Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Floating Stones - Concrete Ships and Vessels

Picture_012Concrete ships are ships built of steel and ferrocement (reinforced concrete) instead of more traditional materials, such as steel or wood. The advantage of ferrocement construction is that materials are cheap and readily available, while the disadvantages are that construction labor costs are high, as are operating costs. (Ferrocement ships require thick hulls, which means extra mass to push and less space for cargo.) During the late 19th century, there were concrete river barges in Europe, and during both World War I and World War II, the US military ordered the construction of small Picture_010 fleets of ocean-going concrete ships. Few concrete ships were completed in time to see wartime service during World War I, but during 1944 and 1945, concrete ships and barges were used to support U.S. and British invasions in Europe and the Pacific. Since the late 1930s, there have also been ferrocement pleasure boats.

A Brief History of Concrete Ships

lambot_dingy The first vessel made of concrete in Europe was a skiff built by Joseph-Louis Lambot at Carces, France on the Argens in 1849.  It was exhibited at the World Fair, Paris, in 1855. In 1859-60 in Holland, Fabriek von Cement-Iger Werken was producing concrete barges for canal traffic.

In the 1890's, an engineer in Italy named Carlo Gabellini built barges and small ships out of concrete. He used a ferro-concrete procedure to make hulls that were an elaborate lamination of rod netting, wire mesh, and troweled mortar. The most famous of his ships was the Liguria.

At Frankfort-am-Main in 1909, Germans produced a 220-ton freighter barge. In 1912 a concrete sailboat was launched at Dresden. And in England from 1912 to 1917, a fleet of canal barges, some with a capacity of 1400 tons, were in commercial service.

Numerous small concrete boats were built in the U.K in the 1910's. One of these ships, the Violette, was built in 1917 and is currently used as a boating clubhouse on the Medway River in England. This makes her the oldest concrete ship still afloat.

American construction in cement aggregate began in 1910 when a 525-ton scow was built in San Francisco along with some smaller barges for use in the Panama Canal. At Mobile in 1914, a 90'x62'x9' concrete barge as well as several 500-ton barges were built for local traffic.

In 1917, the United State finally entered World World I and steel became scarce while the demand for ships went up. The US government invited N.K. Fougner to head a study into the feasability of concrete ships.

Meanwhile, businessman W. Lesie Comyn took the initiative and formed the San Fransisco Ship Building Company at Oakland, California, to begin constructing concrete ships. He was convinced that a 5,000-ton concrete freighter could be operated at a profit and on 3 September 1917 he solicited contractual support from USSB to build "five reinforced concrete steamers" and was assured of nominal support on 22 October. On speculation, then, his firm began to build the Faith at Redwood City, California.

Lesie Comyn hired Alan Macdonald and Victor Poss to design the first American concrete ship. Alan Macdonald and Victor Poss designed the ship, a freighter, the first of her kind built in the United States, and, at the time, the largest concrete vessel with a sea-going capability in the world (300' x 40' @ 6125 tons displacement).

The Faith was launched March 18, 1918. She cost $750,000 to build. She was used to carry cargo for trade until 1921, when she was sold and scrapped as a breakwater in Cuba.

President Woodrow Wilson finally approved the Emergency Fleet program which oversaw the construction of 24 concrete ships for the war. However, only 12 were under construction and none of them had been completed by the time the war ended. The 12 ships were completed and sold to private companies who used them for light-trading, storage and scrap.

With the advent of World War II, steel once again was in short supply. In 1942, the US government contracted McCloskey & Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to construct a new fleet of 24 concrete ships. Construction of the fleet started in July, 1923 in Tampa, Florida. Innovations in cement mixing and composition made these ships stronger than the previous fleet.

In Europe, ferro cement barges (FCBs) played a crucial role in World War II operations, particularly in the D-Day Normandy landings, where they were used as part of the Mulberry harbour defenses, for fuel and munitions transportation, and as floating pontoons. Some were fitted with engines and used as mobile canteens and troop carriers.

atlantus1926_thumb Other companies were contracted to build barge ships. These too were large vessels, but they lacked engines to propell them. Instead, they were used for storage and towed around by other ships.

After the war, several of the ships were turned into a floating breakwater in Canada and ten more were sunk as a breakwater in Virginia.

Although the end of WWII marked the end of large-scale concrete ship building, to this day, smaller recreational boats are still being made from concrete.


Surviving concrete ships are no longer in use as ships. Several live on in various forms, mostly as museums or breakwaters. For example, SS San Pasqual, a former oil tanker, lies off the coast of Cayo Las Brujas, Cuba, where it served as a hotel, then as a base for the divers and now it is abandoned. IMG_2679_500

The wreckage of SS Atlantus (commissioned in 1919, sunk in 1926), is visible off Cape May, New Jersey. The tanker SS Selma, 29°20′40″N, 94°47′10″W is located northwest of the fishing pier at Seawolf Park. The largest collection, though, is doubtless at Powell River, British Columbia, where a lumber mill uses ten ships as a breakwater.

Modern hobbyists also build ferroboats. The reason is that construction methods do not require special tools, and materials are comparatively cheap. A pioneer in this movement is Hartley Boats, which has been selling plans for concrete boats since 1938. Meanwhile, since the 1960s, the American Society of Civil Engineers has sponsored the National Concrete Canoe Competition.

In Europe, especially the Netherlands, concrete is still used to build some of the barges on which houseboats are built.

sources: The Journal of San Diego History, Wikipedia, The World Of Ferro-Cement Boats

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hard to Read Tokyo Flash Watches

Barcode SS

The science-fiction inspired Barcode SS from the jaw-dropping designer, Tokyo Flash. The colors on this watch are big and bright, and super easy to see. The light-up function starts at 6 PM and goes up to 1 AM every minute; it is also activated when the time button is pressed between 1 AM to 6 PM. It might sound like a tricky way to tell time, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be the envy of all your friends.

To tell the time:
The 1st two columns show the hour.
In column 1 each light equals 5 hours, in column 2 each light equals 1 hour.
The 2nd 2 columns show the minutes.
In column 3 each light equals 10 mins, in column 4 each light equals 1 minute.

Futara Mugen

Around the outer edges are 60 segments, indicating 1 minute each. They are grouped in 10's so it's easy to tell the time at a glance. The inner spiral of blocks represent 1 hour each.
This is one of those watches that at first it seems impossible to tell the time, but once you understand how it works it's fairly simple. Within a few days of using it you can tell the time just as fast as a traditional wall clock.

Saishi Retsu IPB

A new version of the Retsu with a Gunmetal finish and stunning white LEDs! The Vertical display runs in line with the edge of the strap forming a smooth transition from one end to the other.
Amazingly simple to read, the lights race up to the digit then trail off leaving one light reconfirming the number. This is repeated for each digit to tell the time. So straight forward it's surprising no one has ever thought of it before.


With the threat of Alien Invasion growing ever closer & the distinct possibility that "they" are already here, it's about time we had a device to detect the humans from the humanoids. The Biohazard wrist scanner probes the immediate vicinity for Alien DNA & displays the results so that you may assess the threat level.

A press of the button sends the watch into scan mode and the various panels & readouts animate as if scanning the area for life forms. After a few seconds the results display the time, but the animation sequence can be skipped if desired with a second press of the button.
At the top of the screen the Red & White DNA helix is made of 12 bars to indicate the hour. At the bottom of the watch display the Blue blocks indicate 5 minutes each, while the Green blocks represent 1 minute. There are also indicators for AM/PM and seconds.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

FlashlightDVR - Compact Digital Video Recorder in a portable flashlight.

The Swann FlashlightDVR™ is a heavy duty, real working flashlight that also allows you to record video and take photos during the day or at night. Featuring strong aluminum construction the FlashlightDVR™ can be used in varying weather conditions, day or night. The FlashlightDVR™ has 128MB of built-in memory and supports mini-SD cards up to 2GB for extra storage. The flashlight includes 3 levels of brightness to customize the intensity of light to the environment it is being used. The infrared sensors provide night vision up to 13ft (4m). This flexible monitoring solution is ideal for security applications where descreet video or image recording may be necessary. The FlashlightDVR™ is also ideal for leisure activities such as camping or fishing where a flashlight and camera are both needed. Easily view/store videos or photos on your computer using the FlashlightDVR’s USB port. The FlashlightDVR™ presents monitoring & recording concealed in a portable flashlight!
source Swann

PAL-V. Personal Air and Land Vehicle.

After many years of pioneering with well-known parties as the Dutch Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) to create a flying and driving vehicle John Bakker has formed a management team and is recruiting employees to start PAL-V Europe. A number of investors have been found to back the start-up and currently initiatives are taken towards more investors to speed up market launch.
The PAL-V ONE is a hybrid of a car a motorbike and a gyrocopter: a personal air and land vehicle. A solution to increasing congestion in our cities, highways and skyways. On the ground, the slim line, aerodynamic 3-wheel vehicle is as comfortable as a luxury car. But has the agility of a motorbike, thanks to its patented cutting-edge ‘tilting’ system. The single rotor and propeller are folded away until the PAL-V ONE is ready to fly. Airborne, the PAL-V ONE flies under the 4,000 feet (1,500 m) floor of commercial air space. The PAL-V ONE is highly fuel-efficient and powered by an environmentally certified car engine. It runs on petrol like a conventional car and can reach speeds of up to 200 km/h both on land and in the air. Its straightforward autogyro flying technology means that the PAL-V ONE is economically and technically feasible in comparison to other forms of air travel. Like a helicopter, it has a Very Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (VSTOVL) capability making it possible to land practically anywhere. It can be driven to the nearest airfield or helipad and, because it flies below 4,000 feet, can take off without filing a flight plan. The autogyro technology means that it can be steered and landed safely even if the engine fails as it descends vertically rather than nose-diving. Lift is generated by the forward speed produced by the foldable push propeller on the back. At less than 70 decibels it is much quieter than helicopters due to the slower rotation of the main rotor. a license to fly the PAL-V ONE is more accessible than one for a helicopter or plane because of the regulations controlling autogyro craft. In the United States and soon in Europe the infrastructure is in place for ‘digital freeways’ that provide easy and safe corridors using GPS technology to aid regulation and prevent collisions for low flying vehicles. What makes the PAL-V ONE attractive is the convenience of fully integrated door to door transportation. Providing smooth transition from road to air without having to change vehicle. The versatility to allow the driver to change their mind.

source pal-v.com

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

SeaGeep, Flying Banana, Sea Bat... Piasecki vertical lift aircrafts

Frank Piasecki is one of the original pioneers of the U.S. helicopter industry with over 60 years experience as an aeronautical/mechanical engineer, test pilot, entrepreneur and industrialist.

Mr. Piasecki founded the PV-Engineering Forum and in 1943 flew the second successful helicopter in America, the PV-2. The Navy, under significant pressure from Congress because of its failure to investigate the benefits of emerging helicopter technology, awarded Mr. Piasecki a contract for the development of the first U.S. Navy helicopter, the XHRP-1 "Dog Ship" in 1944. This was the first successful tandem helicopter (i.e. twin main rotors) in the world. Designed, built and flown within thirteen months, the XHRP-1 had a useful load three times greater than any existing helicopter at the time. Mr. Piasecki's tandem helicopter design led to the first practical application of the helicopter to critical Naval missions such as: search and rescue, anti-submarine warfare, vertical replenishment, and pioneered the use of the helicopter for aerial minesweeping and vertical assault.

Substituting a gas turbine for the two piston engines and adding two inflatable floats enabled the AirGeep to operate from the water. Called the SeaGeep, its compact size and weight made it ideal as a small ship based rescue, anti-submarine weapon’s carrier, and for ship-to-ship transfer.

Flying Banana

Army and USAF "flying banana" CH; two tandem three-bladed rotors. Crew of 2 in side-by-side, dual-control cabin; hoist with dorsal quick-release cargo sling.

sources Aerofiles, Piasecki Aircraft Corporation