Philippe Spirit of Calypso

by Dr. Joe McInnes

He is gone. And all of us who knew him feel the loss deeply. For he was more than a man, he was a spirit, a symbol of our time.

The news came while I was out at sea on a drill ship, the Discoverer Seven Seas, 200 miles off the coast of Newfoundland. Standing in the radio room, reading the brief message of his death, I felt as if someone had drawn all the oxygen out of the room.

In all of us runs a river of emotions, suddenly released when someone close is taken away. Numbness. Emptiness. The cold blur of anguish. And the wanting to reach out and comfort the survivors.

As the hours pass, the impossible thought burns, fades, then reappears like ashes in the throat. Then the search begins, deep inside, tracing the memories, reaching out for some meaning, trying to comprehend not only what has happened, but the man himself- and the impact he had on our lives.

I first met him in 1968 in San Francisco. We both had been invited to join the US Navy's SeaLab III program. He was tall, angular, and moved with an easy grace. You could tell at once that he was different, a young man whose dark beard and high cheekbones were out of place among the crew cuts and shaven faces of our Navy teammates. In the highly regimented, every-day-you-wear-a-uniform atmosphere, we were both foreigners and it drew us together.

He loved to poke fun at himself. In the military our uniforms were not what you would call glamorous. We were dressed in dull green, short sleeved shirts with trousers that looked like stovepipes. "We look just splendid," he would say, glancing at himself in the full length mirror. "Perhaps in time we will come to grace the cover of Gentleman's Quarterly."

He dove as if he had been exclusively designed for the sea. Underwater, he swam with animal economy, fins pulsing gently, lungs and body moving unbidden. Our first dives together were made during SeaLab, but since this meant descending into tar-black waters of San Francisco Bay, it wasn't as exciting as it first might seem.

Because SeaLab was to be operational at 600 feet, we had to wear several hundred