Want to build an ice ship?

by pittcaleb Email    1219 views

Josh and I watch a show titled Modern Marvels on the History Channel. It's a great show and you can really learn a lot about many things if you pay attention. I consider myself well-informed on many matters through that show alone. I mean where else can you learn about Ice Road Truckers? Seriously, it's shows like this that make me not care about Public Television anymore. With the Discovery Channel, History Channel and the other 498 outlets, I find PBS redundant and a drain on taxpayers.

Off the soapbox and back to Ice Ships...

Follow up:

So we're watching this episode about "Secret Weapons of the Allies" and they had a couple fascinating things in there. It seems that Churchill wanted to build a ship, well not one, but a hundred of them, out of ice. No, I'm being serious - he wanted to take a gargantuan block of ice from the North Atlantic, shape it into a ship, care out space for engines, and quarters and hangers and make an unsinkable ice ship.

The thing would be propelled by 20 electric engines, since huge diesel ones would create too much heat and melt the ship! It would move rather slowly, but that would be OK since it would have 40' thick ice walls which would be impenetrable by pretty much anything on the market at the time. It was an amazing segment - they actually built a small prototype in some Canadian lake that worked to a degree.

Churchill ordered 100 of them, but engineers came back that the time frame was too tight. He wanted them "now" and they said at least 2 years for 1, let alone a fleet of 100. Keep in mind; these were aircraft carriers, not small boats!

I did a quick Google search for "Churchill Ice Ship" to which you can add "Pyke" to the search to skim down your results. Geoffrey Pyke invented Pykrete. The problem with the ice was that, as you all know, ice is rather brittle. Pyke mixed in wood pulp, check this out:

Pykrete is a super-ice, strengthened tremendously by mixing in wood pulp as it freezes. By freezing a slurry of 14 percent wood pulp, the mechanical strength of ice rockets up to a fairly consistent 70 kg/sq cm. A 7.69 mm rifle bullet, when fired into pure ice, will penetrate to a depth of about 36 cm. Fired into pykrete, it will penetrate less than half as far — about the same distance as a bullet fired into brickwork.

I think if I live much longer in MI, I may have to try building an ice boat. Just sounds like a patented process that's been lying around much too long. Imagine the publicity I'd get if I sailed around the world in a Pykrete boat? Anyone want to join me?

Who says you can't learn from television or the Internet? Tomorrow we'll learn how to destroy a Japanese village using bats, stay tuned...

Links:
Nerdtests.com Message Board
Berkeley.edu page which quotes a 1951 London Times article - fascinating read
Another Berkeley.edu page on the myth of the project
An interesting read in Cabinet Magazine with references
Science experiments with Pykrete
Strange Stuff - with photos!
One more good link with references and more photos