Celebrity Diver Featuring Frédéric Dumas (1913–1991): Spearfisher and Wreck Diver

Every Thursday, we'll run a feature on the greatest divers in history and we'll start with Frédéric Dumas.

Frédéric Dumas was a pioneer of underwater fishing on the French Riviera. He was part of a team of 3, with Philippe Tailliez and Jacques-Yves Cousteau, where he was nicknamed “Didi”. With the help of engineer Émile Gagnan and a deep passion for diving, they developed the diving regulator. Dumas participated with Cousteau in discovering the underwater world and bringing it to the general public’s attention. Dumas’s exploits served as a subject and actor in the first and second Cousteau films, “Par dix-huit mètres de fond” in 1942 and “Epaves” in 1943, which features the Cousteau-Gagnan aqua-lung.

Dumas was a dive leader aboard the RV Calypso and an author. In 1953, he co-authored the book “The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure” with Cousteau. Three years later, he was one of the principal architects of the ground-breaking film “The Silent World”, which made him famous through his ballet with the grouper, Jojo.

From 1945 to 1965, Dumas was a civilian collaborator in the Groupement de Recherches Sous-marines (fr) of the French Navy or GERS, which was set up by Cousteau and Taillez. In 1946, he and Cousteau dove into the mysterious spring in the village of Vaucluse, called Fountain of Vaucluse, hoping to discover the secret of its yearly flooding. During the dive, they became affected by carbon monoxide in their air cylinders, but Maurice Fargues, the surface commander of the operation, saved their lives by pulling them back up to the surface.

Dumas was also a major player in rescuing the FNRS II bathyscaphe of Professor Jacques Piccard during the 1949 expedition in Dakar. Thanks to this effort, the French Navy was able to use the bathyscaphe’s sphere in making the FNRS III.

He was a founding member of the Sea Research Society and served on the Society's Board of Advisors. In 1972 Dumas participated in the creation of the research/professional degree of Doctor of Marine Histories. After he retired from GERS, he devoted himself to undersea archaeology and became chairperson of the archaeology committee of the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques and the Fédération Française d'Études et de Sports Sous-Marins. He died on July 26, 1991 in Toulon at 78 years old.

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