Developed by Emile Gagnan and Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1943, the "aqualung" was the first open-circuit free-swimming underwater breathing set. The technology features a high pressure diving cylinder and a diving regulator. The diver was able to breathe gas at ambient pressure, through a demand valve.
Co-developed by Cousteau and engineer Jean Mollard, the the mini-submersible sailed the depths to explore unknown parts of the ocean. A crane lowered the saucer from the Calypso into the water or lifted her up to the rear deck of the ship. With a diameter of 2.85 meters and a weight of 3.5 tons, it carried a crew of two in a steel cabin.
These two exploration submersibles, also called SP-500s, were approximately two by three meters and two tons. They could reach a depth of 500 meters. The Sea Fleas were piloted by a joystick with buttons for each finger on the grip.
Cousteau revolutionized the art of filming underwater. When he shot his first film, Par Dix-huit m
Starting in the 1960s, Cousteau set up "oceanauts" where people could live underwater for short periods of time. The project was to prove that humans could live underwater for extended periods. In 1965, the so-called Conshelf III off the Nice coast was established one hundred meters below the surface. The building housed six oceanauts who lived together for three weeks.
Originally built for the British Royal Navy as a minesweeper, the Calypso was leased to Cousteau for a symbolic one franc a year from the Irish millionaire Thomas Loel Guinness. The ship was accidentally rammed by a barge in Singapore on January 8 1996, andd sank in the port. It was later raised, towed to France and is now being restored.