Reliving a Classic National Geographic Article 60 Years Later

(Photo by Luis Marden)

“I like fish” said National Geographic photographer and writer, Luis Marden, after his close encounters of the fishy kind here in the Seychelles when he was the underwater photographer—specializing in color—on Jacques Cousteau’s legendary dive team. This is also the place where Luis realized that fish liked him too.

In his article for the February, 1956 issue of National Geographic magazine, Luis describes how he would leap backwards with surprise when grouper, with heads bigger than his own, would suddenly appear right in front of his mask and then accompany him for the whole dive, staring at him closely with huge eyes in “uncomprehending fascination.” Much to the amusement of the Cousteau divers, Luis had a lot of trouble photographing the grouper as they were always too close—they just would keep coming closer until they bumped into his camera lens.

A page from the February, 1956 National Geographic magazine shows divers crossing the equator for the first time by swimming below a trail of yellow-green dye traced out by their boat on the surface. (Photo by Luis Marden/National Geographic)

Grouper are known widely for their curiosity and attention to divers and swimmers, and NG Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle has said that a grouper has as much personality as a dog.

As I prepared to dive in the very same waters as Luis at Assumption Island on our current Pristine Seas expedition to document the diverse and abundant marine life in these nearly untouched waters, I hoped for similar experiences. Would these charismatic creatures be that interested in us?

Sure enough, to my delight they were.

Nearly 60 years after Luis Marden and the Cousteau team were here, the groupers are as big and curious as ever. (Photo by Joe Leopore)

Descending through the water, just at that point where the reef features become clear, —> Read More