He was a poet, a writer, a diver, a sailor, a pilot, an author, a cinematographer and a director.
Philippe was born in Toulon, France on December 30, 1940 just about the time his father was inventing the Aqualung that would allow human kind to explore the oceans freely for the first time. At the age of four years wearing a miniature aqualung he had entered the sea behind his father, following the bubbles to the bottom of rocky shallows, an experience that changed his life forever. The lessons Philippe learned at sea enriched those he learned at school spending each vacation aboard his father’s famous ship, Calypso.
As a teenager Philippe dreamed of flying airplanes, pursuing new horizons in the sky as he had in the sea. At 16 he received his glider pilots license and then earned his pilot and commercial license.
At the age of 25 Philippe joined Jacques Cousteau” Precontinent III” where he an five “Aquanauts” lived in a specially designed house some 330 feet below the surface of the sea. This was the first time any humans had attempted such a feat.
Philippe recorded the experience in writing as well as on film contributing to a National Geographic Television special that won such widespread acclaim that the public was soon clamoring for a series of films from the Cousteau’s.
One year later, father and son were ready to meet the public’s demand and delivered a series that changed the world. At 26 years old Philippe set off with his father on Calypso. "All departures are exciting", Philippe commented, "but this one was more magnificent than any. A kind of miracle was about to happen. We would be reporting to millions of people, our goal was to serve as eyes for those who could not travel."
In the years to follow Philippe would join his father in making more than thirty films, taking his camera and with it, his viewers all over the world: from the Indian Ocean to Truk Island in the Pacific, from the Yucatan Peninsula south to Patagonia, Argentina, to the Antarctic on to Africa and north to the Arctic and more. Philippe was the overall director of the television series, which won an astounding 10 Emmy Awards. The films were graced not just by Philippe’s camerawork and editing but also by his aeronautical contributions: he operated the Calypso hang glider, a Raven S55A hot air balloon; a Hughes 300C helicopter and the PBY Seaplane he proudly called his “Flying Calypso”.
On June 28th, 1979 however, tragedy struck and Philippe was killed in an airplane accident in Portugal. He left behind his wife, Jan and 3 year old daughter Alexandra. His son Philippe Jr. was born 6 months later.
While the entire world was stunned by his untimely departure, the legacy Philippe left for his family - and his audience- is more than his films, books, ideas and discoveries… his legacy lives on as a path to follow – the inspiration to always seek a vision of a better world.
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