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April 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 30, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Whatís to Become of Jacques Cousteauís Calypso?

from the April, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

It was the ship that launched a thousand childhood dreams. The Calpyso, with Captain Jacques Cousteau at the wheel, took generations of would-be explorers across the oceans to discover the marvels of the "silent world," as he called it. Now, nearly 20 years after it sank following a collision with a barge in Singapore one year before Cousteau's death, squabbles between the ocean explorer's family and a Brittany boatyard threaten to the ship for good.

In December, after a long legal battle, a French court gave Cousteau's second wife, Francine, a deadline of March 15 to remove the Calypso from its dry dock. She also had to settle a $405,000 bill for renovations or face having the 140-foot- vessel auctioned off. Pascal Piriou, head of the shipyard in FinistŤre, said that, after years of bitter disagreements with Francine Cousteau, he wanted to be rid of the Calypso and would seek a legal order allowing him to sell the historic ship. He told the French media, "I think we could find some rich people who might come up with the money. There's an enormous amount of work to be done (on it), but it's doable."

But as the March 15 deadline approached -- and passed -- Francine Cousteau appeared unperturbed by the threat. A statement from the family organization, Equipe Cousteau, , read: "Equipe Cousteau is serene and confident and will bring about a happy ending to this episode that will be announced as soon as possible."

Pascale Bladier-Chassaigne of the Sea and River Heritage Foundation told the Guardian newspaper in England that the Calypso was unique and, as it is possibly the best known boat in the world it should be saved. Unfortunately, because it was made from wood, it would be no good as a diveable wreck or an artificial reef.

But good news comes from Leslie Leaney, publisher of The Journal of Diving History, who was told by her sources that the Cousteau Society, the Calypso's owner, has been working on an agreement with Monaco since January. "They are very close to announcing plans to restore the Calypso and put it on display in Monaco as part of a larger exhibit based on the years of collaboration with Cousteau," she wrote in an e-mail. "Despite reports in the media, the ship will not be sold. The threats of seizure and sale by the shipyard were not carried out and based on the best information there was little to no chance of this result. There should be a formal announcement of the arrangement within a month. Both the Cousteau Society and Monaco have confirmed the negotiations. So there is hope."

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