Thursday, November 02, 2017

Fabien's journey of hope to Sipadan

KOTA KINABALU: IN his 1989 film, Borneo: The Ghost of the Sea Turtle, renowned explorer the late Jacques Cousteau immortalised Sipadan island as an “untouched piece of art”.

Now, 28 years later, his grandson Fabien Cousteau has made an emotional first voyage to the idyllic island and is pleasantly surprised to find that not much has changed.

“Usually, when I hear stories of how beautiful a place is, they tend to be exaggerated. But I can confirm that the stories about Sipadan are accurate.

“My grandfather once described it as an art canvas of the ocean, but I would rather call it a fireworks display of life — with its reefs and rich, colourful and diverse marine animals,” said Fabien, who arrived here on Oct 21.

Fabien has fond memories of his grandfather, having spent his early years aboard the explorer’s ships, Calypso and Alcyone.

The Cousteaus were connected by a mutual love of the ocean. On his fourth birthday, Fabien was already learning how to scuba dive.

At 50, Fabien has continued his grandfather’s legacy and is now a famed aquanaut, ocean conservationist and filmmaker in his own right, with many of his documentaries centring around the importance of the marine ecosystem.

In 2014, he and five other scientists spent 31 days underwater aboard the Aquarius, an undersea research laboratory off the coast of Florida in the United States, streaming most of the fascinating process online.

More than just a publicity stunt, the “Mission 31” expedition was intended to spread public awareness and gain valuable scientific data regarding the ocean.

Similarly, in retracing his grandfather’s footsteps, Fabien’s visit to Sipadan has a more meaningful purpose.

Fabien is an Ocean Witness, one of many individuals under the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Marine Protected Area Action Agenda initiative who provide a voice to marine life and the communities that depend on them.

He has joined forces with WWF, which is making a series of environmental films to be presented next month during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Fabien said climate change had deep implications on the health of the marine ecosystem, and pushing nations to do something about it would be a step forward.

And Sipadan, with its enduring beauty and rich biodiversity, is a perfect embodiment of that message for hope and change.

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