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50 Jacques Cousteau Quotes About Science and Life

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor

Our latest collection of Jacques Cousteau quotes about scuba diving, the ocean, science, life and more

Jacques Cousteau was a jack-of-all-trades kind of man. He was an explorer, a French naval officer, conservationist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author, and researcher. His naval career was cut short when he was in a car accident that broke both of his arms.

Leaving the navy led him to devote more time to studying the ocean. The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure, was his first book. He also directed the documentary version of the book which one a Palme d’Or at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.

They credit Cousteau with improving the Aqua-Lung design during the 1940s, which led to the open-circuit scuba technology that we still use today. He also predicted the existence of the ability of porpoises to use echolocation.

With the help of Jean Mollard, he invented a “diving saucer,” an underwater vehicle that could reach a depth of 350 meters. Keep reading through these Jacques Cousteau quotes to learn more about this revolutionary man’s explorations and inventions.

Don’t forget to also check out these Richard Feynman quotes about science, life, and learning.

Jacques Cousteau quotes about scuba diving, the ocean, and more

1. “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

2. “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 Yves Cousteau

3. “A lot of people attack the sea, I make love to it.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

4. “No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

5. “The sea is the universal sewer.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

6. “We must plant the sea and herd its animals using the sea as farmers instead of hunters. That is what civilization is all about – farming replacing hunting.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

7. “Some of these islanders dutifully recited for us their ancient law: “Take no more from the sea in one day than there are people in your village. If you observe this rule, the bonito will run well again tomorrow.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

8. “Buoyed by water, he can fly in any direction—up, down, sideways—by merely flipping his hand. Underwater, man becomes an archangel.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

9. “Human blood is a testament to life’s origin in the ocean: its chemical composition is nearly identical to that of sea water.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

10. “In the heat of the sun, the ocean is the boiler and condenser of a gigantic steam engine, a weather engine that governs crops, floods, droughts, frosts, hurricanes.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

11. “It is fashionable nowadays to talk about the endless riches of the sea. The ocean is regarded as a sort of bargain-basement, but I don’t agree with that estimate. People don’t realize that water in the liquid state is very rare in the universe. Away from the earth, it is usually a gas. This moisture is a blessed treasure, and it is our basic duty if we don’t want to commit suicide, to preserve it.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

Jacques Yves Cousteau quotes about pollution and the environment

12. “Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

13. “Mankind has probably done more damage to the Earth in the 20th century than in all of previous human history.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

14. “Pollution of the air or of the land all ultimately ends up in the sea.”― Jacques Yves Cousteau

15. “Human beings had polluted the seawater and mechanically destroyed the nearby coast; all life had paid this price. Often, in airports, on sidewalks, at restaurants, children and adults alike stop me to ask about barracuda and sharks; killer whales; the deadly sorcery of the Bermuda Triangle; the Loch Ness Monster. When I saw Le Veyron, I believed that the sea’s most monstrous force doesn’t live in Loch Ness. It lives in us.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

16. “The real cure for our environmental problems is to understand that our job is to salvage Mother Nature. We are facing a formidable enemy in this field. It is the hunters… and to convince them to leave their guns on the wall is going to be very difficult.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

17. “Farming as we do it is hunting, and in the sea, we act like barbarians.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

18. “It has been calculated that when a factory saves some money by polluting the environment; it costs the citizens living in the vicinity ten times more than it saves the factory.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

Jacques Cousteau quotes on what it means to be human

19. “Man, of all the animals, is probably the only one to regard himself as a great delicacy.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

20. “No sooner does man discover intelligence than he tries to involve it in his own stupidity.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

21. “From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

22. “For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realize that, in order to survive, he must protect it.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

23. “The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man, it is to know that and to wonder at it.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

24. “If we go on the way we have, the fault is our greed and if we are not willing to change, we will disappear from the face of the globe, to be replaced by the insect.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

25. “All life is part of a complex relationship in which each is dependent upon the others, taking from, giving to, and living with all the rest.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

26. “To enlarge the human perspective, to build on knowledge for future generations, to identify dangers, and to chart the course to a better world: If these are the goals of the explorer, then everyone—voyager, scientist and citizen, parent and child—is engaged in humanity’s momentous expedition.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

27. “When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

28. “It takes generosity to discover the whole through others. If you realize you are only a violin, you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

29. “People protect what they love.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

30. “If we were logical, the future would be bleak, indeed. But we are more than logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we have hope, and we can work.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

Jacques Cousteau quotes about science and scientists

31. “Only the applied scientist sets out to find a “useful” pot of gold. The pure scientist sets out to find nothing. Anything. Everything. The applied scientist is a prospector. The pure scientist is an explorer.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

32. “What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what’s going on.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

33. “I am not a scientist. I am, rather, an impresario of scientists.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

34. “Far from attempting to control science, few among the general public even seem to recognize just what “science” entails. Because lethal technologies seem to spring spontaneously from scientific discoveries, most people regard dangerous technology as no more than the bitter fruit of science, the real root of all evil.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

35. “Learning science, learning about nature, is more than the mere right of taxpayers; it is more than the mere responsibility of voters. It is the privilege of the human being.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

36. “There’s about as much educational benefit studying dolphins in captivity as there would be studying mankind by only observing prisoners held in solitary.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

37. “It is certain that the study of human psychology if it were undertaken exclusively in prisons, would also lead to misrepresentation and absurd generalizations.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

38. “We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

Jacques Cousteau quotes about the state of the world and life

39. “However fragmented the world, however intense the national rivalries, it is an inexorable fact that we become more interdependent every day.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

40. “I believe that national sovereignties will shrink in the face of universal interdependence.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

41. “The road to the future leads us smack into the wall. We simply ricochet off the alternatives that destiny offers. Our survival is no more than a question of 25, 50, or perhaps 100 years.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

42. “The biggest obstacle was mixing abortion with overpopulation. These are two things that have nothing to do with each other.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

43. “Sometimes we are lucky enough to know that our lives have been changed, to discard the old, embrace the new, and run headlong down an immutable course.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

44. “We are living in an interminable succession of absurdities imposed by the myopic logic of short-term thinking.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

45. “Every explorer I have met has been driven—not coincidentally but quintessentially—by curiosity, by a single-minded, insatiable, and even jubilant need to know.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

46. “No one can absolutely control the direction of his life, but each person can certainly influence it. The armchair explorers who complain that they never got their “one lucky shot” were never really infected by the incurable drive to explore. Those who have the bug—go.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

47. “I am absolutely enraptured by the atmosphere of a wreck. A dead ship is the house of a tremendous amount of life—fish and plants. The mixture of life and death is mysterious, even religious. There is the same sense of peace and mood that you feel on entering a cathedral.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

48. “I experimented with all possible maneuvers—loops, somersaults, and barrel rolls. I stood upside down on one finger and burst out laughing, a shrill, distorted laugh. Nothing I did altered the automatic rhythm of the air. Delivered from gravity and buoyancy, I flew around in space.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

49. “If we consider our earth as a spaceship and the earthly astronauts as the crew of that spaceship, I would say wars can be analogous to mutinies aboard the ship.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

50. “Mere infants of the universe, with no feel for infinity, no sense of place in time and space, we human beings have yet to comprehend the enormity of what we are doing: In a geological second, we are unraveling complexities it took eternity to create.” ― Jacques Yves Cousteau

Which of Jacques Cousteau quotes is your favorite?

Ronald Reagan awarded Jacques Cousteau the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985. This was not the only award he received during his lifetime. He did have some questionable beliefs on human population control and population decrease. He also sued his son, for advertising “Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort”, to stop him from using the Cousteau name for business purposes in the United States.

Cousteau died in 1997 of a heart attack, but his legacy lives on. He wrote more than 50 books and founded an environment protection foundation. His talents as a showman brought awareness to a variety of causes and led to some incredible advances. His name even made it into the science fiction book, The Deep Range which mentions a large research expedition submarine called Cousteau.

If you have any other Jacques Cousteau quotes and sayings you would like to add, you can do so in the comment section below.

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