Foghorn (A Call to Action!)
Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)
Fishermen with an illegal haul of totoaba. Image courtesy of Elephant Action League.
Photo: Toby Driver (RCAHMW)
Fog Horn (A Call to Action)
Flotsam (what we’re obsessed with right now)
Paul May via Storyful.
I am pleased to announce that Southern Fried Science will once again host Jacques Week, an ocean lovers’ alternative to Shark Week. Three years ago, on a bit of a whim, we launched Jacques Week, an effort to not only provide a respite from the blood-in-the-water, often fake documentaries of the premier basic cable ocean event, but to give us a chance to celebrate what makes ocean documentaries great–compelling stories, stunning visuals, a bit of human connection–with the greatest ocean filmmaker of them all: Captain Jacques Yves Cousteau.
We’ve selected a series of classic Cousteau films to watch together from July 23, 2017 to July 28, 2017. As always, we go to great efforts to find ones that are available online, but we have also selected several that are only available through purchase. Since it’s becoming harder and harder to find some of the classic collections, this year we’re giving you plenty of lead time to track them down. We have selected three films from the Jacques Cousteau Odyssey collection (The Nile Part I and II and Clipperton: The Island the Time Forgot). You can find these on Amazon, eBay, and other online retailers, as well as your local library.
Included this year will be a series of discussions on Twitter and Facebook, as well as Facebook live. The official schedule will be released the week before (though, if you follow me on Twitter, you already have some idea what we’re planning). Follow the #JacquesWeek hashtag for news, announcements, discussion, and Cousteau trivia.
We aren’t associated with any of the Cousteau organizations. This is a purely grassroots celebration of the man who brought ocean adventure, science, and conservation to the world.
Last night, as part of #JacquesWeek, we watched The Silent World. The Silent World was Cousteau’s first feature film, was released to wide critical acclaim in 1954, and quickly vanished in a puff of weird copyright shenanigans. Most USians, even die-hard Cousteau fans, have never seen the Silent World.
It’s a tough watch. In order to help prime the #JacquesWeek audience for what was coming, I hosted a pre-viewing briefing, via Facebook live.
The Silent World is an important moment in the history of marine conservation. It represents the birth of a more general public awareness about life beneath the waves. A the time, it was the vast majority of people’s first experience seeing what life looks like underwater. But it also features Cousteau’s team killing a baby whale, attempting to harpoon others, riding sea turtles and land tortoises, and slaughtering sharks. It’s a hard watch. Some of our viewers had to cut out half-way. Even I conveniently got up to mix a stronger drink during some of the worst bits.
After the show, we also hosted a debrief to talk a bit more about the Silent World, put it in context, and talk about how the film fits into the history of ocean conservation:
If you missed this last night, you can still watch The Silent World at your own pace, and I highly recommend that you do. It’s an important film and should be taken, warts and all.
Last night, I was in the mood for some Cousteau. The classics from the Undersea World, Odyssey, River Expeditions, and host of other long running series, still hold up as some of the best ocean documentaries of all time. So I picked a few of my favorites, pulled some people together online, and called it #JacquesWeek, an alternative to Shark Week for those who either don’t get the Discovery Channel or just want something different.
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
Jacques Yves Cousteau
I’ll be honest, I’m burned out on Shark Week. After several years of intense livetweeting, post-show debunking, and high-level critique (look for my and Shiffman’s paper on best practices for responding to fake mass media documentaries in Ocean and Coastal Management later this year), I find that I just don’t have much more to say. Some shows will be good. Some shows will be great. Some shows will be bad.
Jacques Cousteau has never let me down. Sure, sometimes the science is off (pretty much everything in Blind Prophets of Easter Island is incorrect, for example), but that’s because the Calypso crew was working at the boundaries of human knowledge, and their work comes off earnest, heartfelt, and compassionate. And so full of wonder. Much of what Cousteau’s team did was done for the very first time.
Jean-Michel Cousteau with an orca. Photo credit: Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society
The death of Sea World trainer Dawn Branchaeu revived an old debate over whether it is appropriate to keep orca whales in captivity. Many people are calling for all captive orcas to be set free, but I continue to support aquariums because of the roles they serve as educators and conservationists. Although several readers have pointed out that the sea world incident itself would make for a solid ethical debate, I am instead going to take you back more than 15 years to a movie that started this whole movement: Free Willy.