The BRGM and the Beluga mission

Having set sail on its first geological reconnaissance campaign, the Beluga foundered three days later.  Although the campaign came to an untimely end, it brought an important discovery.

Le Beluga, en 1963.
The Beluga setting out on its 1963 mission. © BRGM

In the summer of 1963, a small-sized vessel, the Beluga, was purchased to undertake geological and mineral surveys along the continental shelf of southern Brittany. Unfortunately, this initial campaign came to an untimely end when, after three days at sea, the Beluga foundered on a reef a few sea miles off the coast of Dumet Island. The geologists and crew were rescued by the lighthouse keeper.

The Beluga itself was luckily undamaged by the mishap and was refloated shortly afterwards. It then continued to sail throughout the 1960s, taking successive teams on different campaigns that included a sedimentology study in 1963-1964 and a seismic prospecting campaign off the southern Armorican Massif in 1966-1967.

A shipwreck and a discovery

Although the campaign was technically a failure,  the 1963 shipwreck made scientific history. The wreck of the Beluga brought an important discovery when the limestone shoal on which it foundered revealed the existence of hitherto unknown sedimentary caprock in that zone.

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