Calypso’s Renovation (FAQ)

Frequently Asked Questions about Calypso’s Renovation

 1- What were Captain Cousteau wishes for Calypso after her accident in Singapore?

Calypso was involved in a mooring accident and sank in the harbour of Singapore in 1996. Captain Cousteau decided then that the vessel must be saved and arranged to have her transported back to France.

Calypso, my companion for the most wonderful 45 years of my life, you who risked typhoons and hurricanes, you who were our passport, importunate as we were, to forbidden countries, and who revealed to newcomers oceans of life, fragile and exacting. For you, my nymph, partner forever of people of god will, we are going to do everything possible to bring you back to life.”

Jacques-Yves Cousteau, 1996.

Writing to the Cousteau Society, he said, “I want Calypso to remain at the service of science and education.”

Unfortunately, Captain Cousteau passed away in 1997.

2- Why it has taken so long to renovate her?

A long series of legal issues and other administrative delays kept any restoration work from beginning, and then stalled vessel’s renovation several times over the past 20 years. Moreover, in order to fund the renovation, the Cousteau Society had to go through long negotiations with possible sponsors. All of the details are explained online in a timeline highlighting the key steps.

Ms. Francine Cousteau really wanted to Calypso to be seaworthy and sail again, following the wishes expressed by Jacques Cousteau. That is why after finding a suitable solution, Mrs Francine Cousteau stated: “I am extremely happy to announce this great news, after a 20 year-long struggle against adversity and various mishaps. I am grateful to those who have helped us, and I invite all of those who share our joy today to join us.”

3- Is Calypso going to sail again?

Ms. Cousteau confirmed that Calypso will be fully renovated, and said that “When Calypso will return to the Mediterranean, she will be seaworthy and powered by her own two motors, as was Captain Cousteau’s wish.”

In addition to the historic hull and ship equipment, Calypso will be fitted with two Volvo Marine motors, which were bought in 2009.

4- By the end of the renovation process, will Calypso be the same as before?

According to the renovation program proposed in 2008, the restoration must follow several rules in order to keep the same infrastructures, materials and objects, and to be as faithful as possible to Cousteau’s original, iconic vessel. The only new additions will be modern navigation and safety tools, and of course the new Volvo engines. These improvements are indispensable to insure that Calypso fulfil the best safety and environmental requirements. Calypso also carries many emblematic pieces of expedition equipment that were all preserved, such as the famous yellow diving saucer Denise (diving saucer SP350). As part of Calypso’s rebirth, the Cousteau Society aims to restore all of the legendary ship’s equipment that allowed Captain Cousteau to accomplish his mission for the world’s oceans. The restoration will include the Captain’s technical inventions which left their mark on the history of underwater exploration.

5. Who is responsible for monitoring the renovation?

Captain Patrice Quesnel, a former America’s Cup sailor for Baron Bich and Captain of Cousteau’s ship Alcyone, has been mandated by Ms Francine Cousteau to coordinate the program.

Italian naval engineer, Dr Marco Cobau has been hired as a representative of the Cousteau Society on the shipyard that will repair Calypso. Captain Quesnel will assist him in this project. Mr. Cobau has an impressive international resume, overseeing the reconstruction or construction of prestigious ships. A Marine expert, a teacher and an entrepreneur, with extensive experience, he will be a tremendous support to the success of the renovation work.

6- Why were only the vessel’s infrastructures visible? Did you keep all the other key structural elements?

The first step of the renovation work entailed dismantling and removing all the superstructure. They completely emptied the inside, so now all that remains is the hull, frames and planks. All the disassembled parts of the ship are secured and stored by the Cousteau Society and will travel with Calypso to the new shipyard. Although only the skeleton of the ship is visible at this point, but all the rest has been preserved.

7- What are the different phases of the renovation?

According to Captain Quesnel, after spending several years in La Rochelle and being dismantled since her arrival in Concarneau, the boat was already not in very good condition in 2007. It is a wooden boat built in 1942, which means that Calypso is 74 years old! Another challenge resides in the very act of moving it: there is a technical challenge, since the boat is not very rigid because most of its solid parts were removed. It is estimated that the vessel and its cradle weighs two hundred tons, so we must count with the help of two powerful cranes.

Obviously currently the most important step is the release, taking the ship out of her hangar in Concarneau, Brittany, and transporting her safely to her new shipyard.

Here are the key steps of Calypso’s release from Concarneau:

-Preparation work

In order to plan the Calypso’s release, Mr. Quesnel had many important meetings. Among those, he met the Port Commander Mr. Christian ORVOEN to discuss the port’s technical conditions for the entry and exit of ships measuring over 100 meters like the cargo which will transport Calypso. He met also the Director of the shipyard to evaluate how to get the centipede (a 200 wheel machine that had already been used to bring the Calypso to Concarneau) as close as possible to the hangar to carry the ship over.

-Getting the ship over the centipede

In the beginning of March, the company Scales set up the centipede, which will allow the Calypso and its cradle to be hoisted and driven to the edge of the dock. The team also placed elements in order to weigh the Calypso and its cradle and determine the centre of gravity for its transfers by cranes on the ship. The total weight of the Calypso and her cradle is 111 tons.

-Getting the Calypso onto the Cargo Ship

According to Captain Quesnel, this sensitive operation is divided into 3 steps:

1st Step: Rolling

  • Calypso and its cradle (metal cradle for holding the shell) must first be lifted to a height of 1.10 m in order to place a 4 SPMT cart (specifications attached) beneath it and then set up the assembly on this mobile support. This brings the total weight to 112 tonnes and the overall dimensions to 47 X 6.5 meters.
  • We also had to set the center of gravity for the crane.
  • Once on the platform, about 400 meters farther we must do the same maneuver in reverse, this time leaving the cart on the dock.

2nd Step: Special cradle

  • We must improve the resistance of the hull in the cradle in case of intense movements during the transport.
  • Strengthening of the side stanchions, locking the keel in a longitudinal way.
  • Strengthening the cradle itself in some places.
  • Installing on the cradle of 4 attachment rings that will lift Calypso.
  • Placement of a protective tarpaulin.

3rd Step 3: Craning

This will be the most spectacular step.

  • The cargo ship responsible for transport, will reach the Moros dock. It measures
  • 115 meters long, which is the maximum length allowed in Concarneau harbor.
  • It is equipped with 2 gantries (large cranes) of 150 tonnes each. These will be equipped with 2 larger spacers to protect the Calypso’s hull.
  • Each crane is connected to the cradle by 2 rings.
  • This operation is extremely technical, because the length of the entire vessel with its cradle is larger than the space between the cranes (36m.). The process will therefore require very precisely coordinated action by both of the cranes.
  • Calypso will then be placed in the hold of the cargo where it will be secured for the crossing.

8. Where will Calypso’s refurbishing take place?

We considered several shipyards in the Mediterranean.

Finally, it is in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea (Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Montenegro, Lebanon…) that the traditional technology of wooden ship building can still be found.

Our choice went to an Istanbul-based specialist, who is associated with an American company.

Italian engineer Dr Marco Cobau will be on site to represent Equipe Cousteau with adviser Captain Patrice Quesnel during the full duration of the restoration.

Dr Cobau will be available next week for interviews with the press: he will be able to explain the technical aspects of the plan in more specific detail.

9. How long the renovation will take?

The Cousteau Society estimates that the necessary work will take approximately 2 years.

10. Once ready to sail again, what will be next for Calypso?

The refurbishment of the vessel creates a unique opportunity to preserve a part of history and maintain a world famous icon. Moreover, the refurbishing of Calypso will serve to display the Calypso story to new generations and allow this famous ship to continue to educate the public on the importance of protecting our precious natural resources. Calypso will remain the worldwide symbol of environmental protection and exploration. She will also be a platform for important events all over the world, such as the signature of important environmental protocols, etc.…

Calypso will anchor Cousteau unique history and present in the mind and memory of the new generations as well as promote Cousteau actions in such long-term issues as education, exploration and sustainable management of sea and coastal areas.

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