Jacques Cousteau and the Assassin

Whenever we deploy our inflatable Rossfelder barge, it’s amazing to think that Jacques Cousteau’s son, Phillipe, used to go bombing around the South Pacific with it tucked away in Cousteau’s seaplane, the Flying Calypso. When I watch our field techs using one of Andre Rossfelder’s vibracore units, I think about some of the James Bond-like stories Andre told me about his youth, including his attempts to assassinate Charles De Gaulle.

Andre was a fascinating man. If you have a few minutes, read on and watch the video below.

-Ken Hayes

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August 15th 1964, Provence, France – French President Charles de Gaulle takes the stage and begins his opening remarks in commemoration of the Allied landings in Provence. Several feet away, concealed in an urn, are 30 kilos of plastic explosive, a radio-detonation device and another 3 kilos of TNT for good measure. It’s Andre Rossfelder’s latest creation.

With the previous month’s attempt having gone sour (an OAS agent failed to carry out his reconnaissance mission), one can only imagine what was going through Andre’s head at that moment.

Maybe it seemed like the perfect plan. A rare instant when the culmination of one’s life events came together in a manner that held meaning and for once felt fair and just.

Andre’s device was about to deliver the death blow to the man who had betrayed his homeland. Two students hidden within the crowd would activate the radio device, detonating the bomb and forever altering world history.

And then. Nothing.

One man orating to a quiet crowd. Perhaps the sound of birds.

No explosion.

De Gaulle had just survived his 29th assassination attempt and his second by Andre.

What had happened? Was the bomb a victim to a simple mechanical failure or did de Gaulle know? Was there a mole within Andre’s organization and, if so, how much did they know? Were Andre and his conspirators now in mortal danger?

Andre would make one more attempt on de Gaulle the following year, this time with two radio-controlled bombs. Unfortunately for Andre, a police informer had ratted him out. Two of his associates were arrested, but they never caught Andre.

In 1966, Andre Rossfelder was tried in absentia and sentenced to death for his role in the third assassination attempt.

Already an exile of his homeland of Algeria, Andre was now a criminal in the two countries he loved most and, from his perspective, had fought tirelessly for, for many years.

Andre resurfaced in Rome, a frequent safe-haven for OAS operatives, and took a job with the United Nations. Within the year, Andre immigrated to the United States where he took a job at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography focusing on marine geology and ocean technology.

In 1968, De Gaulle, a man known for bravado and who had weathered 31 assassination attempts by this point, pardoned Andre.

Andre went on to have many globe-trotting adventures with his old war-time buddy, Jacques Cousteau. He invented a specialized inflatable pontoon barge to be deployed by Cousteau’s seaplane, the Flying Calypso. The Rossfelder, as it came to be known, was used by Andre and the Cousteau family for mineral exploration among remote tropical islands.

Andre also became an award-winning author. Writing eleven books, topics ranged from his own personal history to a book on the 16th century explorer, Ferdinand Magellan. Magellan, an innovator in his own time for his contributions to the art of seafaring navigation, was one of Andre’s heroes.

Andre also developed the electro-vibracore, a dependable solution for sediment vibracoring. Aqua Survey owns and operates many Rossfelder vibracore units to this day. Aqua Survey also owns the original Rossfelder barge used by Andre and Cousteau all those years ago. The Rossfelder has been a proven workhorse for us over the years, allowing us to collect sediment samples in extremely remote areas, including the time a client needed us to vibracore in a remote pond located deep within Daniel Boone National Forest in Winchester, KY.

Andre’s complex and storied past leaves one feeling conflicted. On the one hand, he was a man who lived life on his own terms and with steadfast conviction. On the other, his associations with the OAS and Radio Algeria left him with a controversial past. Amazingly, the very man he tried to kill multiple times pardoned him only few years later.

Andre was also an innovator, providing important tools that facilitated the modern environmental industry into becoming what it is today.

Andre lived through a troubled time in history with no clear heroes. What is clear is that he lived a life of conviction and innovation.

Aqua Survey greatly appreciates Andre’s contributions to the fields of marine exploration and sediment sampling.

We continue to make use of his dependable tools to this day.