In Memoriam - Alex Lascaratos (1948 - 2023)
11 October 2023, CIESM News

I met Alex for the first time in 1995 in Malta, in circumstances that already carried the full signature of this larger-than-life character. On the second day of our Congress, a huge noise in the entrance Hall alerted me. When arriving on the scene I was confronted with a boisterous, frustrated cohort of Russian oceanographers, just off their research vessel anchored a small distance away. They were trying to force our gates without an entry badge, led by a determined, forceful man, bearing an ample shirt and suspenders ... this was Alex, of course, then vice-Chair of our Committee on Physical Oceanography (as it was called then, before Alex gave it its current, sexier name). It took a lot of persuasion ... and many glasses of vodka onboard the Russian ship before we could find an acceptable compromise that was acted on the following morning. That marked the start of a warm, personal friendship that only strengthened through the years via many interactions and trips together, following his masterful campaign to conquer the chairmanship of our Committee C2 (against fierce competition) during our 1998 Congress in Dubrovnik. Needless to say, his two mandates as C2 Chair were ''memorable'', in particular his inputs to our many Science Council gatherings in diverse locations, from Paris to Crete or Majorca, in the company of colourful scientists whom he loved to engage in academic fights. Alex was a complex man, with a sharp intellect, a vast culture, a passion for politics hiding a real generosity behind a unique sense of humour. His student days in Paris, his engagement in ideological battles meant a lot to him, no less than his enthusiasm for scientific pursuits for which he was so respected by his peers. I miss him, I miss our far-ranging conversations (in his perfect Parisian french), I miss his appetite for life, his laughter, as will many of us.

Frédéric Briand

It is with great sadness that I learned that my close friend and colleague, wonderful person and prominent Mediterranean oceanographer Alex Lascaratos passed away in June of this year. My first feeling was emptiness due to this great loss. The last time we met, Alex asked me to listen to the Requiem by Fauré and evoke it when learning that he is not anymore with us. In fact, when this sad news arrived, my first thought was about Alex listening to this divine masterpiece. I met Alex in the early 1980s and I was impressed by his strong personality, his enthusiasm for oceanography, his readiness to collaborate with colleagues on the Mediterranean oceanography and his active and modern teaching at the University of Athens. Very soon after we met, we started our long-term friendship and collaboration on data analysis, interpretation, and joint publications. In addition, we organized jointly summer schools at the International Center for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste which were offered to young scientists from emerging countries. He was teaching at these schools transmitting with enthusiasm his expertise to young people from all over the world. I often interacted with some of his Ph. D. students from Athens University and I was able to appreciate the excellence of these young people from Greece and beyond in the Mediterranean, some of them working at present in prestigious international institutions, all this thanks to the high-quality teaching by Alex. Our intense scientific collaboration gave me the chance to become his close friend, meeting him quite often either in Athens, Split, Trieste, or Venice as well as during various congresses and meetings. Interacting and working together so often allowed me to know Alex as a warm, human, and greathearted person. And so, I would like to honor Alex, by profoundly feeling and expressing the great loss. I also wish to remember him as an amazing person who played a unique and special role in the Mediterranean community of oceanographers, in his teaching of young people at the university and last but not the least in my personal life.

Miroslav Gačić

I wish to add a few lines in memory of Prof. Alexander (Alex) Lascaratos who passed prematurely away on June 25, 2023. In Fall 1982 the POEM program was proposed at a Round Table held during the 28th CIESM Congress in Cannes and which a number of scientists from the riparian countries of the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as from France, England and Germany, attended at the invitation of Prof. Allan Robinson of Harvard and myself. The following year Prof. Henry Charnock organized a workshop in Lerici, La Spezia, to launch its scientific program and a larger group of Mediterranean scientists attended. On this occasion, Dr Lascaratos convinced his colleague, Dr. Theocharis, also from Athens, to talk with us about the conspicuous absence of any Greek representation in the program. Even though Dr.Theocharis later became the "official" Greek representative, Dr. Lascaratos equally attended all the meetings and workshops of POEM in Phase I. We became close colleagues and friends, and I could appreciate not only his scientific excellence but also his ebullient personality and his superb integrity. Alex always said very directly his opinion, without any "deference" to the "powerful "ones, like he did in our first meeting in Lerici. And this quality of his character endeared him to me very much. He was as loud as an Italian, generous and a really nice person. A few years later he chose to spend a sabbatical semester in my Department at MIT, visiting not just me but also John Marshall and I could appreciate these qualities even more. I was shocked when Miro Gacic told me of the precarious situation of his health. I obtained his phone number and our first conversation was very emotional as he did not expect to hear me and as we both reminisced about the "old times". He will always remain in the memory of those who knew and appreciated him. I count myself fortunate to have been one.

Paola Malanotte-Rizzoli

It is very sad news. I don't remember exactly when and where I met Alex for the first time. Perhaps in Paris in the late '70s or, most probably, in one of the early meetings of the POEM program in the early '80s. Perhaps in Ischia or in La Spezia. What I vividly remember were the endless discussions among all participants (Mediterranean style) trying to define the project main lines and its organisation. Although we (those of the Western Med) were almost spectators, it was easy to recognize the strength of some participants, especially Alex. Typically these long meetings ended with a late dinner that helped to smooth arguments. Later, we use to meet on occasion of CIESM congresses within the Physical Oceanography sessions. I have a particularly fond memory when Alex found me and invited me to dinner with his family at his home when I stayed in Athens for some weeks in the autumn 1985.

I also remember his friendship with Umit Unluata, a predecessor of him as Chair of the CIESM Committee, who unfortunately died two decades ago. It was a nice Turkish-Greek friendship above typical rivalries. On the occasion of a stop-over in Barcelona - returning I think from some meeting in Palma- we planned, Alex, Umit and other colleagues, to have a dinner in a nice typical restaurant, but that failed due to an also "typical" 2-3 hours delay in the flight. We said: "too late, next time we'll have to try again for sure" and when the occasion came in 2004, within the frame of the CIESM Congress, when we finally had our planned dinner - unfortunately without Umit. It was a sort of an EMed-WMed twinning. Alex was one of the most solid pillars of the Physical Oceanography in the Mediterranean. We miss him.

Jordi Salat

Alex Lascaratos among other Chairs during the Monaco Congress (Sept. 2001)