Humanity has been building boats for around 8,000 years. The earliest boats were either rafts or canoes and were obviously quite simple in construction and function. If you’ve ever seen a modern superyacht or aircraft carrier, you know how much times have changed. But the path from the old reed raft to your modern aircraft carriers is far from a straight line. There were a number of strange twists and turns along the way.
10. SS Baychimo
You may not have heard of the SS Baychimo, but it is one of the most unusual ships in all of maritime history. What makes it unusual is the fact that, as of now, no one knows where it is.
Founded in 1914 by the Hudson Bay Company SS Baychimo was originally named Ångermanelfven after a river in Sweden where it was built. It was a massive ship that weighed 1,322 tons and was over 200 feet long. It was used throughout the Arctic of Canada to deliver supplies after the war. Before that, it ran from Sweden to Germany.
In 1931 it was caught in ice off the coast of Alaska. The crew left the ship and went to the next town. Later, when the weather got worse, storms devastated it and at some point the temperature rose from -60 to zero. When the crew looked at the ship trapped in the ice, they no longer saw it was captured. It just wasn’t there anymore.
In the next decades the ship was sighted again and again and sailed as a ghost ship across the ocean. It was last seen in 1969, almost 40 years after it was released to do its own thing.
Because it’s been so long since it was seen, most people assume it sunk some time ago, but wrecks have never been found, and the path it crossed the oceans spanned hundreds of kilometers . So it’s entirely possible that it’s still out there somewhere.
9. Habakkuk project
During World War II, the British planned to create an aircraft carrier like it had never been seen before. Called Project Habakkuk, it was not a ship made of steel or wood; It was supposed to be a 2,000 foot long ship made from a substance called pykrete. Pykrete is what happens when you mix wood pulp in water and then freeze it. The result is even stronger than concrete. Bullets ricochet off immediately. The entire ship would be a huge, dirty ice cube.
While Habakkuk never came to fruition for the British during the war, a trial version of it was built in Canada. The model at Lake Patricia, Alberta, Canada was 60 feet long and weighed 1,000 tons. A 1 horsepower motor was used to keep it frozen. The project was eventually abandoned due to numerous impracticals.
8. The FLIP buoy
The floating instrument platform or FLIP, This happens when you want to have a boat and a buoy at the same time and can’t decide between the two. It is a research vessel that scientists will use to conduct studies on the open water for weeks. And while it’s in motion, it’s a ship that is over 355 feet long. When it’s ready for work, the ballast tanks fill three hundred feet of water along its entire length, causing it to tip forward at a right angle until only the habitable end is sticking out of the water.
With three hundred feet of the ship under the water and only the last 50 feet above the water, it can weather almost any type of rough sea without the risk of overturning or sinking. The length of the ship is well below the water being disturbed by surface waves, so it just sways calmly on the water.
When the research is done, pressurized air is pushed into the ballast, the water drains and the boat tips back into position for it to sail home again.
7. The Plongeur submarine
The French Submarine divers has a special place in history. It was the first submarine that could propel itself through mechanical power. You can imagine how terrible it must have been back then, to trust a machine that would get you underwater and somehow keep you alive.
Earlier submarines had been powered by human energy – crews pedaling to keep the ship moving like an underwater bicycle. The Plongeur had a compressed air-powered motor and was far bigger than anything before. With a length of 140 feet, the ship also contained 23 compressed air tanks, which took up 403 cubic feet of space.
The Plongeur made several successful voyages before being decommissioned, mostly out of fear of its unstable design, limited air supply, and the fact that technology had improved enough to make better ships
6. Camel care
If you’ve ever wondered how camels travel around the world, ask yourself no more. The story of the USS Supply, the least creative supply ship in US Naval history, can answer that question for you.
In 1855, US Secretary of War Jefferson Davis drafted a camel acquisition mission for the US Army to have Camel department. The goal was to have camels to navigate through deserts in Mexico. The thought was clear that since camels were adapted to the desert climate of the Middle East, they could just as easily cope with the desert climate of North America and give the soldiers the upper hand.
A 60 foot camel barn was built on the USS Supply. By 1865 the ship had reached the Middle East and was loaded with 33 camels from different regions of the Middle East to see which would best adapt to life in North America.
It took 87 days to get back to America, and inexplicably, despite leaving with 33 camels, they came home at 34 as a new one had been born along the way. Camels adapt well to sea voyages. A second trip brought back 41 camels.
The USS Supply had proven itself as a camel carrier, but the camels themselves failed because they adapted poorly to combat, smelled terrible, and had a rather uncomfortable attitude when they didn’t like the person who was handling them.
5. The Hughes Glomar Explorer
While the idea of a covert spy ship doesn’t seem that unusual, the Hughes Glomar Explorer was the CIA’s shrewd attempt to find a sunken Soviet ship without anyone having a clue what was going on. The plan was for him to sneak into a Soviet nuclear-powered submarine and then take it off again, with no outward sign that anything ever happened.
The Explorer was originally built after a Soviet nuclear submarine sank at the height of the Cold War. The Soviets could not determine exactly where the submarine went down so they could not save it on their own. Then the US Navy discovered it.
The top secret construction of the ship turned out to be one of the strangest missions the CIA has ever carried out. The final product was so large it couldn’t even fit in the Panama Canal. The fore and aft ends of the ship should bob and weave on waves while the center remained steady. The reason for this was that it was essentially one of those giant claw machines you see in supermarkets. The plan was to grab the sunken submarine about 17,000 feet below the surface of the ocean and take it off. The ball bearings were apparently the size of bowling balls.
Even more impressive than the building was the fact that all of this had to be done very secretly. Obviously the Soviets would not have agreed if it got known, and the CIA had a cover story. billionaire Howard Hughes designed the ship so that he could grow manganese nodules on the ocean floor. Front-line firms were set up and stories passed to the press.
The trick worked for a while, but the claw apparatus broke and then the cover story was blown. They never managed to find the submarine, but it was a formidable effort.
4. USS Wolverine
Almost everyone knows what an aircraft carrier looks like, it is the largest ship at sea and weighs over forty thousand tons. It is hard to imagine that there was a second type of aircraft carrier designed for use in freshwater. The Great Lakes had their own aircraft carriers, including the USS Wolverine. It was originally a side paddle steamer that transported people from Cleveland to Buffalo.
The Navy bought the ship in 1942 and set it up as a freshwater training aircraft carrier in the Great Lakes. It did not have any of the weapons that a regular carrier is equipped with and was smaller than a modern carrier, but was used extensively as a training ship for pilots. In fact, over 17,000 pilots trained to land and take off from the Wolverine during World War II.
3. HMS Bridge
During World War I, the Royal British Navy had two tribal-class warships known as the HMS Zulu and HMS Nubian. Both ships were badly damaged in 1916, but not destroyed. In a feat of the Navy’s ingenuity, the front of the Zulu was welded to the back of the Nubian to create a brand new ship – the HMS Zubian.
Although the Zubian was a Frankensten ship, she was used extensively during the war and has proven herself more than once. In 1918 it was even possible to sink a German submarine. The threat posed by submarines was so great that the Navy couldn’t afford to lose ships if they could avoid it, and forging a new ship from two old ones was cheaper and faster than starting over.
2nd Baron von Renfrew
We live in what some people call a kind of throwaway culture these days. From razors to coffee pods, everything is designed to be used and thrown away. That seems normal to us, but the idea that a 304 foot wooden ship, the largest wooden ship ever built, was built to be thrown away still seems a bit strange.
The Baron von Renfrew was built as a one-way ship. It was a small scam that was supposed to transport wood from the New World to Europe. The ship itself would be dismantled when it got where it was going, and the wood used in its construction would be tax-free as it was part of the ship, unlike the cargo. Things did not go quite as planned and the ship began to take in water. Wood washed ashore in France after it nearly reached its destination.
1. Ramform titanium
If you need to measure seismic activity or do surveys at sea, the Ramform Titan is the ship to do it on. The Titan is shaped like a giant cheese and has an insanely powerful engine that produces 26.4 megawatts of power. In a sense, a huge wind turbine generates around two megawatts of power, which is enough to supply around 400 average households with electricity. The engine here could power over 5,000 households.
The massive design should be stable in any weather, so that the crews can work safely even in the middle of a storm at sea. The ship is able to leave survey streams behind, a total of 24, which can be well over 100 kilometers in length. In fact, in 2015 they ran 129.6 kilometers of streamers during a survey, breaking a world record.
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