December 2022 OES Beacon

Remembering Claude Brancart

OCEANS 2005 Brest – on LaCouvrance

Claude’s Friends

Note: The following is adapted from the Press Herald obituary on Claude P. Brancart at:

Claude P. Brancart 1934 – 2021 BRUNSWICK – Claude Pierre Jules Brancart, of Brunswick, passed away peacefully at the age of 87 on Dec. 21, 2021.  He was born in Alexandria, Egypt on Nov. 5, 1934, to French-speaking Belgian parents, Arnould Paul Brancart and Reine Marie Garat Brancart.

Claude referred to himself as an ocean engineer who spent his life in, on, or under water. His career began in 1958 with the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics. As a Program Manager in their Underwater Development Group, he did the engineering in the creation of several small research submarines. He designed Star II and took Star II and Star III, on their first deep dives. He also worked on nuclear submarines.

Eventually he took a contract in Hawaii to refurbish Star II, conduct some studies for the Navy, Shell, and Exxon, and design an underwater habitat. He also used Star II to harvest coral for a Hawaiian jeweler and to assist in the filming of an episode of “Hawaii Five-O”. Claude joined BK Dynamics in Washington, D.C., in 1972, working on Department of Defense contracts with the US Navy and spending months at sea. After opening a branch in Houston, Texas, he struck out on his own, running an engineering firm that specialized in building equipment for oil companies. He joined the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and from then until well into retirement served as an officer in its Ocean Engineering Society (OES), helping to plan Offshore Technology Conferences there and abroad. Claude spent the final years of his career attached to the Washington office of MIT’s Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, focusing on the design and deployment of autonomous underwater vehicles for DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

To share his love of the ocean with future engineers, Claude helped found and then manage the International Submarine Races (ISR), a biennial design competition that brought together students from around the world to test their human-powered submarines in the Navy’s test tank at Carderock, Va. By 2016 he had become Chief Judge and liaison officer.

Claude also established the Symposium on Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Technology in 1990 (AUV ‘90) at Washington, DC, USA.

On a personal note, Steve Holt, who is still a Senior Member of the IEEE and is presently on the OES AdCom, recalls that it was Claude who was the first OES member that he ever met and it occurred at the OCEANS 2000 MTS/IEEE Conference in September, 2000 in Providence, Rhode Island, USA.   Claude asked Steve to consider joining the IEEE and then run for the OES AdCom, which he promptly did and then was elected. Steve then was asked by the new President, Dr. Thomas Wiener, to accept the position of Secretary. The rest is history and Steve always felt that Claude had a major influence on both the direction of his career and his life.

On another personal note, René Garello, past President of the OES and life fellow, recalls his first encounter with Claude when helping to prepare the first OCEANS conference outside North America, in 1994 in Brest, France. The first non-expected feature was that Claude was speaking French. The second one was that he was a very imposing figure with a stout voice. He was very supportive and helped in the following years and, especially when he was President, to bring back OCEANS to France (Nice, in 1998), along with Glen Williams (RIP, Glen). Claude and René worked together for disseminating the AUV conference, with a venue in Brest in 2007. He really was along the year the front figure of OES for our participation to OTC Houston, along with Jerry Carroll. Too many anecdotes to tell! Claude will always be a man to remember!

Jerry Carroll added: I enjoyed working with Claude for several years and we had many good adventures at OTC Events.  His wife Leslie did an excellent job of taking care of Claude in his later years. We all miss our times with Claude and thank him and remember him for all his support of IEEE/OES

Robert Wernli recalls his long relationship with Claude. As an engineer at the Navy laboratory in San Diego, Robert first met Claude during autonomous vehicle development at Charles Stark Draper Laboratory. This continued periodically as additional vehicles were developed and tested. The pleasure of working with Claude on society activities continued for decades. In OES, Claude was a former AdCom member (1994-1996, 2001-2003, Secretary 1993-1996, Chairman of OCEANS ’96 MTS/IEEE in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and was OES President in 1997-1998. (Claude wrote a very inspiring Incoming President’s Message in the archives for the Fourth Quarter, Winter 1996 edition of the OES Beacon, which can be read on our website.) He received the OES Emeritus award in 2015 and was a two time recipient of the OES Distinguished Service Award in 2001 and 2005. And his work as the OES representative on the OTC board helped the society maintain a high level of participation on this event. As a tribute to Claude, his photos are highlighted in this issue’s Blast From the Past.

May his soul rest in peace.

Claude, we thank you very much!