Sunday, December 05, 2004


Jean-Michel Cousteau sabotages plan to save Calypso



BORDEAUX, France (30 Nov 2004) -- A plan to save the famous ship of Captain Cousteau, the Calypso, from rusting away was on the rocks on Friday, due to a potentially intractable quarrel in the late explorer's family.

Calypso, a converted US minesweeper, has been rusting for the last six years in La Rochelle harbour on France's Atlantic coast whither it was towed after sinking in Singapore harbour in 1996.

Hopes it would have a new lease of life were boosted recently, when US company Carnival Corporation agreed to buy it and gave it a new USD 1.3 million (EUR 1 million) overhaul by turning it into a museum.

Then, when owner Loel Guinness, of the famous Irish brewing family, agreed to sell the ship to the Cousteau family, for a symbolic one euro, the ship seemed home and dry.

But now a long-standing family feud has reared its head again, which a lawyer for Guinness said could scupper the rescue attempt.

If they "want to drag it out, it could last two years, and by then the ship will have sunk," Fabrice Goguel, the lawyer, told reporters.

The problem has arisen because an association - COF - set up by Cousteau and involving the son from his first marriage, Jean-Michel, is refusing to hand over the document needed to tow the ship from France.

This has been seen as an apparent attempt by Jean-Michel to scupper the rescue plans of his mother in law, Cousteau's widow Francine, with whom he does not get on.

Cousteau, who died in 1997 aged 87, was an undersea explorer, photographer, inventor of diving devices, scuba pioneer, writer, television producer and filmmaker.

Cousteau, with his trademark red wool cap, became a household name through his television series "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau."

Previous attempts to refurbish his famous boat have been frustrated by differences between the Cousteau Society, an association chaired by the widow Francine, and Guinness, whose grandfather bought the boat in Malta in 1950 and put it at Cousteau's disposal.


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