It was, I don't know, more than thirty years ago when the Calypso moored in Monterey Bay on the California coast. I was a reporter and was accompanid by a photographer. We had the tools of our trades, notebook, pen, camera, film. What we lacked was a boat to get out to the Calypso.
Was Jacques Cousteau aboard? We had no idea. I cast about the marina, looking for a boat and willing captain. The owner of a trimaran said yes, he'd take us, if he could also board the Calypso. I said I had no idea if we would be allowed on, but if so, fine. As we discussed it, other people showed up, including a kid, maybe sixteen, who was the son of an important photographer. They asked if they could come along. Sure.
We headed out toward the Calypso. It was not unusual that a research vessel be on Monterey Bay. Dating from Ed Ricketts and Steinbeck's days and before, Monterey Bay has been considered a treasure to marine biologists. Gray whales migrate through every spring. Great white sharks wait outside its mouth to ambush seals and sea lions, sea otters populate its shores. If you pumped Monterey Bay dry, it would closely resemble the Grand Canyon, as large and as deep. Little wonder it's shores are rimmed by major research centers.
We were a varied and perhaps motley crew, but the Calypso sailors and researchers invited us on. Jacques Cousteau, and we celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth today, was not on board. He was at a conference somewhere, lobbying for decent treatment of the seas.
The kid, the son of the photographer, was the first to climb aboard, and was greeted by Cousteau's son, Philippe. If Jacques wasn't aboard, I was told by crew men and women, then Philippe would probably be, and he and his brother Jean-Michel were obviously expected to succeed their father in this calling.
The Calypso, in those days, and because of the amazing documentaries produced by the Cousteaus, was incredibly famous. Cousteau's popular TV series ``The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau'' had spawned undreds of marine biologists and millions of people who suddenly believed in conservation of the seas. If Cousteau was the leading man, Calypso was his co-star.
Philippe was effusive and helpful. I could talk about the hours aboard her, the conversations, the enthusiasim and hospitality of the crew, the sense of purpose, but instead I would like to mention one part of Calypso's anatomy.
On the deck at the front of Calypso (I'm not nautical), there was a hatch, and that led down a narrow chamber on tiny iron steps. A wide-shouldered man could not pass. Yet the chamber led to an underwater iron and glass bubble from where so much Calypso footage of the undersea world had been shot.
From there the photographer and I looked out in wonder. The photographer then looked up the chamber, and looking down at us, his head framed by the sun, he saw the young boy, the son of the important photographer. He snapped the photograph and it accompanied my article. The boy was laughing, having a good time. The photograph was wonderful.
A few months later the boy died in an auto accident. A few years after that Philippe Cousteau died in a seaplane crash. Calypso was hit by a barge in Singapore Harbor in 1996, and Jacques Cousteau died the following year.
Calypso was pulled from the waters and over the years this former Royal Navy minesweeper has undergone major restoration, when finances allowed. The plans were for it to be afloat again, today, in celebration of Cousteau's birth. I think not.
Maybe it will be ready in a year or two, and maybe the Gulf of Mexico will be saved, and maybe Calypso can cross the Gulf over clean and clear waters. That would be reason for celebration.
Causes Steve Hauk Supports
City of Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California; Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove; Animal Welfare Information and Assistance,...