Son celebrates dolphin-diver's legacy of connecting man, oceans
Son of the director of 'The Big Blue' aims to turn his father's home in the Mediterranean into a museum.
Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 07:51 AM
LEGACY: Jean-Jacques Mayol, son of the late Jacques Mayol, the French diver who inspired the film "The Big Blue", looks at the sea. (Photo: Fabio Muzzi/AFP)
CAPOLIVERI, Italy — The son of Jacques Mayol, the French diver who inspired the cult film "The Big Blue," has turned his father's Mediterranean island house into a celebration of his ecological vision and passion for nature.
Jean-Jacques Mayol has transformed Villa Glaucos, which is perched at the top of a cliff on Elba Island off the coast of Tuscany, into a retreat for free-diving courses aimed at yoga lovers who hope to swim with wild dolphins.
"The whole world knew Jacques as a great diving champion, but he dedicated his life to the relationship between man and nature," said Jean-Jacques, who runs the Team Mayol courses from the "dream house" his father built.
"In his relationship with the dolphin world he was searching for similarities between humans and aquatic animals," said the Swedish-American, who follows his father in using meditation and yoga to improve his free-diving.
Jacques' passion for the sea, captured in "The Big Blue," led him to explore theories on man's ties with dolphins and whether humans may have a dormant aquatic organ — ideas he developed in his 1979 book, "The Dolphin Within Man."
Tests carried out during one of his most famous dives in 1976, when he broke through the 100-meter barrier, showed that his heart beat had decreased from 60 to 27 beats per minute, a phenomenon usually seen in whales, seals and dolphins.
The research showed that "man's physiology changes when he goes into the deep. Jacques was convinced that while dolphins remembered their common origins with man, man has forgotten them," Jean-Jacques said.
The 56-year-old came to Italy from Florida to pay homage to a father whose battle to promote environmentalism preceded contemporary understanding of the issues of climate change, and "to continue his work and spread his philosophy."
"When you see how man and his greed destroy nature ... Jacques tried to inspire, he didn't want to preach. He was like a dolphin: if you can be inspired by dolphins, it's possible to create a better world," he said.
"Man must consider everything to live in harmony," he added.
Tanned, smiling and energetic, Jean-Jacques said he plans to convert the villa into "a so-called museum," which would house "photos of Jacques, personal objects and videos" so that "we can show the public the man behind the diver."
"We have received a lot of requests from the fan community over the last 10 years and we want to revive Jacques' work. Sadly, much of the focus has been on his death, and his philosophy has been for the most part forgotten," he said.
Jacques Mayol committed suicide in the villa on Dec. 22, 2001, and his ashes were scattered along the Tuscan coast.
Humans "have lost touch with nature. He knew how to find it again through his dives. We too have to rediscover the planet," Jean-Jacques said.
Looking wistfully out across the vast expanse of sea from the house's large terra cotta terrace, he said: "each of us has Jacques' philosophy somewhere hidden deep down inside us, we just have to listen to it."
Copyright 2012 AFP Global Edition