Cousteau, the grandson of famed French explorer Jacques Cousteau, had been scheduled to speak all along at the Nov. 23 “Shipwrecks and Scuba” conference at Sawmill Creek in Huron. (For information, visit shipwrecksandscuba.com .)
But until recently, he’d planned to phone in from his Mission 31 project, a plan to stay underwater in an ocean floor habitat off the coast of Florida. He’d planned to begin on Nov. 12, reporting to attendees at the conference by using Skype.
The Aquarius habitat Cousteau planned to live in, which sits in about 60 feet of water, is owned by the U.S. government, however. Cousteau told the Sandusky Register in an interview this week the shutdown forced him to delay his experiment in underwater living.
“Anything we do in a government facility in government waters requires permitting,” he said.
The shutdown made it impossible to tell whether that could be done in time, so Mission 31 has been pushed back to early 2014.
“We are looking right now at early spring. I don’t have an exact date,” he said.
Cousteau, 46, has visited Cincinnati and Cleveland but will be making his first trip to Erie County. He grew up on the decks of his famous grandfather’s ships, the “Calypso” and “Alcyone.”
Cousteau isn’t the only attraction at the conference.
The other attractions include shipwreck explorer David Trotter. Organizers say that Trotter is the best known shipwreck hunter in the Great Lakes. He’s been finding wrecks for more than 35 years.
Conference organizers are pleased Cousteau will be able to appear in person, as he originally agreed to do, before launching Mission 31, said Ron Smith, an attorney who is one of the organizers.
Cousteau, an environmentalist, said he hopes to find out more about Lake Erie’s problems.
“If I have some time, I would love to sit down with local experts,” he said.
Cousteau said modern communications have changed the nature of exploring.
He said when he was a child, an explorer would say, “I’ll be back in three months. If I can find a phone booth in the nearest town, I’ll give you a call.
“Now, it’s very hard to be off grid.”