Cousteau vessel to be restored

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The Calypso sank in 1996 and has been in disrepair since

Calypso, the expedition vessel used by Jacques Yves Cousteau, will receive a $1.3 million makeover to become a living museum and tribute to the ocean explorer’s work in marine research and environmental protection.

The Cousteau Society announced that the vessel, 139 feet LOA, which has been in disrepair since it sank in 1996, would be restored at a shipyard on Grand Bahama Island. The work is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

“I’m so pleased at this outcome, as I know Capt. Cousteau would have been,” says Francine Cousteau, widow of Jacques Cousteau and president of the Cousteau Society.

Cousteau, who was 87 when he died in 1997, also was a photographer, inventor, scuba pioneer, writer, television producer and filmmaker. He took Calypso on worldwide expeditions made famous in television documentaries starting in the 1950s. With his trademark red wool cap, Cousteau became a household name through his show, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.”

The restoration will be funded by U.S. cruise line Carnival Corp. Giora Israel, Carnival vice president of strategic planning, says it is a unique opportunity to preserve a part of history and maintain a world-famous icon for marine research and environmental preservation.

“The company views its funding of the Calypso’s restoration as a tribute to the Cousteau organization, whose contributions to marine science and education are immeasurable,” says Israel in a statement. “As the world’s largest cruise operator, Carnival Corporation’s success relies on the health of the world’s oceans, and the restoration of the Calypso will serve to expose new generations to the Calypso story, and allow this famous ship to continue to educate the public on the importance of protecting our precious natural resources.”

Calypso was a former Royal Navy minesweeper that Cousteau purchased in 1951 with funding from Loël Guinness, a member of the Irish brewing family. Cousteau once said his ship had “acquired a buoyant personality that has never left her.”

In 1996 Calypso was hit by a barge and sank in Singapore harbor. It took salvage workers 17 days to raise the vessel. Cousteau wanted Calypso to remain at the service of science and education, and began a campaign to find her a permanent berth. The city of La Rochelle, France, offered to secure Calypso’s future, but plans to refurbish the vessel weren’t realized. Cousteau died the following year, and the vessel sat dormant.

Loël Guinness, the legal owner of Calypso and grandson of the man who originally funded her purchase, in December sold the vessel to the Cousteau Society for the symbolic sum of a single Euro. He says he is happy Calypso will remain an icon for science and education.

She will retain her French flag and will continue as a symbol of the work of Capt. Cousteau and the Cousteau Society. Calypso’s new home port is to be announced at a later date. The society also plans to produce a book and a new movie about Calypso, perhaps the most regarded exploration vessel of her time.

News of the restoration is part of a successful year for the Cousteau Society. The organization’s achievements include completion of a Red Sea expedition 50 years after Cousteau’s first exploration of the region, which resulted in the award-winning films “Silent World” and “World Without Sun,” a worldwide exhibition including a feature film, and the establishment of the first Cousteau chairs in the United States, at the University of Rhode Island and Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Funded by UNESCO, the Cousteau chairs operate on five continents and train students to manage sustainable development and long-term risks. Also, the society has signed a partnership agreement with Foundation Albert I to develop new programs for the public as well as for universities.