By Jean-Michel Cousteau
The Cousteau name is forever linked with the ocean and so it is also necessarily linked to a ship run by a team that keeps the vessel and the adventure going. This remains true even without a ship. The team comprises a wide-range of devoted people who love the sea and put in long hours – on expedition, in the editing room, the classroom, or at the office computer. They play different roles, do 150 percent of what they’re asked, and are paid mostly in the knowledge that their work makes a difference.
That, after all, is the great adventure. And this great adventure started over 60 years ago when my father led his first expeditions in the Mediterranean Sea. Close to my father’s side was Albert Falco who first came aboard as a volunteer diver and stayed on for decades of adventures. He was a true pioneer in saturation diving and served as expedition chief and captain of the Calypso for over four decades.
On April 21, Albert Falco (Bébert) left us at age 84. Born in Marseille, France, on October 17, 1927, he has now returned to the Big Blue. I take this moment to reflect on a man who will be forever remembered as an adventurer and a true ocean hero.
He dreamed of meeting my father, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, back in 1950; “And one day, the miracle happened,” Falco explained. “My life, all of my life was decided at once, the dream became reality. Cousteau and his friends, who we spoke of so often, were accepting volunteers to help explore an ancient shipwreck off the coast of Marseille. Weekend divers were accepted. I joined the team. It was a miracle.”
Falco went on to be the first pilot of the diving saucer in July 1959 in the port of Marseille and one of the first Oceanauts to live for seven days at a depth of 33 feet (10m) in the first house under the sea in the Mediterranean.
He calls those years “the most beautiful of my life.” When Falco retired, but not from the ocean, he shared what he had learned through short films he created for environmental organizations such as Martinique Vidéo Sub, Earth and Sea Images and others. And he became a Board Member of my new non-profit organization, Ocean Futures Society in 1999. Falco also worked to preserve the Calanque de Sormiou, a place close to his heart where he first discovered underwater diving. His films aimed to protect the ocean and the riches it conceals; to create marine reserves in order to save marine species facing extinction; and to teach children about the environment and to protect the oceans for future generations.
On May 9, 2012, I was with Falco’s family, his close friends, among them fellow crew members of the Calypso, and local dignitaries, aboard a ship in the Bay of Sormiou, on the Mediterranean coast between Marseille and Cassis in the South of France. The remembrance ceremony for Albert Falco was also attended by HSH Prince Albert ll of Monaco, a very special friend to many family members. On this occasion we were joined by Planet Solar, the first vessel to complete an around the world voyage on solar energy.
Together, we paid our respects to this man so well known, respected and admired by people the world over. As we observed a moment of silence aboard ship that day so did countless others from Australia to the Pacific Islands, including New Zealand, Fiji and American Samoa; from Europe, southern France and Corsica; from Mexico, South America and Canada; and from the United States, including all of its National Marine Sanctuaries and the Ocean Futures Society Ambassadors of the Environment programs on Catalina island and at Laguna Niguel in California, and in French Polynesia, Hawaii, the Cayman Islands, and the staff at the Santa Barbara office.
During the ceremony honouring his life, it was announced that a new marine sanctuary and no fishing zone to be dedicated in the cove of Sormiou would be named the ‘Albert Falco National Marine Park’. This was his dream and mission in life for future generations.
He was my ‘older brother’. Bébert never had an enemy and he always said friendships are permanent happiness. He specifically contributed to the protection of our life support system, the ocean. I am honoured to have lived all these beautiful years by his side. Thank-you Albert Falco, Captain of Calypso, a world hero to us all. Your kindness, dedication and commitment will continue to inspire us to never stop taking care of our life support system, the oceans, until we join you in the Big Blue one day.
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