A man from Ohio is trying to establish a historical marker at Pacific Fisherman Shipyard in Ballard to commemorate the birthplace of Jacques Cousteau’s famous ship, Calypso. The ship, originally named J-826, was built at what was then named the Ballard Marine Railway yard and launched in 1942.
Alan Bundy of Cleveland Heights, Ohio reached out to My Ballard with his interest in having a historic marker placed at the shipyard to recognize what he believes is “the most important ship in all of human history.”
Calypso was built as a BYMS-1 Class Motor Minesweeper, according to Doug Dixon, General Manager of the Pacific Fishermen Shipyard. Dixon tells us it was laid down on August 12, 1941 as BYMS-26 by the Ballard Marine Railway Co., and launched March 21, 1942; The construction was sponsored by Isobel Prentice, the daughter of the Ballard Marine Railways foreman, and was completed and transferred to Great Britain on August 22, 1942 as J-826.
The ship was then commissioned in the Royal Navy in February 1943, and was reclassified BYMS-2026 in 1944 before being decommissioned in 1946 and laid up at Malta. It was returned to the United States in 1947 after being taken out of the Royal Navy. The ship was then sold to Joseph Gasan, was converted to a car ferry and named Calypso.
In 1950 Calypso was sold to Jacques Cousteau, who refitted the 400-ton vessel as a state-of-the-art oceanographic research laboratory and film studio. Cousteau then published The Silent World, which was later made into an Oscar-winning documentary. Calypso was Cousteau’s roving headquarters for over 40 years.
Calypso was struck by a barge and sank in Singapore on January 8, 1996, where it sat on the bottom of the sea for over two weeks. It was then salvaged and towed to Marseille, France. Today, it sits on dry land in LaRochelle, France, awaiting restoration. According to the Cousteau Society, once she is restored, Calypso will “sail again as an Ambassador for the Seas and Oceans, as Captain Cousteau wished.”