From TFR, one of the early French tokamaks, to Tore Supra, Claude Deck has been an important actor of French fusion history. Having joined CEA as a draftsman in 1965 he was to head Tore Supra's design office until he retired in 1999.
When his friends there read in a recent issue of ITER Newsline that "no one, mountain climber or archaeologist, (had) ever been able to explore" the mysterious recess in Les Mées' highest "Penitent", they rushed to restore the historical truth.
On All Saints Day 1968, almost 40 years ago to the day, Claude Deck was among a small party of young mountaineers who had been invited by the local town council to climb the rocks and report on what they would see there.
Not only did they reach the "Abbot's cross" and shoot photographs, they also took two small samples of the wooden beams — one to be offered to the Les Mées Council, the other to be entrusted to a laboratory and dated through carbon 14. "I gave it to a lab at CEA-Saclay", says Deck, sipping a cafe-creme at his favourite roadside cafe in Aix. "A couple of months later, they told me that my sample was too small to be properly analyzed."
The "Abbot's cross" sample is now lost, and its mystery remains. "I cannot find any rational reason which would explain the presence of this cross. We didn't find any trace of human work up there, nothing like a passage or an opening. Quite puzzling..."