Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Project Habakkuk

I've been teaching Chavakuk, so I love this piece of information. Courtesy of Wikipedia:

Project Habakkuk or Habbakuk was a plan by the British in World War II to construct an aircraft carrier out of pykrete (a mixture of wood pulp and ice), for use against German U-boats in the mid-Atlantic, which were beyond the flight range of land-based planes at that time...

Geoffrey Pyke was an old friend of J.D. Bernal, and had originally been recommended to Lord Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations, by the Cabinet minister Leopold Amery. Pyke worked at Combined Operations Headquarters (COHQ), alongside Bernal, and was regarded as a genius by Mountbatten.

Pyke conceived the idea of Habbakuk while in the US organising the production of M29 Weasels for Project Plough, a scheme to assemble an elite unit for winter operations in Norway, Romania, and the Italian Alps. He had been considering the problem of how to protect seaborne landings and Atlantic convoys out of reach of aircraft cover. The problem was that steel and aluminium were in short supply and required for other purposes. Pyke realized that the answer was ice, which could be manufactured for only 1% of the energy needed to make an equivalent mass of steel. He proposed that an iceberg, natural or artificial, be levelled to provide a runway and hollowed out to shelter aircraft. From New York, Pyke sent the proposal he had composed on Habbakuk via diplomatic bag to COHQ with a label forbidding anyone apart from Mountbatten from opening the package. Mountbatten in turn told Churchill about Pyke's proposal, who was enthusiastic about it.

Pyke was not the first to suggest a floating mid-ocean stopping point for aircraft, nor even the first to suggest that such a floating island could be made of ice: German scientist Dr. Gerke of Waldenberg proposed the idea and carried out some preliminary experiments in Lake Zurich in 1930. The idea was a recurring one: in 1940 an idea for an ice island was circulated round The Admiralty but was treated as a joke by officers, including Nevil Shute, who circulated a memorandum that gathered ever more caustic comments. The document had to be retrieved just before it reached the Sea Lord's inbox.

How did this involve Chavakuk? It's from Chavakuk 1:5 -
ראו בגוים והביטו והתמהו תמהו כי פעל פעל בימיכם לא תאמינו כי יספר
Look on, among the nations, and gaze and be stunned, for a deed will be performed in your days, you will not believe it when you hear of it.

I love it.

5 comments:

  1. There never was nor will be a shortage of nuts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ultimately, they put the project on ice.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)June 18, 2012 at 11:06 PM

    I saw this project depicted on the side of a U-Haul moving van!

    ReplyDelete