Catching Up With Cousteau at OMSI

For Jean-Michel Cousteau, the future is underwater. He'll be present—virtually at least—to tell us why, after his latest documentary on ocean life airs at OMSI this week.

By Rene Bermudez April 7, 2015

If the ocean had a first family, it would surely be the Cousteaus. They're everything we want them to be: rugged, wind-whipped, French, and incredibly passionate about the 70 percent of Earth that distinguishes us from every other planet in the solar system (liquid water, of course).

This month, the latest film from Jean-Michel Cousteau—son of Jacques—brings the ocean's tiniest creatures to OMSI's gigantic four-story-tall screen, in 3-D no less.

Secret Ocean 3D—screening Thursday, April 9 (trailer below)—focuses on never-before-seen species at the bottom of the food chain which, until now, were too small to be captured on film.

Cousteau will also be on hand—virtually at least—for a live Skype call on the colossal screen, and OMSI invites you to submit questions for the famed environmentalist to answer. Curious what Jean-Michel thinks of Steve Zissou, Wes Anderson’s lovingly silly parody of his father, Jacques? Dying to better understand how seahorses reproduce? Wondering whether he eats seafood? Now is your chance to find out, and entry is free.

Jean-Michel Cousteau's love-affair with the ocean reportedly began when, at age seven, his father threw him overboard with SCUBA gear on his back. But while both Cousteaus are famed for using film to document the deep, Jean-Michel's mission is both an outgrowth of his father's work and a reflection of the times: in the face of impending global environmental disaster, his aim is not just to push the boundaries of knowledge, but ultimately of care. As spokesman for his Ocean Futures Society, one of Cousteau's oft-repeated mantras is "People protect what they love."  

He should know. In 2006, for example, President George W. Bush signed a proclamation to protect 140,000 acres in Hawaii, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, after viewing Cousteau’s film Voyage to Kure.

While the waters explored in the film are of the tropical variety—think Fiji, the Bahamas, and Bimini—Cousteau’s message is that the bottom of the food chain is as crucial, in every bioregion, as the more familiar species at the top like dolphins, fish, sharks, and whales. And these tiny, spiny, bulbous, and squishy creatures may just be more charismatic than we think, if we take the time to look.

"Every breath of air that we take is coming from the ocean," Cousteau said in a recent presentation. "If we protect the ocean, we protect ourselves."

 Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Secret Ocean 3D will be at OMSI April 9 at 9:45 am.

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