Albert Falco, who sailed alongside Jacques-Yves Cousteau for almost 40 years as the French underwater explorer’s principal diver and as captain of Cousteau’s ship, the Calypso, died April 21 at his home in Marseille, France. He was 84.
An entry on Mr. Falco’s French-language Facebook page said he had “a long illness” but did not specify the cause of death.
Mr. Falco, who learned to swim almost as soon as he could walk, was known as a master diver, mariner and ecologist long before he teamed with Cousteau in 1952. They joined forces that year when Cousteau was leading an underwater excavation of two ancient shipwrecks near Mr. Falco’s native Marseille.
“Cousteau needed me for my natural instinct,” Mr. Falco later said, according to London’s Telegraph newspaper. “There were things I knew about the sea that he did not.”
From then on, the two Frenchmen were constant companions on oceangoing voyages that took them around the world the equivalent of 12 times.
The angular, patrician-looking Cousteau became internationally celebrated as the public face of oceanography and marine conservation. But the stocky, unflappable Mr. Falco was the sunburned seafarer who efficiently kept Cousteau’s mission afloat.
“In many ways, he was an equal to Cousteau,” Paul Watson, founder and president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, said Saturday in an interview.
“He was Cousteau’s chief diver and captain of the Calypso. He was really the cornerstone of the whole Cousteau enterprise.”