20 iconic photos of life at sea

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Jacques Cousteau

Getty Images

From the yachting clique of Hollywood's golden era to modern sailing icons, click through to see the stories behind some of the most iconic and glamorous images ever taken of life at sea...

Jacques Cousteau

This photograph was taken at the Port of Marseille in June 1957 at the start of Jacques Cousteau’s prolific career as an underwater documentarian. The previous year he had released The Silent World for which he received both an Academy Award and a Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It was this success that convinced him to leave the French Navy and become a conservationist as the director of the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco.

However, the path to the ocean was not straightforward for Cousteau. After a rebellious childhood in which he was expelled from school, Cousteau entered the École Navale in 1930 and graduated as a naval pilot. Unfortunately, his aviation career was cut short by a near-fatal car accident, which broke both his arms and forced him to retrain for a life on the ocean.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever,” Cousteau once said of his life’s work. It is hard to over-estimate just how much he contributed towards modern marine knowledge. As well as making scuba diving possible with the Aqua-Lung and advancing research with his diving saucer submarine, Cousteau also led expeditions on board his converted minesweeper Calypso and lived 102.4 metres below the water for weeks as part of his Conshelf scientific programme.

Cousteau continued to work tirelessly until his death in 1997, and his legacy lives on today in the achievements of the Cousteau Society. Founded in 1974, the conservation and research group has so far helped protect Antarctica from mineral exploitation, counselled world leaders on the preservation of marine life and coral reefs and set up a network of Cousteau Kids programmes to educate a new generation of informed decision-makers.

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