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To mark the centennial of Jacques' Cousteau's birth, I'm posting an essay written by Archives Manager Renee Braden.  The booklet, "Welcome to the Calypso," was featured on our original Collectors Corner site several years ago.

The Society's "research vessel" visits American shores

In 1959, Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau and the crew of the Calypso undertake a working tour of the North Atlantic, exploring undersea canyons and seamounts. As part of their itinerary,they plan to visit North America for the first time. Upon hearing this, Windsor Booth, head of the National Geographic Society's News Service, declares that "the arrival of the Calypso in these parts is going to be about the biggest naval occasion since the building of the ark."

He does not overstate it by much. Great fanfare surrounds the visit,
for Cousteau and the
Calypso have become household names.
Thousands have seen his stunning underwater film,
The Silent World, which won the 1956
Academy Award for best documentary. Millions have read about their adventures in his
book of the same title or in the pages of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine. In fact,
the Society has been one of Cousteau's most important sponsors and promoters.
So it is no surprise when the Geographic is asked to coordinate all press and publicity
matters pertaining to the visit.

The Calypso makes only two U.S. stops: one at Pier 88 in New York, where Cousteau
participates in the International Oceanographic Congress at the United Nations headquarters,
and the other at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., where the Captain and
crew are the guests of the National Geographic Society. For those lucky enough
to tour the
Calypso at one of these places, the Geographic’s News Service produces a
small guidebook: Sixteen pages long, its cover (
illustrated above) displaying both the
Calypso's and the Geographic's flags as well as a sketch of the vessel, it contains a
"welcome" statement from Society President and Editor Melville Bell Grosvenor, a plan of the
ship’s decks, a map of her expeditions, and a log of her crew. Copies of the booklet are
handed out to the thousands who visit the ship during her brief stay in this country.

For nearly ten years the Geographic has been collaborating closely with Captain Cousteau.
Many at the Society were already privileged to know him as the tall, angular Frenchman
who on his occasional visits signed the official guestbook with a Gallic flourish.
Now they too see the fabled vessel with their own eyes--and with thousands of others,
member and non-member alike, take home a souvenir book with which to remember her.


One of the old guest books used at Society headquarters for luncheons, dinners, and other events, records a 1952
visit of Captain Cousteau to the National Geographic Society. 

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The man who found the Britannic. A very respectable man who specialized in... well... everything about the sea.



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