Saturday, June 16, 2012

BYMS - 26

I was listening to a John Denver CD I got out of the $5 bin. Fantastic concert as it turns out. And he had ended with a song I don’t think I have heard since Dan and I raised a glass on June 25th 1997. And it made me think. For me it conjures an image of greatness, discovery, adventure, science, boldly challenging the unknown. I hope you can guess at the song… at least those of you in my age group or older. I suppose if the younger people can’t then the fault belongs to those of us who know.

But there is something sad and poetic in the fate of BYMS -26. Borne as a tool of war and when it was no longer needed for this purpose, renamed and relegated to the mundane task of bus duty. But then she was bought and “leased” to a French officer who had just left his exceptional navel career to found an oceanographic research society. For 46 years, this wooden hulled ship was at the forefront of oceanic study. Then an accident sunk her. She was raised. Her captain died. And in the decade that followed (give or take) she was left to rot while people fought over who got to claim of the notoriety of this ship. Even now, she lies in a state unfit for the oceans that she swept for mines and trolled for the hidden secretes in defiance of her namesake.

To me this morning, she is a symbol of the state of this world. This was a noble ship, built to defend lives, evolved into an icon of the search for knowledge and a vehicle to teach millions. Her life wasn’t about money. It was about doing. And yet her fate may have been sealed over the value of her name. Better I think if she was left in the sea to be a museum for divers.

Now I believe the Cousteau society has control of Calypso again having bought her from the decedent of MP Thomas Guinness for the same pound that was paid for her lease. But, I am sad, to me it is just more evidence that we live in an age without giants. Could a man like Jacques-Yves Cousteau lead and inspire in the world climate of today? If I look at what passes for greatness now … I doubt it.


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