(CBS) Twenty-five years ago, famed oceanographer Jacques Costeau gathered up his family for a 22-month expedition of the Amazon.
Now, his son Jean-Michel, grandson Fabien and granddaughter Celine are carrying on the tradition in the two part episode "Return To The Amazon" of the PBS series "Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures," premiering April 2.
Fabien told The ShowBuzz that he and his sister were able to go on part of the original expedition "during school breaks," and now they've returned to the world's most powerful river to see how it's changed.
It's changed all right, and not necessarily for the better.
"We've managed to cut down 20 percent of the Amazon rain forest," said Fabien. "And that's within a quarter century. We're talking about a pace of about 1 percent a year. The problem isn't that we have about 80 percent left to go. The point is it's going to tip and we're going to start getting desertification where the forest is going to naturally start shrinking because we've already cut too much of it. If that goes, it becomes a desert. Not only are there going to be huge climate problems, but a majority of rainfall is going to be gone."
During the 10-month expedition for the new special, the Cousteaus and their team explored the 4,000-mile river and surrounding rainforest, both underwater and on land. The documentary includes stunning footage of areas so remote that, Fabien said, "99.9 percent of the world would never get to see it."
"Although the program exposes the toll illegal logging, expansive soy farming, trafficking of animals, and rampant deforestation has taken on the environment and its people, it does introduce signs of hope and offer solutions. They investigate techniques that native people have used to sustain the land, as well as new business models like ecotourism, marketing of rainforest products, development of new medicines from indigenous plants, and fish farming.
Above all, "Beyond The Amazon" is an adventure story, telling the tale of a group of passionate scientists and explorers traveling through one of the Earth's great natural wonders.
Fabien said his thirst for adventure has always been in his blood.
"It's something that is instilled in me from two generations ago," he said. "It's something that I was taught, and that curiosity is the drive. Every day is a new discovery. Whether the experience is a sad one or a happy one, it's always a good one. With knowledge comes the power to be able to hopefully empower and impassion others into caring about our planet."
See more photos and video at PBS.org.
by Judy Rosen
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