for National Geographic News
Photo Gallery: Mind of a Demon: Cousteau's Shark-Shaped Sub >>
His name alone makes Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the late Jacques, a big fish in the world of underwater exploration. Now he's taking that big-fish status to extremes.
The Paris-born, New York-based explorer had become a virtual shark, thanks to his new shark-shaped submarine. He uses the sub to dive incognito among the oceans' top predators, great white sharks.
Created at a cost of more than U.S. $100,000, the 14-foot-long (4.3-meter-long) contraption is designed to look and move as much like the real thing as possible. It carries a single passenger, who fits inside lying down, propped up on elbows to navigate and observe (shark submarine diagram).
"This is akin to being the first human being in the space capsule in outer space," Cousteau said. "It's pretty similar. You have no idea what's going to happen; it's a prototype." (Read a National Geographic Adventure magazine interview with Cousteau.)
Cousteau used the submarine to make a documentary intended to demystify the notion that great white sharks are ruthless, mindless killers.
Great whites have been around for more than 400 million years. Anything that has survived that long isn't "stupid," he said.
The documentary, Shark: Mind of a Demona nod to the human misperception of the creaturesairs Wednesday on CBS TV in the U.S.
Cartoon to Reality
Cousteau calls the sub Troy, in reference to the mythical Trojan horse statue, in which Greek soldiers were spirited into the fortress kingdom of Troy.
The idea for the sub, though, came from a slightly more prosaic source.
Troy was inspired by Tintin, a Belgian comic book character. On the cover of the book Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge (published in English as Red Rackham's Treasure), Tintin and his dog are pictured in a metal, shark-shaped submarine.
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