Monday, October 17, 2005

concrete ships

During the first World War, steel was becoming scarce. President Woodrow Wilson approved the construction of 24 concrete ships . Of the 24, only 12 were built, at a total cost of $50 million. By the time the ships were completed, the war had already ended. The only one of these ships afloat, the S.S. Peralta, is part of the floating breakwater at Powell River, BC.

The oldest known concrete ship was a dingy built by Joseph Louis Lambot Southern France in 1848. The boat was featured in the 1855 World's Fair in France.

But that was not the end of the experiement. Just as steel had become scarce during the First World War, the Second World War was again consuming the country's steel resources. In 1942, the United States Maritime Commission contracted McCloskey and Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to build a new fleet of 24 concrete ships. Three decades of improvements in concrete technology made this new fleet lighter and stronger than its WWI predecessors.

The ships were constructed in Tampa, Florida starting in July of 1943. The ships were built at an incredible rate, with one being launched a month. The ships were named after pioneers in the science and development of concrete.

Two of the ships were sunk as blockships in the Allied invasion of Normandy. Nine more were sunk as breakwaters for a ferry landing at Kiptopeke, Virginia. Two are wharves in Yaquina Bay in Newport, Oregon and seven are still afloat in a giant breakwater on the Powell River, BC.

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