Appeal to Chirac to save Cousteau ship

7th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

BORDEAUX, France, May 6 (AFP) - A French underwater association has sent an open letter to President Jacques Chirac urging him to save legendary French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau's ship Calypso, languishing in a French port.

BORDEAUX, France, May 6 (AFP) - A French underwater association has sent an open letter to President Jacques Chirac urging him to save legendary French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau's ship Calypso, languishing in a French port.

The French Federation for Underwater Studies and Sports (FFESSM) said Thursday it hoped to raise funds to save the boat and called on Chirac to salvage the Calypso as part of France's "cultural and historical heritage".

Since June 1998, the US-built minesweeper has been the centrepiece of the maritime museum in the western French port of La Rochelle, allowing visitors to discover the ship used by Cousteau for his ocean adventures for more than four decades.

But the Calypso has fallen into disrepair after years of neglect sparked by a long-standing dispute between the Cousteau Society and the ship's owners over how and where it should be refurbished.

In 1950, Cousteau acquired the 139-foot (42-meter) ship, used by the British in the Mediterranean during World War II and later retired, with financial help from wealthy British MP Loel Guinness.

Cousteau transformed the ship into an exploration vessel, mapping out cabins for 27 crew members, installing a laboratory and new navigation instruments and an underwater observation chamber with eight portholes.

Loel Guinness - grandson and namesake of the MP who first helped the French explorer, and heir to the Guinness family's vast banking and brewing fortune - owns the boat.

But the Cousteau Society, run by the navigator's second wife Francine, holds the rights to exploit its image.

Cousteau died in June 1997 at age 87.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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