Humour Technology

Great Soluble Sailboats!

Looks good, but kick it and it'll crumple like a rotten tea-chest

This sexy three-hulled stealth job is one of the US Navy’s new breed of “littoral” vessels, designed to be able to move fast and hit hard even when close to shore. Amazing piece of technology. One problem: It’s dissolving out from under them.

Unlike most warships, this one has a hull made out of aluminium. Great stuff, nice and light. You can make a much faster ship from that, and it’s still torpedo-proof. Mostly. But not all military equipment is made of aluminium of course. A lot of it is steel.

So you’ve got a lot of aluminium and a lot of what is basically iron bolted onto it. Now add a saline solution like, oh, I don’t know – the sea? – and what you have isn’t so much a ship anymore, more what’s known as “a battery”.

The electrical action between the two different metals is corroding away the body of the ship. What makes this all the more stupid – according to the makers at least – is it’s the Navy’s fault because they decided not to spring for the “Cathodic Protection System” meant to prevent their ship eating itself. To save costs.

Not having a self-eating ship would, you might think, be the better long-term saving.

When a friend posted this on Facebook I wasn’t the only one to initially misread that as “Catholic Protection System”. I thought, the rhythm method? I wouldn’t rely on that. Someone else though pointed out that it might mean a St. Christopher’s medal – these are supposed to protect travellers, so perhaps they should attach a whole bunch of them.

To which someone else replied that if the medals were made of zinc, that might actually help.

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