A leisurely paddle along the blueway near the campus Thursday afternoon underscored the friendship that the St. Petersburg prep school has formed with Pierre-Yves Cousteau, son of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.
The kayak trip – with Cousteau, Canterbury students, and science teachers – amid the mangroves that border the school's campus preceded a much more important ceremony that brought the 28-year-old conservationist from Paris to the
Canterbury’s marine studies building was rededicated officially as the Cousteau Marine Studies Center, in honor of the elder Cousteau's contributions and his youngest son's organization, Cousteau Divers, which is a non-profit dedicated to the education, preservation and observation of marine life on this planet.
The relationship is the first of its kind considering Cousteau Divers has never been represented in a school before. Aside from that, Cousteau Divers has yet to break ground on U.S. soil, making the Canterbury connection an even more significant link locally and globally.
Within the last 14 months,
With the newfound partnership, Cousteau Divers will be able to further the reach of its mission.The younger Cousteau sees young people as key to preserving the oceans
Cousteau said that future environmental risks can be adjusted to with the education of the next generation. He mentioned that the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere is unhealthy for both land and sea, as it ultimately dissolves into the ocean.
“Not only will it devastate the fisheries of certain organisms, but it will also completely imbalance the ecosystems,” Cousteau said.
This was just one challenge that Cousteau anticipates for future leaders.
Although most locals can vouch for the area being a prime location for marine research and exploration, one must wonder: How did Cousteau hear about Canterbury, all the way from Paris?
Dr. Peter Betzer, president of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, and Cousteau both were attending a conference in Spain in 2010. Betzer approached Cousteau and sparked his interest in St. Petersburg.
When Betzer returned to the U.S., he Skyped with Cousteau in regards to a visit to St. Petersburg. “We talked for about 40 minutes and by the end of it, he said ‘OK, I’m coming over,’” recalled Betzer.
Cousteau was in awe of the facility and its location. He said he was excited about the level of interest from the children at the school.
“I’m impressed by how much they know about marine life,” Cousteau said.
The combination of elements pushed Cousteau into his final decision to make Canterbury the home of the first Cousteau Divers School.
During Thursday’s activities, the students presented a video showcasing their concerns about marine life. Students observed that: “We need to tell people to not put garbage in the water,” and “If we keep polluting the ocean, there won’t be one when we get older.”
Cousteau then presented a video of his own. Footage from the Cousteau archives kept the children gasping and giggling.
“We’re going from this local level to an international platform,” said Sean Murphy, Assistant Director of Marine Studies at Canterbury. “That’s a pretty amazing experience.”
On Friday morning, ten Canterbury students will be diving with Cousteau in honor of the new partnership.
Check back with Patch for underwater footage of the dive!