x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Cousteau diving for our black treasure

Jacques Cousteau had been leasing a former Maltese ferry and converted British Royal Navy minesweeper for just four years when he was asked to conduct oceanographic research for the Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in 1954.

Jacques Cousteau had been leasing a former Maltese ferry and converted British Royal Navy minesweeper, renamed Calypso, for just four years when he was asked to conduct oceanographic research for the Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company in 1954. Cousteau had been asked to identify underwater sites that might have potential for oil, making more than 400 preliminary drillings in what is now the Umm Shaif field.

This photograph shows two divers being lowered from what is almost certainly the deck of the Calypso. Cousteau and his team operated at depths of up to 76 metres, retrieving samples later examined by geologists. The shark cage, however, was almost certainly unnecessary. Only one species, the grey reef shark, poses any danger to divers in the Arabian Gulf and there have been no recorded attacks on humans.

Cousteau was to soon find fame as a conservationist and documentary filmmaker, with the Calypso achieving iconic status. The ship was hit by a barge and sank in 1996, a year before Cousteau's death. It is currently being restored. The explorer would have been 100 next month, and his widow, Francine, has said she would like a museum established in his name in the region. Time frame is a new series that opens a window into the nation's past. Each week it will feature an image from the archives of both prominent institutions and private collections. Readers are also invited to contribute and can submit ideas and photographs to yourpics@thenational.ae