Eventually, I’m going to have to do a post about the things I’ve learned about myself from doing this blog. Number 1: I have a deep fascination with maritime history and etymology, also popes. Today: the former.
In 1941, a gentleman named Pyke had a novel idea for an inexpensive means of creating battleships for to win the war. You know. The great one. Basically, if your battleship gets enough holes in it, you’re literally sunk. That’s probably where that turn of phrase comes from. Repairing your battleship is a tough proposition; you’re pretty much in the water, probably a good distance from the plate steel or whatever battleships are made of you would need to patch a massive section of hull. Well, thought Pyke, they’re at sea, what can they use? What is there a lot of in the sea? The answer, gentle readers, is sea.
Pyke’s initial notion was a ship made out of ice. Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever shot a block of ice knows (what is everybody else doing with their families over the holidays), ice is extremely brittle. No problem, so is lots of stuff. So we employ the same solution—lace our ice with something else. Sawdust, to be exact, plus some plastic. This gives you a substance that floats naturally, is strong as concrete, and can be patched with seawater. Disadvantages: it starts to fall apart at -15 degrees centigrade. Fortunately, seawater is very cold. Also, the pykrete boat that was planned was to be a massive airraft carrier intended to combat U-boats. Extremely massive. Like, pretty much a small island.
So why did this not happen? Well, there were issues. For one, how do you steer something like this? Answer: with a rudder so big we don’t know how to build it. Also, pretty much everything was in shortage during the war, including wood pulp and the not inconsiderable amount of steel that would have been required. Also, seriously, guys, an ice ship? By the time any of these kinks were approaching a solution, the war was all but won.
Still, boat made out of ice, guys. Surely with our knowledge of chemistry we can make this happen on a small scale? Thereby improving our lives forever? Somebody needs to get on this. That’s what I learned today.