"The sea is calm, the sky is clear", these are the words spoken in his honour at a ceremony celebrating his death. Who was Maurice Fargues?
Maurice was a friend of Jacques Cousteau who was second in command of a navy project which was experimenting with tanks of air and diving. Maurice was a young man of 34 with two kids, and had previously pulled out the now famous Cousteau, and his other boss out of the Fontaine de Voucluse when they got Nitrogen narcosis compounded by carbon monoxide! This was the forefront of human exploration, as captivating, or more to me than future moon landings!
Why does Maurices death still affect me? You have to go back in time to how a young boys mind works-and of course "working mind" is perhaps not the term which is most accurate in describing with male brain function.
My young mind and perhaps it is egotistical to speak only of my mind but mine was seriously affected by thoughts of adventure! People who are my age, and a little bit older where fundamentally affected by Jacques Cousteau, and another man called Marcel Ichac - this is even more true in France. Although French, Cousteau was all over the UK cinema, he made great little films, and had that modest intelligent demeanour that has largely disappeared from sportsmen's portfolio. Cousteau when he was a kid had teamed up with Marcel Ichac in Megeve, just a long stones throw from the mecca of World Alpinism! Synchronicity is a funny thing-isnt it? Marcel ended up the Alpinist chap who did a documentary about Annapurna, and of course Cousteau did the underwater stuff-the two other Poles of the Earth. My little life has been fundamentally damaged, or enhanced by all this propaganda. I guess without these two guys Ichac and Cousteau, and the caving book by the frenchman …. I would not be who I am.
Now back to Maurice Fargues. Maurice died on the end of a rope at 120meters depth, he had successfully signed his name on a slate, but then for obvious reasons (nitrogen narcosis) started his journey towards death. He died on normal air -air becomes toxic at -66 meters, or even before.
He died in an experiment to understand depth and air toxicity, in doing so he saved lives. He was a French Navy diver and there is a room some where named after him in a Naval school- better than the small polluted round about named after Lionel Terray in Chamonix! Ichac did a documentary about Lionel which I haven't seen BTW-hope it was good.
So now you know who Maurice Fargues was! Thanks Maurice for your service.
As a footnote I would like to mention Cousteaus brother Antoine who was nasty piece of work, and who wrote a paper during the war with very dubious content, he was anti semitic,
and defended collaboration even after the war, he spoke in favour of internment of Jews
that earned him the death penalty. This sentence was commuted to a long prison term. Cousteau kept a very long arms distance away from his sibling, and was of a profoundly different structure, but I would, I think be remiss in not mentioning this evil. Evil is there, it can even appear in our own sport, climbers are not immune from being dicks, or worse. Climbers being dragged into the Nazi propaganda machine is an easy example of it. Anyway here is me raising a glass to diving and climbing, sometimes the confusing thing about people is they can do something great with their left hand, but something awful with the right. It took me two broken legs to understand the ground was hard, other moral and political lessons seem to be getting confused in todays silly times.