Conan’s wife called the emergency services in early afternoon when her husband failed to return from a solo boat-trip in the south of the main island, Grand Terre. He had not indicated whether he planned to dive, but dive-gear was found aboard his 8m boat Mea Culpa when it was located. The vessel was anchored near Boulari Pass, a channel to the south-west of Grand Terre, known for its strong and changeable currents.

A large-scale search was launched by the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre in the capital Noumea but was later called off.

In 1981 Conan established the Salomon Association to investigate the sinking of the two 18th-century frigates Boussole and Astrolabe.

The vessels were engaged in scientific exploration under French explorer the Comte de La Pérouse in 1788 when they were wrecked in a storm off the Solomon Islands.

Artefacts recovered by Conan’s dive-team over time are displayed in New Caledonia’s Maritime Museum, and he had recently completed work on a website dedicated to La Pérouse.

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