UVic Torch -- Spring 2004
Spring 2004,
Volume 26, Number 1

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Ceaseless Exploration Ceaseless Exploration
One hot community: Tubeworms thrive near a black smoker jetting 400C water at the Endeavour hydrothermal vents 2,250 metres below the surface of the Pacific. The NEPTUNE project will help us learn more about deep sea life.
By MIKE MCNENEY EDITOR
Photography by VERENA TUNNICLIFFE/UVic


When I was growing up, the underwater world belonged to Captain Jacques Cousteau.

His television documentaries—there were 115 of them—focused worldwide attention on oceans, rivers and the risks posed by pollution and neglect. He brought the ocean into the living room. He ignited the imagination. He played to the human sense of discovery.

I can still hear his voice in those programs. He’d narrate each week’s mission and discoveries with French-accented words of calm knowledge and subtle urgency.

He convinced us that we needed to learn more about the importance of the marine environment while he entertained us with what’s beneath the waves, the odd and beautiful creatures dwelling there.

At one point I was given a hardcover book that is heavily weighted with photographs and stories from Cousteau’s voyages on his oceanographic ship Calypso, a converted minesweeper. On one of those pages I found a stunning summer sunset photo of orca whales. What really knocked me out was that the picture was taken in Juan de Fuca Strait.

I have kept that page bookmarked in my memory. It’s not only that the whales look so great but also because it made me realize that the wonder of Cousteau’s world was so close to home. What was global became local.

When Cousteau died in 1997, the World Wide Web was just beginning to live up to its name. It’s not hard to believe that the man who came up with the scuba breathing device for divers would have recognized the Web’s potential for ocean science.

It’s also not hard to believe that he would be excited about the NEPTUNE underwater observatory. He would share the project’s drive to discover, to reach down fathoms and fathoms, using modern technology to seek knowledge of the unknown.

Above all, he would have been enthused about NEPTUNE’s potential to bring the ocean environment to, not only scientists, but also the public via the Internet.

The ocean seemed like Cousteau’s world in those earlier days. But he was showing us our world. And our world, as NEPTUNE comes online in a few short years, is about to reveal itself in fascinating new ways.

—Mike McNeney  






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