Several tanks stored potable water for the crew. Like their space-faring brothers, the men aboard the Ben Franklin dined on freeze-dried meals. The air within the submarine was rejuvenated by liquid oxygen tanks. Carbon Dioxide was removed using lithium-hydroxide filters…another parallel with space travel.
Like any groundbreaking endeavor, the Gulf Stream Drift Mission encountered a few hiccups. The first problem was simply getting started. During test runs, support divers would feel a constant electrical shock when swimming near the submarine. The problem was eventually traced back to faulty insulation on the large-gauge wires in the battery compartment. The lengthy process of troubleshooting and repairing this critical problem pushed the start of the mission from May to July – Veilleurs #1 forever put the Ben Franklin in the shadow of Apollo 11. There were no major problems with the Ben Franklin or its equipment once the mission began. However, there were numerous minor malfunctions that constantly demanded the attention of the crew. Carbon-Monoxide and Carbon-Dioxide build-up in the cabin air was an ever-present challenge. Unexpected bacterial growth in the living quarters also proved to be an issue. The biggest anomalies, however, derived from the ocean itself.
Off the coast of South Carolina, Kazimir noted that the depth of his ship was inexplicably oscillating. Some cycles saw the Ben Franklin change depth by as much as 300 feet. This caused concern among the crew since they were unable to get this deviation under control. The effect subsided once their path steered further away from land. It was eventually determined that they had become caught in underwater waves created by the differing temperatures of static coastal waters and the flowing Gulf Stream. Two weeks into the mission, near Cape Hatteras, the ocean had another surprise in store for the crew.
The Ben Franklin became caught up in an eddy and was spit eastward, clear of the Gulf Stream current. The crew brought the Ben Franklin to the surface so that a support ship could tow them several miles back to moving water. Throughout this ordeal, the crew never opened the hatch that sealed them inside. So their 30-day goal for NASA’s purposes remained intact. « I grew up in the 60s, a decade of exploration. We were going to the moon and we were going to explore and colonize the sea. The sea was the next frontier just as space was the next frontier. There were two culminating expeditions: one to the Moon, one to the Gulf Stream. These missions were the ultimate voyages of exploration for their respective disciplines. There was no space mission greater than Apollo 11. And there was no expedition to the undersea world greater than the Ben Franklin. What was amazing was that both of these missions took place at the end of July in 1969. »