Now, his son Jean-Michel, grandson Fabien and granddaughter Celine are carrying on the tradition in the two part episode "Return To The Amazon" of the PBS series "Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures," premiering April 2.
Fabien told The ShowBuzz that he and his sister were able to go on part of the original expedition "during school breaks," and now they've returned to the world's most powerful river to see how it's changed.
It's changed all right, and not necessarily for the better.
"We've managed to cut down 20 percent of the Amazon rain forest," said Fabien. "And that's within a quarter century. We're talking about a pace of about 1 percent a year. The problem isn't that we have about 80 percent left to go. The point is it's going to tip and we're going to start getting desertification where the forest is going to naturally start shrinking because we've already cut too much of it. If that goes, it becomes a desert. Not only are there going to be huge climate problems, but a majority of rainfall is going to be gone."
Above all, "Beyond The Amazon" is an adventure story, telling the tale of a group of passionate scientists and explorers traveling through one of the Earth's great natural wonders.
Fabien said his thirst for adventure has always been in his blood.
"It's something that is instilled in me from two generations ago," he said. "It's something that I was taught, and that curiosity is the drive. Every day is a new discovery. Whether the experience is a sad one or a happy one, it's always a good one. With knowledge comes the power to be able to hopefully empower and impassion others into caring about our planet."
See more photos and video at PBS.org.
by Judy Rosen