The research vessel Calypso of Captain Cousteau arriving in Montreal on 30 August 1980.
|Class and type:||
|Builder:||Ballard Marine Railway Company, Seattle, Washington, USA|
|Laid down:||12 August 1941|
|Launched:||21 March 1942|
|Renamed:||Calypso G (1949)|
|Operator:||Compagnie Océanographique Française, Nice|
|Refit:||For Cousteau (1951)|
|Fate:||Sunk and raised (1996)|
|Status:||Being refurbished under the direction of the Cousteau Society|
|General characteristics |
|Length:||139 ft (42 m) (43 meters according to another source)|
|Beam:||25 ft (7.6 m)|
|Draft:||10 ft (3.0 m)|
|Installed power:||2 × 580 hp (430 kW) 8-cylinder General Motors diesel engines|
|Speed:||10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)|
|Crew:||27 in Captain's Quarters, Six Staterooms & Crew Quarters|
RV Calypso is a former British Royal Navy minesweeper converted into a research vessel for the oceanographic researcher Jacques-Yves Cousteau, equipped with a mobile laboratory for underwater field research. It was severely damaged in 1996, and was supposed to undergo a complete refurbishment in 2009-2011. The ship is named after the Greek mythological figure Calypso.
World War II British minesweeper (1941–1947)
Calypso was originally a wooden-hulled minesweeper built by the Ballard Marine Railway Company of Seattle, Washington, USA for the United States Navy for loan to the British Royal Navy under lend-lease. She was built of Oregon pine.
She was a BYMS (British Yard Minesweeper) Mark 1 Class Motor Minesweeper, laid down on 12 August 1941 with yard designation BYMS-26 and launched on 21 March 1942. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy in February 1943 as HMS J-826 and assigned to active service in the Mediterranean Sea, based in Malta, and was reclassified as BYMS-2026 in 1944. Following the end of World War II, she was decommissioned in July 1946 and laid up at Malta. On 1 August 1947 she was formally handed back to the US Navy and then struck from the US Naval Register, remaining in lay-up.
Maltese ferry (1949–1950)
In May 1949 she was purchased by Joseph Gasan of Malta, who had secured the mail contract on the ferry route between Marfa, in the north of Malta, and Mġarr, Gozo in 1947. She was converted to a ferry and renamed Calypso G after the nymph Calypso, whose island of Ogygia was mythically associated with Gozo, entering service in March 1950. After only four months on the route, Gasan received an attractive offer and sold her.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau's Calypso (1950–1997)
The Irish millionaire and former MP, Thomas Loel Guinness bought Calypso in July 1950 and leased her to Cousteau for a symbolic one franc a year. He had two conditions, that Cousteau never ask him for money and that he never reveal his identity, which only came out after Cousteau's death. Cousteau restructured and transformed the ship into an expedition vessel and support base for diving, filming and oceanographic research.
Calypso carried advanced equipment, including one- and two-man mini submarines developed by Cousteau, diving saucers, and underwater scooters. The ship was also fitted with a see-through "nose" and an observation chamber three metres below the waterline, and was modified to house scientific equipment and a helicopter pad. The Calypso underwater camera is named after this ship.
See-through bulbous bow of Calypso
On 8 January 1996, a barge accidentally rammed Calypso and sank her in the port of Singapore. On 16 January, she was raised by a 230-foot crane, patched, and pumped dry before being put in shipyard.
The next year, Jacques-Yves Cousteau died on 25 June 1997.
Calypso was later towed to Marseille, France, where she lay neglected for two years. Thereafter she was towed to the basin of the Maritime Museum of La Rochelle in 1998, where she was intended to be an exhibit.
A long series of legal and other delays kept any restoration work from beginning. Francine Cousteau, the widow of Jacques Cousteau, managed to organize the ship's restoration. A dispute arose between Francine Cousteau and Loel Guinness, grandson of the original owner.
When this dispute was discovered by the sponsoring Mayor of La Rochelle, it added to the air of uncertainty and hesitancy over funding the restoration. When the mayor subsequently died, the city of La Rochelle withdrew as a source of funding for the restoration. Calypso remained in disrepair.
In 2002, Alexandra, Cousteau's granddaughter from his first marriage, stepped in to help organize restoration. The Cousteau Society, controlled by Francine Cousteau, reportedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend Francine's exclusive use of the name, and to prevent Alexandra's participation in the restoration of Calypso.
In July 2003, Patrick Schnepp, director of the La Rochelle maritime museum, expressed his frustration at the inability to restore the ship to fit condition: "The whole affair disgusts me... Everything that's not broken is rotten, and everything that's not rotten is broken." The Guardian reported that he desired to see the ship towed off the Île de Ré and scuttled, as Jacques-Yves Cousteau had envisioned would have been the ship's original fate had he not been granted its use.
On 30 November 2004 it was erroneously reported Calypso had been sold by Loel Guinness, to Carnival Cruise Lines. Carnival stated they intended to give the vessel a 1.3 million dollar (1 million euro) restoration, and then likely moor her in the Bahamas as a museum ship.
In late 2006, Loel Guinness transferred ownership of "Calypso" to the Cousteau Society for the symbolic sum of one Euro. The transfer was part of a plan of restoration led by Francine Cousteau. A legal battle regarding ownership of the vessel ensued which was resolved in favor of the Cousteau Society in October 2007. The restoration project then resumed.
On 4 October 2008, Swiss watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen produced a new luxury chronograph, sold to raise proceeds for the restoration of Calypso.
Restoration work on the Calypso stopped in February 2009, ironically after the delivery of the Calypso's new engines built by Volvo, because of the non-payment of bills by Francine Cousteau. Piriou sued, claiming to be owed over €850 000, of the estimated total €1 737 000, for work already done on the ship. The ship was stored in one of the ship builder's hangars.
The Cousteau Society filed a counter-suit for defective work. As of March 2009 the Cousteau Society reported that Francine Cousteau was directing the restoration of Calypso as an "ambassador for the seas and oceans". The restoration was to be a complete refurbishment making Calypso a self-powered mobile "ambassador".
In June 2010 the BBC reported that the Calypso was to be relaunched to mark the centenary of Jacques Cousteau's birth. However, this 2010 centenary passed without progress.
In September 2013, a petition was launched on change.org that requested that the ship be saved and be added to the French patrimoine national (national heritage). Within three weeks the petition collected 6000 signatures. The Cousteau Society had made a similar request of the French government in 2010. As of October 2013 the Piriou shipyard stated that they expected a resolution from the tribunal de commerce (business court) in Quimper within a few weeks, setting the stage for the restoration of the ship by Piriou or another shipyard.
The Calypso in popular culture
- Calypso was featured in The Silent World, the 1956 film awarded the Academy Award for Documentary Feature, and the 1956 Palme d'Or.
- The ship was also featured in the 1964 film World Without Sun (Le Monde sans Soleil), which also won the Academy Award for Documentary Feature.
- John Denver wrote a 1975 hit song "Calypso" as a tribute to Calypso and her crew.
- Jean Michel Jarre wrote a four-part composition in tribute to the ship, called Waiting for Cousteau (1990).
- GWAR wrote a song entitled "Je M'Appelle J. Cousteau", which was featured on their album Hell-O, originally released in 1988. It is not entirely clear whether this song is in tribute or slander, but the song is entirely about Jacques Cousteau and his ship the Calypso.
- The Captain's yacht of the USS Enterprise-D, on Star Trek: The Next Generation, was named Calypso by actor Patrick Stewart. He also gave the name Cousteau to the Captain's yacht of the USS Enterprise-E in homage to the Calypso's famous former Captain.
- Bill Murray starred in a film homage of Jacques Cousteau's life called The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. In the movie, Zissou travels the seas in a ship called the Belafonte. This is an oblique reference to Jacques Cousteau's ship Calypso. Harry Belafonte is a noted musician who played calypso music on an album called Calypso. While in the film, the Belafonte is described as a "long-range sub-hunter", like the Calypso she was also a former British minesweeper, the Ton-class HMS Packington.
- Alcyone for Cousteau's experimental turbosail ship.
- HMS Calypso for the Royal Navy ships of the same name.
- SP-350 Denise first diving saucer
- "Sea Sabres: The Calypso: The stories she could tell!". 23 July 2003.
- "Une pétition pour "sauver" la Calypso du commandant Cousteau". Le Point. 2013-10-07.
- Henley, Jon (28 July 2003). "Cousteau family row may sink his ark; Watery grave awaits famous vessel in dispute over its future". The Guardian.
- Somner, Graeme (1982). Ferry Malta. Kendal: World Ship Society. pp. 11–12,31. ISBN 0-905617-19-3.
- "Cousteau's Calypso rescued in Singapore". CNN Newsbriefs. 25 January 1996.
- Flowers, Charles (4 March 2003). "The Cousteau Wars". CDNN.
- "Cousteau's expedition ship Calypso sold for one euro". CDNN. 30 November 2004.
- "La Calypso a quitté La Rochelle jeudi matin pour être restaurée à Concarneau". Le Monde. 11 October 2007.[dead link]
- "IWC Involved in Protecting The World’s Oceans; Aquatimer Chronograph ’Cousteau Divers’ watch supports conservation efforts". Middle East Business News. 4 October 2008.[dead link]
- "La Calypso de Cousteau dans une mauvaise passe". Ouest France. 2 February 2010.
- "Calypso Saved!". Cousteau Society. 2009. Archived from the original on April 2, 2009.
- "New Calypso's engines delivered to Francine Cousteau!". Cousteau Society. 16 February 2009. Archived from the original on April 22, 2009.
- "Jacques Cousteau's ship Calypso is to be re-launched". BBC News. 8 June 2010.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Calypso (ship, 1943).|
- Calypso page from the Cousteau Society.
- WWII Construction Records Yard Minesweepers (YMS)[dead link]
- Miquel Pontes - "El Calypso: Historia de un mito" in Aquanet 67, 2005  (.PDF file)
- Chantiers Piriou, restoration of the Calypso
- Passion Calypso, including history and photos of the ship's restoration (in French)