Intrepid French hunt for sunken warships Cordelière and Regent

Intrepid French hunt for sunken warships Cordelière and Regent

The spirit of famed French explorer Jacques Cousteau lives on in a mission to find the wrecks of two warships, one French and one English, that sank 500 years ago off the Brittany port of Brest. Instead of Cousteau's old minesweeper Calypso, it is the French culture ministry's surveillance ship André Malraux and its doughty crew of scientists and divers.

Today's adventure: to locate, excavate and eventually raise the wrecks of the Cordelière and the Regent - two behemoths of the Tudor seas that sank together in the Battle of Saint-Mathieu in 1512. And filling the Cousteau role is Michel L'Hour, marine archaeologist extraordinaire and veteran of a thousand missions to explore France's underwater heritage. For the French, or rather for the people of Brittany, the Cordelière has mythic status. She was the flagship of the duchy's last independent ruler and revered heroine, the Duchess Anne.

The trouble is no-one knows exactly where the Battle of Saint-Mathieu took place. It was during one of the lesser-known wars between England and an alliance of France and a still-independent Brittany. With backing from the French government, the Brittany region, universities and industry, Michel L'Ho6ur has assembled a multidisciplinary team to find what he knows must be down there somewhere. For now Mr L'Hour is working on the theory that the French fleet was anchored near the goulet on the southern side of the outer bay, near the village of Camaret-sur-Mer.

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