It’s been 20 years since the incident that made Calypso sink, the ship used by Jacques Cousteau and his team for research and oceanographic exploration, in the port of Singapore. Calypso’s history is long, but let’s begin from the end: after years of abandonment and legal disputes, the Calypso is ready to regain the sea in upcoming spring. This is a great news for all the sea lovers.
Built in american pine wood by the Ballard Marine shipyards of Seattle for the British Navy, the ship was launched in 1942 and assigned to active services in the Mediterranian Sea. It operated for a few years before being removed from the military service and then began to be used as ferry between Malta and the Island of Gozo. In this occasion it was rebaptized Calypso, in honor of the nymph that detained Ulissys for seven years in his residence which for several time was situated in a cave on the Island of Gozo. Jacques Cousteau met it for the first time in Malta, when the ship was disposed, a rich irish bought and rented it for the symbolic value of 1 french franc per year, to permit him to use it for the bases of his own immersions, researches and documenter activities.
Cousteau brought it to Antibes, where it was equipped for all the necessary for the oceanographic research: a small platform to permit the landing to helicopters, a small submarine and a room for subaqueous observations situated at bow under the floating line. It was on board of Calypso when Cousteau realized the videos which worthed him the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Oscar in 1956, thanks to the documentary “The world in Silence” one of the first reports with coloured images of the underwater world.
Cousteau and his team travelled aboard Calypso for 40 years, dipping, recording, experiencing, giving life to many new technologies for immersions, submarine shootings, the marine enviroment safeguard and generating a major awarness about the fragility of the oceans in the pubblic opinion. During a trip in January 1996, while Calypso was sailing out of Singapores port, the ship clashed with a barge in movement and the was nothing to do with the wooden hull: a leak opened and the ship sinked very steeply.
Calypso’s story after the shipwreck becomes less romantic and definitely less instructive. Formally the owner was still Guinness, the rich irish, but fortunately his heirs continued the opera and gave Calypso to the Cousteau foundation again for the same symbolic value of: 1 french franc. The expense for transport and refurbishment tho, couldn’t be avoided. Docked to La Rochelle, Calypso had to wait still for a long time to be reset: Cousteau’s son and second wife had to battle in court untill 2007, and when the widow won the cause she married Calypso at Concareneau (Britain), where the works were blocked for many years through legal disagreements with the shipyard.
Finally Cousteau foundation has put aside the causes in court and has found financiers to complete the restoration and to put Calypso back in water within the next three months. Target: “make it navigate again so to become the ambassador of the oceans like Cousteau desired”.