Aye, Calypso

Alexandra Cousteau sets sail for Portland.

July 19, 2010


Look up “cool” in the dictionary, and right there next to Steve McQueen, you’ll find a picture of Jacques Cousteau.*

Legendary underwater explorer, inspirational conservationist, inventor of modern-day diving equipment, and an unapologetic wearer of red stocking caps, Cousteau makes Dos Equis’s Most Interesting Man in the World look like Newman from Seinfeld.

He and his crew of the famed boat Calypso, whose exploits were a mainstay of National Geographic coverage up until Cousteau’s death in the 1990s, were more akin to an aquatic, silver-suited A-Team (that’d be the original, Mr. T’s A-Team, by the way) carrying a burning torch of justice to the darkest depths of the ocean. In fact, his family still holds the record for the number of cover stories in National Geographic magazine.

And while Jacques may have ascended to the Great Diving Hole in the Sky, his granddaughter, Alexandra Cousteau, is proving that the family record of being just plain awesome isn’t in any danger.

Honored in 2008 as an Emerging Explorer by National Geographic, Alexandra follows in her granddad’s wake (not to mention that of her father’s, the equally esteemed Philippe Cousteau, Sr.) as the founder and president of the non-profit Blue Legacy International.

And this week, all Portlanders need to do to dive into Cousteau’s updated underwater world of cool is drop by the Bagdad Theater, where local water warriors Willamette Riverkeeper will be hosting an appearance by Cousteau’s Expedition Blue Planet Team for a discussion on the health of local waterways and how they related to emerging global water issues.

Cousteau’s stop in Portland is part of a 14,500-mile, biodiesel-powered bus tour (the 45-foot bus she travels in has been dubbed the “rolling Calypso”) of North America meant to document significant water issues found across the US, Mexico, and Canada.

The tour, which kicked off this month, will examine the connectivity of bodies of water as divergent as the Colorado River and the Gulf of Mexico and, hopefully, inspire locals along the way to take a more vested interest in safeguarding their well-being. The interactive discussion, complete with a Q&A session with Ms. Cousteau, gets underway Wednesday night at the Bagdad Theater at 7:30 p.m. (Doors open at 6:00 p.m.; tickets $3)

 Somewhere up there, Jacques must be smiling. Probably even more so if you show up with a red stocking cap.

*Can one be any cooler?

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