Captain Cousteau took Calypso to the 13, 677 islands scattered over more than 5,000 kilometers that comprise the Indonesian archipelago several times (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991). More than 100 active volcanoes made living hard for 188 million Indonesians but they, paradoxically, also provided fertile land yielding three rice harvests a year.
The Cousteau team climbed rumbling volcanoes, talked with convicts who extract sulphur from the earth and visited villages devastated by eruptions. Off Sumatra, they met one of the last hunter-gatherer peoples of the world, the Mentawi of Siberut Island. They shared the daily life of these people whose teeth were filed to a point, experiencing the Neolithic life of our ancestors of 10,000 years ago.
Indonesia may be just one country but what a country! Sumatra, Java, half of Borneo and Papua New Guinea. During the expedition, the team felt that they were visiting 20 countries, so different were the cultures. This diversity existed in the sulphuric waters of the ocean, too. Colonies of sponges grew in the most bizarre shapes. Some individual sponges were so big that a diver could hide in them. The rare spectacle of sponges spawning was shared with millions of television viewers.