Fate of Cousteau’s Calypso uncertain as it languishes

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The Calypso, Jacques Cousteau’s research vessel, has languished in a coastal French warehouse amid a dispute between the Cousteau Society and a shipbuilding company over its restoration, which some say is a sign of the country’s fading maritime heritage.

Cousteau logged more than 1 million nautical miles aboard the Calypso. Now she languishes outside a warehouse in Concarneau, a port town in Brittany, France, according to the New York Times.

From the mid-1950s through the 1980s, the Calypso and Cousteau raised awareness of the wonders and fragility of the world’s oceans through films and televised adventures. Cousteau was as much showman as a scientist, and he recognized that to get funding, scientific research had to have popular appeal. He refined underwater filming and created a wealth of documentation of life beneath the surface.

But he left little direction about what should become of the vessel that accompanied him after he died at age 87 in 1997. The decrepit ship is a symbol of how Cousteau has faded from collective memory and how, despite France’s rich sailing tradition, neither the government nor his heirs have found a solution for its restoration.

Although the nonprofit Cousteau Society set out to restore the ship after Cousteau’s death, the effort has been hampered by lawsuits and disputes. In 2014, the association designated the Calypso as part of the France’s maritime cultural heritage, but it has yet to be considered a national monument by the state, which would give it a chance to compete for preservation funding.