Simone Melchior Cousteau

(1919 - 1990)

As the wife and partner of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Simone introduced him to the engineer and to the funding that would result in his co-invention of the Aqualung. She became the first woman scuba diver; she was instrumental in the acquisition of Calypso; and she made sure each exploration achieved its objective, in part by caring for the crew as would their mother.

Shying away from film and press crews, Simone played a key role in the operation at sea. Acting as mother, healer, barber, nurse, and psychiatrist to the all-male crew for 40 years, she was known as "La Bergere," the Shepherdess. In return, the crew agreed to walk her dog along the bulwarks and in port. She was beloved and a little feared by her crew. As part of her extensive involvement, in the early days of Calypso’s adventures Simone sold her family jewels and fur coats to purchase Calypso's fuel, compass and gyroscope.

Born January 19, 1919 in Toulon, France, Simone had a father and maternal and paternal grandfathers that were admirals in the French Navy. Simone met Jacques when he was a naval officer of 25 and she was 17. They were married at Saint-Louis-des-Invalides, in Paris, in 1937. Jean-Michel was born on May 6, 1938 and Philippe Pierre on December 30, 1940. Both sons were born on the family's kitchen table.

Jean-Michel has often said of his mother, “She was the real captain of Calypso and she spent more time on Calypso than my father, brother and myself combined.”

Photo: Private Collection

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