Location: La Reserve Cousteau, Guadeloupe
The day began in Deshaies [Duh-hay] Guadeloupe at the usual 7 am. There was no mellow morning music that could move the members of the crew out of their bunks. Instead, my voice had to carry the day and rouse out the holdfasts. Breakfast was pancakes, but many ate and studied at the same time as Steve had planned for the students to have a marine biology exam after clean up. The exam came and went much to the delight and dismay of the students. After a quick motor, Ocean Star made her way over to La Rserve Cousteau, a national marine park here in Guadeloupe. Jacques Cousteau began his career as a naval aviator in the French Navy, but he had to quit flying after a severe automobile accident in which both of his arms were broken. From there, he began snorkeling and diving while serving in the Navy, and during the second world war, he produced the first French underwater films. He is credited as one of the fathers of the modern-day open circuit SCUBA diving for his contributions to the preliminary designs of the apparatus. When he dove in this area later in his career, he is said to have claimed that the area around Pigeon Island here in Guadeloupe is some of the best diving in the world. The reef here is very well preserved thanks to the efforts of the conservation society that protects the park. Hurricane Maria passed very close by and did some damage to the reef in the shallower areas, but most of the reef is very healthy.
Our students had the opportunity to dive with Cousteau, who, despite his age, is still a lively diver. At the age of 108, Jacques still goes out every morning to his favorite spot on the Pigeon Island reef, and the local operators do their best to give him some privacy as a sign of respect. Ocean Star has been coming here since 2003 and is one of his favorite classic vessels. He always takes a moment out of his morning routine to stop by and say hello, and seeing as it is easter today, he thought it would be nice to invite some of the students along on his morning dive. They declined only because this is very clearly a poor excuse at an April Fools joke.
Sadly, Jacques passed away in 1997 at the age of 87, but his legacy lives on. The group that maintains the park has sunk a bust of Mr. Cousteau in a sandy clearing among the reef that sits in about 10m of water. For many years he shall watch over his favorite site and ensure that the divers that go there remember his words…
“The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: We are all in the same boat.” – Jacques Cousteau
The divers had a superb day goofing around underwater on their fun dive. Elle and Oliva went looking for some Christmas tree worms for their research, while Steve and Lucy worked toward Lucy’s open water certification. After the dive, we all gathered back on Ocean Star for a meal of Pizza to round out the day. That was a cheesy joke. The Seamanship class concluded the day’s activities and consisted of the mid-term exam for their IYT international crew certificate. I am happy to report that they all did very well. It is only a few more days before we are off to the races at the Antigua Classic Week Regatta, and everyone is itching with excitement. Keep reading!