, and together we went on to Cozumel, Mexico. “Phoenix”, the new chopper flew us on to Isla Contoy (Contoy Island). The previous helicopter, Felix, had fallen overboard some months earlier.
George was a driving force in the Apollo moon landing program. He was a true gentleman and passed way too young, at age 58. It happened to be the 15 year anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch, bound for the first landing of men on the moon.
His visit aboard Calypso further advanced an already solid collaborative relationship between Cousteau and NASA. Interestingly, some 20 years later, a Cousteau red cap flew in space atop a U.S. Astronaut. See our Blue Ocean article tracing the legacy of Cousteau’s famous red dive cap. The Incredible Story Beneath Jacques Cousteau’s Famous Red Hat
Marching with Lobsters
Well, that was the plan. It was as simple as a north wind and presto; thousands of spiny lobsters would appear in front of our cameras, marching in single file. Not so. It was a time before the Internet. Our research was a bit by the seat-of-the-pants, often reliant upon local legend.
The lobsters did eventually come. Well sort of, but it took weeks of waiting. That’s expensive, when you have a full crew but it was sort of fun for me. I got to camp on the island and assist Dr. William Herrnkind with his research. Bill got his Ph.D. from “The U” and was a Professor at rival FSU and a specialist on the Caribbean spiny lobster, Panularis argus. As always, Cousteau brought aboard one of the finest experts on the planet so they could help educate him and his television audience.
Eventually a storm did get the queues in gear. But it also stirred up the sea floor, enough that clear filming was not possible. We got what we could and then decided to move on and sail south to Belize. Cousteau improvised and that autumn sent a small team to the Bahamas, to capture more footage in clear waters, ultimately finishing the film The Migration of the Spiny Lobster.
Upcoming Adventures in Future Episodes
In the next episodes Richard will talk about diving on the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest reef in the world, filming spawning grouper, John Denver’s visit and concert aboard Calypso, and the story about when he got his own red cap. More adventures will follow, such as searching for the wreck of the USS Monitor in deep, rough waters off North Carolina, sailing to Martinique and diving on sunken shipwrecks.
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: