"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Oh Lordy...
I just couldn't wait to see if Agent Orange can talk about this without sounding like an idiot. That's tough to pull off when you've already been proven one.
Believe for a miracle.
Wrong! It's all about winning!

By my lights, this looks like a sorry-ass apology to Australia, accomplished by way of referring to a (Another. Sorry)  historic incident about which he knows nothing.
Prediction borne out by the spectacular tongue bath he gave to that reptilian Murdoch.
Anyway, watch it. it will not disappoint.
Check list: 
The first successful Naval advance against the Japanese in the Pacific.
Even though a tactical defeat for the US, it sealed Japan's doom. 
Wait for it.
Also, the first Naval engagement in history where ship engaged ship and sunk same - while out of sight from one another.
It was just a prelude. The real deal came at Midway all of three weeks or so later. That was the decisive battle.
I'll leave it at that but; Here follows prattling I've done earlier about one of the heroes of both Coral Sea and Midway.
The most ass-kicking five-year-old ever to give better than she got only to end up being yet another thing for Bob Ballard to find.

USS Yorktown, CV-10.
USS Yorktown was abandoned off Midway in the course of what became the greatest Naval battle in history and the beginning of the end for Japan.
What's gallant and glorious is that just three weeks prior, during another historic sea-battle (Coral Sea. The first engagement fought by air against ships that were out of sight from one another) she was also in the shit.
At the ripe age of five, CV-10 took her lumps as the video below depicts.
She took one 500#  bomb on the flight-deck, just fifteen feet from the island. It went down six levels before exploding.
Another landed on the deck but bounced off and exploded in the water alongside.
That detonation, along with another near-miss, opened up seams in the hull and water started pouring in.
The damage-control men managed to keep her afloat. Then, even with a ten degree list and taking on water, she still managed to make twenty knots as she limped back to Pearl Harbor.
Next photo: where the bomb landed; as seen from directly beneath the flight-deck. Above, the spot where said bomb stopped and did its work.
When she arrived at Pearl on May 28, without even performing the safety procedure of pumping out the av-gas which would have taken an extra day she was immediately put into dry-dock.
Before the water in the dock was entirely pumped out, guys in waders, including Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, were splashing about, inspecting the hull.
Hull repair expert, Lt. Cmdr. H. J. Pfingstag, estimated that repairs would take ninety days - and here's where some serious, unsung gallantry on the part of ship-yard workers took place.
Nimitz moved the deadline - to three days.

And so it went that 1400 men, working around the clock put her right enough to allow her to sail out into the harbor on the 30th with lots of guys still working on the inside.
She wasn't "repaired" so much as "patched".
The sprung seams were simply covered over by a big hunk of steel, welded to the hull.
And off she went for Midway.
Once the battle had been joined she was again in the thick of it.
Her air group fatally damaged the Japanese aircraft carrier Soryu and shared in the destruction of the carrier Hiryu and cruiser Mikuma.
But, dive-bombers and torpedo planes again took their toll so the old girl was abandoned on the afternoon of June 4, 1942.
Salvage crews later went aboard and were well on their way to cobbling her back into a self-mobile state again when the Japanese submarine I-168 put a torpedo into her.

Finally, on the 7th, she gradually filled, capsized and sank - three miles deep.
Bob Ballard found her in 1998 'cause... he just gets to find all the cool stuff in the world.
So, she was dead at the age of five.
But before going down she had put the hurt on four Japanese carriers, two of which were sunk along with the cruiser mentioned above. Not bad for a month's work.
She hadn't been on the job long but, over the course of her less-than-six-months of combat service, she received the following honors:
American Defense Service Medal ("A" device)
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (3 stars)
World War II Victory Medal (awarded posthumously).
And how about a big shout-out to all those nameless hull-techs, machinist mates and civilian (Unionized) shipyard workers that achieved the impossible.
I won't call them "heroes", the reason being: That word is ridiculously over-used.
Chris Hayes from MSNBC got in trouble for bring this up the other day but I heartily agree.
I joined the Navy (High number. Little chance of the draft getting me) during which was technically wartime.
Now, even though I am a "Vietnam Era Veteran" I can categorically state: I am not a hero.
During seven years in the Guard, I could have volunteered to participate in George the 1st's let's-keep-gas-prices-low warlette.
Even if I had; still not a hero.
My Dad, with decorations to prove his status, would have taken serious issue with anyone referring to him as such. It would have embarrassed him.
The problem with loaded words like "hero" is best summed-up by the following quote:
"If you call Elvis Presley (or Costello for that matter) a musical genius, what do you do with Mozart?"
We need a draft.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Detroit music Acts That Kick Poopy-Pants Nugent's Ass!

If you have doing likewise and kicking said ass, I'd carry some plastic bags to put over your shoes 'cause... it's Ted.
First up: A Motown one-hit-wonder, The Contours circa 1962.

Motown is the whole, big fish that eats Ted's lunch and these guys are the small fry. We'll move right past the three girls from the projects, The Supremes.
Ted does not like chicks harshing his buzz.
So, 1966-ish:
Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels:

Okay, these two weren't really in Stinky-pant's genre. Fair enough.
Staying with our - generally - consecutive theme, here's MC5 in July, 1970. Probably about the time Ted was shitting his pants. Funny innit? You can say that about this douche and be absolutely literal.

Just 'cause, here's Vincent Furnier doing some early work on his stage persona as dissolute drunk.
See Ted, This is what stage-craft is all about.

Okay, you knew this was coming... Anyone who wants to be known as "The Motor City Madman" is going to have to first unseat Iggy Pop.
When they were starting out, MC5 referred to them affectionately as "Little MC5".

Oh Ted, You suck so hard. Let's pull your nasty pants down with something more AM friendly.

Speaking of which: Motown.
Ted fans, don't make me break out Stevie Wonder.

I'll do it.
Now to be fair, some or all of the above may have shit their pants out of expediency. It's not our place to judge.
But not one of them told an interviewer that they had - like a certain dumbass did.

Michigan senator huh?
Ted, scrub your ass-crack thoroughly. It's just a good general rule but especially if you're running for office. You have a bit of a reputation.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Completely Gratuitous, Putilov-Garford, Porn Dump.

In the beginning... there was the Garford 5-ton. Pictured above and below.
In both illustrations you can plainly see the sleek lines, low-slung carriage and the air that it's going like a bat-out-of-hell - even standing still.
Okay. Not really. but they were solid, serviceable trucks as evidenced by these two photos. At 30 horsepower, nobody was burning up the road.
Anyway, I've prattled on this subject before but to briefly cover that ground again: The Russian Empire bought 50 such trucks and created the Putilov-Garford.
Heavy; 8 or 11 tons depending on who's writing and top-heavy like an upright piano. And they didn't soup-up that 30 hp power plant either. 
Top end: 12 mph. Off road it kept wanting to lay over on its side and rest. Traction was negated by those solid rubber tires.
Still she was nobody to mess with. Her main gun, facing rearward was roughly equivalent to that of a WW2 Sherman. It didn't traverse all 360 degrees but there were three Maxim guns facing forward.

So, I present...
The Putilov-Garford
Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.
The Empire went south as you well know. After that the P.G was still used for a time. Post war Freikorps pictured.

Ya aint stuck 'till ya gotta walk. Like now.

Guy kneeling in center; "Now watch me this time, damnit! You take this lace over the other one and then, under it, then pull them tight. Now, put one finger here... God damn it! Pay attention. We can't keep stopping just 'cause your shoe's untied."
On that note we'll bid a fond farewell to the joint endeavor of Elyria, Ohio and the Putilov Company of St. Petersburg with a nice respectful pass-in-review shot.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Willie and the Giant Orange

Some old stuff from about seven years ago that seems apropos to the present moment.
There just might be a figure in the present that bears a resemblance.
The following concerns the sociopathic moron my Granddad referred to as: "Kaiser Bill".
Willie for short.
Let's just say: Willie was wound a bit tight.
First of all: He liked uniforms - a lot. Not only did he commission way-cool uni's for himself but, during the first seventeen years of his reign, he ordered thirty-seven changes to officer's uniforms. It only slowed when Willie was tactfully told that, although army tailors were prospering, some junior members of his officer corps were going broke.
Cautionary tale:
Everybody recognized  that Willie was all bullshit and bluster - and correctly but they also believed him to be somewhat aware of reality.
The Boxer Rebellion sealed it.
This was a complex diplomatic crisis that the cooler heads in Germany correctly believed ought to have some participation from the world's newest global power - especially considering that the German ambassador had been murdered (Benghazi!). You know the drill; show up walk around looking dangerous so the diplomats can do their thing.
The entire trip had been Willie's idea but he wasn't content to just let it ride.
He showed up to address the troops before they left for China.
He demanded that those under his command "raze Peking to the ground..." and that everyone in China should be so indelibly imprinted with terror of Deutschland that they'd never be able to look a German in the face.
Everyone picked their jaw up off the floor and a light came on.
The whole mess in China was solved by diplomats from Britain, Russia and Japan well before Willie's traumatically-inspired soldiers arrived.
He was furious.

What follows is the first of these Willie-related posts - followed by the sad tale of Willie's ignominious end.

Willie saw some dynamite,
Couldn't understand it quite;
Curiosity never pays:
It rained Willie seven days.

Harry Graham

Meet Willie.
He's quite a young man in this photo. In spite of that, two things stand out.
First off: The attitude - he's The Crown Prince of Prussia (well, son of the Crown Prince), future emperor of Germany (...that's got some working out to do - but it'll happen).
In short - Willie's got it wired. He's got it goin' on.
Secondly, his left arm, casually held underneath the other, was shorter than his right and atrophied, the result of a breech birth.
The little fella had tried to come out sideways against the better judgment of the Mom, one of the Daughters of Queen Victoria.
It's a sad thing. He was said to have been very athletic and "into" all sorts of things where two good arms would have been nice.
He had always tried to conceal the deformity, either by keeping his left hand on his sword hilt or carrying a pair of gloves so that his arm would seem longer.

June 1887. Big party at Grandma's house - Buckingham Palace. The occasion:the 50th anniversary of the Queen's ascension, her "Golden Jubilee".
Of course, everyone and his dog had to be invited - fifty-some monarchs of various flavors from around the globe. It was going to be huge.
But, there was a problem.
The family, that is the Royal family knew our lad, at 28, to be somewhat problematic.
He had opinions - lots of them - and he liked to share them.
Queen Vic was reluctant to let him come at all. Her concern was that William would "...show his dislikes and be disagreeable."
Her son and heir-apparent, played it a little smarter, pointing out that, even though Willie was second in the succession, his Dad was dying from throat cancer, while the present Kaiser, Wilhelm I, at ninety, refused to die.
Seeing the wisdom of not alienating the, almost certain future ruler of Germany, Victoria agreed - but the Price of Wales was charged with riding herd on Little Willie and "...keeping William sweet."
First off, the Prince of Wales was a great uncle - by that I mean a fun uncle.
Also, Willie, once you knew him was a bit of a cheap date.
He liked things military. A lot.
Uncle Edward took him on a whirlwind tour of things, martial.
Parades, reviews, maneuvers, Willie was in hog-heaven.
The culmination of this glut of military pageantry came about when he was allowed to spend the day with the Prince of Wale's own regiment, the 10th Royal Hussars.
The commander, Colonel Liddell had a new toy that Willie was quite taken with.
The Colonel had purchased, with his own money, a machine gun.
It was a Nordenfelt and he'd had it mounted on its own carriage.
it was the pride of the regiment.

Needless to say, Willie was orgasmic. He'd never had such a good time.
When he got home he dashed off thank-you letters to all his hosts, along with pictures of himself and invitations to come and see his regiment, the Garde Hussarien.
The Brits took him up on the offer and showed up next year with a surprise.
Who'd a seen this coming?
They'd brought Willie his own Nordenfelt (Naval version pictured at left).
The gift included the temporary services of one Corporal Hustler of the Royal Hussars, charged with showing them how to operate the damned thing.
The story's a bit predicable from here.
Willie enjoyed his stone-age, hand-cranked Nordenfelt but, when Hiram Maxim ten years later showed him his machine gun, Willie said "This is the gun. There is no other."

Oh fuck, Willie; you have well-and truly trodden upon your Oscar Mayer. With your callow idiocy, you've unleashed the most devastating war in history - until the second installment arrived twenty-years later.
We're still working out the details.
Thanks, Dummy.

"Your abdication has become necessary to save Germany from civil war and to fulfill your mission as a peace making emperor to the end...
The great majority of the people believe you to be responsible for the present situation. The belief is false, but there it is."

cousin Prince Max, in a phone conversation taking place during the earlier, gentler stages of the push for Willy to step down.
November 8, 1918.

The tough old bird to the left is neither Willie nor his cousin. That would be the lovely and talented Paul Von Hindenburg, the last one to get the opportunity to persuade Willy.
Willie was in Belgium at the time, in the city of Spa and, although delusional to the end he did recognize that Germany was getting their pants pulled down on the front.
The near anarchy back home he dismissed as amounting to "...a few hundred Jews and a thousand workmen."
His belief was that, after this ugly, armistice business was settled, he'd gather his loyal troops and lead them home to restore order.
So, they hauled in the big guns.
The lot fell to his loyal old general, Hindenburg.
The next morning  he and Ludendorf's replacement General Groener showed up at the Kaiser's hotel.
In tears, Hindenburg let Groener tactfully tell Willie that he was out of options.
The home front is in revolt and the front is collapsing.

Willie: "I shall remain at Spa, and lead my troops back to Germany."

Groener: "Sire, you no longer have an army for it no longer stands behind you.

Hindenburg added that he, personally couldn't vouch for the loyalty of the men under him either.
The light started to come on in Willie's melon.
He told them that, if they could prove that he could no longer command his army, then he'd abdicate.
Twenty-four senior officers were summoned and asked if their troops would follow the Kaiser home.
With one lone "yes-man" dissenting, twenty-three said "no".
In the end, it didn't matter that Willie had finally made up his mind.
His cousin in Berlin, panicking at the thought of a rebellion, had already announced that the Kaiser was stepping down.
Now, loyal old Hindenburg got to lead Willie by the hand on why it was not a good idea to sit in his hotel and wait until the British came to capture him.
Neutral Holland was only sixty miles away, he should go there.
He had to go there.

And so it came to pass, that on the morning of November 10, Willie and four cars full of entourage showed up at a Dutch border crossing.
The guard - and this must have absolutely made his week - examined the passports of everyone on each car - taking his time, being thorough - and he let no one through until one of Willie's aides finally managed to phone a Dutch official willing to let them in.
All the while - Willie had to wait in the car - for a long time.
Once over the border Willie was recognized even though he'd dressed in civvies which was not - with four cars worth of gold braid and medals accompanying - the most clever of disguises.
He was welcomed into the land that was to be his home for the rest of his life with greeting such as:
"Ah, Kamerad Kaputt!" and "Vive la France!"
Home at last.

The working of Willie's first love, animated

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Beaumont Egg and "The Diver"

Here's a hypothetical: Suppose there was a fella -
a well-respected
engineer and a proven designer of multiple, railroad structures - who
landed his dream job. And this cushy gig just happened to be the
construction of the longest railroad bridge in the world.
Some last minute adjustments had to be made during construction
but - he pulled it off.
He so impressed the Queen that he's knighted.
Pretty sweet, right?
Well then: Just suppose that, at some painfully close interval, and
further, just because we know the universe can be cruelly ironic on
occasion, let's say: His downfall occurred during a season of peak
impact, ie the holidays, and that it impacted his own family.
It happens: The bridge fell down. With a loaded passenger train
crossing - carrying our hero's son-in-law.
That'd be pretty bleak - even for '70's movie.

Welcome to the world of Sir Thomas. Acclaimed designer of the
Tay Bridge and father-in-law to one of the seventy-five or so folks
aboard. Only sixty were ever accounted for. All died.
Sir Thomas died less than a year later.

Short version: A gale-force wind was blowing up the Firth of Tay

(firth = tidal estuary) off the North Sea just as a passenger train
was crossing and the elevated section of the bridge, the so-called
"high girders", blew down due to the action of the wind on the

So, a monumental fuck-up occurred  which put poor old Thomas on the carpet.

What was revealed was a mix of inadequate design, poor manufacturing
standards and a plan that changed  radically when it was discovered
that the bedrock they were so confident was close to the river bottom,
turned out to be consolidated gravel.
The root of every part of the problem lay in the nature of the
material used - cast iron.
Cast iron (Actually just an extremely high-carbon steel) is great
stuff. it flows nicely into molds and has awesome strength... in
compression. Keeping it positive; it also has excellent resistance to
deformation under heat and excellent dimensional stability.
It doesn't suck for bridges either, at least sometimes. Others such as
the Dee Bridge, which collapsed thirty years earlier should have clued
them up that they ought to be paying attention.

What put Britons agog over this wonder material was the Crystal

Palace. Built for the Great Exhibition of 1851, it was nothing but a
huge greenhouse (990,000 square feet. Think twenty Home Depots) made
from nothing but cast-iron and plate-glass. Good looking as well.
You can't blame folks for thinking "Holy shit! if we can build that,
we could build a space ship out of this stuff!"

Baby steps. Besides, they weren't completely pulling out of their ass.

in 1781 the impressively named "Iron Bridge" opened.

They held a naming contest and this entry squeaked by just ahead of "Bridgy McBridge Butt".

It was never intended for rail traffic and, in the modern world, if you want to cross,  you

have to walk over it - but you can do that - today.

Then there was the Dowery Dell Viaduct that operated from 1878 to 1964

which was only dismantled because the rail line shut down.

The Crumlin Viaduct opened in 1857 and the last passenger train

crossed it in 1964. A passenger train.

The Belah Viaduct was first crossed by a locomotive in the fall of 1860 and continued in regular use until1963.

I think one conclusion we can draw is: Cast-iron doesn't totally suck when it comes to bridges.

A further conclusion can be reached when, after reading the following, that Thomas Bouch was hardly a dummy when it came to bridges.

"The Crumlin Viaduct, of which a description has been given in our previous work, was

doubtless the model after which the Belah was designed, but the
Engineer, Mr Thomas Bouch, of Edinburgh, did not follow Mr Kennard’s
example, except in the general scheme of skeleton trussed piers,
composed of cast and wrought iron, and a superstructure composed of
lattice girders crossed with timber."

Okay then. what the hell happened at the Firth of Tay?

Okay, we've already mentioned  the unpleasant fact that all their best-laid plans were thrown into turmoil by the revelation that - what they'd supposed was bedrock was actually consolidated gravel.

But... in for a penny, in for a pound. So much had been committed already that the design was "adjusted".
The original, structure begun in 1871, was to be a  bridge supported by brick piers resting on bedrock.  Safe as houses, sounds like. If that had been the case, it would likely still be in service today - in its original configuration.
Initial borings had shown the bedrock to be relatively close to the bed of the the river. Accordingly, at either end of the bridge, the bridge were deck trusses, the tops of which were level with the pier tops, with the single track railway running on top.  Pretty standard and nice and solid.
However, in the center section of the bridge (the so-called "high girders"), the arrangement was reversed. Instead of having a solid, latticework frame under the rail bed like the rest of the bridge, the high girders were trusses on either side of the track to allow clearance for sailing ships. No flies on any of this - so far.

Before we discuss this delightful graphic it should be noted that the modifications made to the original plan primarily consisted of cutting down on the load carried per pier. 
Sir Tom was no dummy but he wanted to keep his gig. Time for compromise. More and narrower piers upon which the roadbed rested as well as lessening of the lateral supports between the cast iron columns and, hey presto, Tom's a peer of the realm.
More fun graphics:

The black diagonals in the first gif represent the wrought iron cross bracing, which was lessened and lightened for the new and improved version of the bridge.
Thing is: wrought iron, given its fibrous structure, has awesome strength in tension. It's not at fault in the least - aside from the fact that there were rather less of the brace/lug connections, as pictured  above - breaking - that there ought to have been so ...
Cast iron, as stated kicks, ass in compression but isn't worth a shit in tension.
Over the course of investigation it was discovered that the founders of the columns had, shall we say, cut some corners.
First off: that nice connection that we've been watching fail for lo-these-many-seconds was made by either a pin or bolt - and  of substantial size I should think. The holes in the wrought iron laterals were likely bored with whatever precision was usual for the time, being that we still have such bridges today.
In the lug portion of the connection things were iffier.
Being that these columns - eighty-five feet high - were braced by these diagonal brace connections, it would seem that this would bear some special attention. Didn't happen.
Now, not only are we getting by with narrower piers and fewer columns, the manufacturing standards I mentioned at the outset were also in the equation.

Pictured above: An illustration showing the concept of draft. Draft is the process whereby you can extricate the pattern from the mold after ramming,without tearing chunks out of your molding sand.. Making that process clean saves much time and labor in later clean-up. "A clean pattern-draw" is  what it's called by trade and industry professionals.
Just because that's the picture I found - and the principles are identical - pretend that what's pictured is the profile of a hole.
Thing is: Every one of those oh-so-critical connections twixt cast columns and wrought iron diagonal braces (If I may belabor the point; with fewer of both which meant a more highly stressed joint than originally planned.) was assembled with the flange holes as pictured (Reverse it). As in: Un-machined, tapered and cleaned-up just enough for the connecting bolt to go through. 
Good enough is good enough! It's Miller Time.
At the inquiry it became plain that no one had given a thought to taking the extra time and expense to bore these holes out for a tighter fit. The boss of the foundry said that if no one asked for it special - and no one had - it wasn't their problem. 
The other issue was, as mentioned in the title "Beaumont Egg". As near as anyone can gather, this waa 'cockneyisation' of "beau montage". French speakers chime in. It was a term used by French joiners to describe filling the cracks in your new joinery project before it went to its happy new owner. Sort of like: "They'll never see that from a trotting horse" - a My Dad-ism.
Bottom line: It's Bondo. And there is nothing wrong with that except... it was used on structural members.
I was looking for more info on the beaumont egg stuff and found a forum for those arcane anoraks who restore Victorian era machinery, stationary power tools and the like. The warning was given to readership not go too crazy with your brand-new,  three-thousand pound bandsaw and put paint stripper on all the cast parts. If in doing so, you uncover some beaumont egg you may just accidentally melt it out of the hole in the casting you never knew was patched thus. And, depending, the stripper may have contaminated the cavity so...
So what was this stuff? It could have been iron-fillings, alum and violin rosin. Or it could have been lead shot pounded into blowholes and sand inclusions. One later account it that steel shot - as used in shot-blasting - is mixed with Portland cement and the whole is pounded firm with a pneumatic hammer. What ever comes to hand that will keep the paint level with the rest of the surface and let you get this damned thing out the door.
It seems that the inciting incident was, as illustrated in the gif, a derailment at the beginning of the high-girders. Followed by the passenger cars falling against the leeward trusses due to the gale-force winds happening in the moment (Another embarrassing query during the inquiry concerned whether Boucher had taken wind loads into account in his design - he hadn't. It simply hadn't come up) and  then there follow  a wonderful cascade of failures that put him in the doghouse and occasioned the construction of a new bridge.
The piers are still there, right next to the new bridge.
But c'mon now. Turn that frown upside down. There was a survivor - the locomotive later known as "The Diver" (I made a rhyme AND I didn't include 'MacGyver'. You're welcome).

After spending some time in the mud, this valuable, capital asset of the British Northern Railway, was dragged out and put back in service. By the way, pictured below is not the Diver, merely a representative of the type,  the NBR 224 series.
After being dragged out of the muck on the third attempt, in 1880, she was refurbished and continued in service until 1925
Gonna close as this is depressing.

Friday, March 10, 2017


"A Fast Convoy"

I've posted this painting before, only because I absolutely adore it.
It has everything, the stormy North Atlantic, the gallant destroyer USS Allen bucking the swells with her decks awash. Did I mention? She's also one of those too-cool-to-even-exist, four-stackers.
Sigh... Instead, we're going to discuss the big unit, seen lurking off in the murk. But despair not,
it's not like she can't hold our interest.
Remember before the primaries when Marco Rubio piped-up from the kid's table to point out that the USN, my Nav, was rocking the smallest number of vessels since The Great War.
Isn't it cute? He thinks he's a defense wonk.
And our own illustrious president reckons he'd like to have more floaties in the pool as well.
Fact is; at the time old Marco And MOIC (moron in chief) made reference to, the Navy was utilizing a lot of loaners, commandeered civilian vessels etc.
Back to Leviathan; during her brief moment of service, she was the largest troop transport on earth - and somewhat different from the standard troop ship if only because she was so big. She was also a virtual freebie.
First of all, it's not too surprising that she was the largest troop ship since, a few years earlier, she had been the Vaterland.
She was launched 13 April, 1911 and was the largest passenger ship in the world
She was a 54,282 gross ton passenger liner built by Blohm & Voss at Hamburg, Germany, as the second of three ultra-liners for the Hamburg-America Line's trans-Atlantic route. 
Bad luck. It seems that on only her third or fourth trans-Atlantic crossing, she had the misfortune to be docked in the US at just the moment that in which that ... unpleasantness began... in 1914.
Well, being a German registered liner, it was deemed unwise for the big girl to venture home until things had sorted themselves out a bit.
Three years later, they were well-and-truly sorted when the US declared war and, certain valuable assets were seized - hey presto - USS Leviathan was born (Laterally promoted).
More boat porn.
The dazzle camo scheme, here looking majorly aggressive was soon adopted and she started carrying the troops. 
 During the period she was active, all of eight months, she transported 119,000 from here to Over There.
About 14,000 head per trip and the Chief Quartermaster - the guy who gets to steer the boat into and out of harbor - for each of those trips was...  Wait for it. Celebrity connection:
No! Not Fred MacMurray, the guy in the middle, the one rocking the Lt Cmdr goodies.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, thirty-four years prior to playing the most famously insane minesweeper captain in the history of literature, Humphrey Bogart, was in reality a competent Navy man. A senior enlisted man at that.

But, peace broke out - like it does and this giant freebie of a ship suddenly became a burden, along with a whole lot of other Naval floating-stock such as commandeered coal-barges etc.
Hems were hawed and hands were sat on regarding the Big Girl until 1924 when, having been rewired, replumbed, her hull strengthened and converted from coal to oil began anew her career as a passenger liner.
It took some time due to an absence of blueprints - as in  - there were none.
The treaty of Versailles had put the German's nose out of joint so they were disinclined to negotiate re "the plans for your ship that we 'happened to acquire' and would now like to rehab." Awkward.
The prints were available but... pricey. Germany was short of $$ at the moment as you know so... the price they were asking was insane
What that meant was that every part of the ship needed to be measured.
From the fathomless mind of Wiki:

"War duty and age meant that all wiring, plumbing, and interior layouts were stripped and redesigned while her hull was strengthened and her engines converted from coal to oil while being refurbished; virtually a new ship emerged.[5]"

Except that... a luxury ocean liner was hardly a guaranteed money-maker... during a depression.
And so it goes...
Wiki will now kindly deliver the eulogy:

In 1937 she was finally sold to the British Metal Industries Ltd. On 26 January 1938 Leviathan set out on her 301st and last voyage under the command of Captain John Binks, retired master of the RMS Olympic, and a crew of 125 officers and men who had been hired to deliver her to the breakers. She arrived at Rosyth, Scotland, on 14 February. In the 13 years that she served U.S. Lines she carried more than a quarter-million passengers, never earning a cent.[5]"

In the word of one of the orators of our era:

Aside... RMS Olympic (AKA Titanic's sister ship and thus equally unsinkable) went on to run over the top of - and sink - four different vessels over the course of her career. That's something, isn't it?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Chill, Hotshot!

It would seem to go without saying that, if one lives in a self-contained world made almost entirely from wood, one would have to watch out for fire. And if such wood were further coated with tar and/or paint, one would need to be even more cautious. The French ship, Orient illustrates the problem. She got caught in the middle of one of the many interminable paint jobs a ship undergoes in the course of life and the paint that was being applied above deck caught fire. It wasn't the paint that burned down the ship. it was just the fire the paint started. It got into that wood we mentioned earlier and that, ultimately blew up her powder magazines. So, you'd think that the "wooden walls" represented ocean-going ships, ships made of heavy stock. Sure it wouldn't catch fire from a cigarette butt. Maybe, probably. It still bears paying attention. One thing that is certain to make the fire happy to stick around is the winning combination of a sustained source of heat, and splinters. Not the kind you get from the firewood. More like these:

Check out Mr. David "Big Balls" Farragut. Just hangin' out; overplaying it just 'cause the photographers were there.
Enough about him. Take a look at that big chunk of wood in the foreground, laying across the rail, the one that looks to be a lot more deadly than Dave does.
That's a splinter. That bursting out the bulkhead right next to your head would ruin your entire next... howeverlong.
So, a heavy cannon ball hitting the side of a ship would produce these large, pointy projectiles, even if the ball didn't go all the way through.

Cross section of USS Constitution. Outside, the planking runs horizontally while the structural ribs on the inside are vertical. It would be a rare shot that actually punctured the hull. What didn't bounce off would be stuck until further notice.

Stuck like Chuck and stuck surrounded by a nest of the splinters which didn't break loose and decapitate anyone. Let's call those splinters; "kindling."
It seems that if a fella could somehow make these projos hot, seriously hot, then the job of putting the ship under would be greatly aided.
Enter the hotshot furnace.

Mostly found accompanying coastal batteries although a very few were used aboard ship.
A small furnace used by the Norwegian Navy

It's pretty straightforward. Balls go in at the top like they would in a giant Marble works, line up on iron rails inside where the heat from a fire at the lower end makes the balls nice and toasty as it passes over them on its way to the flue.

In a lab, kiln-dried red oak will ignite after just half a minute at 800 degrees Fahrenheit - self-cleaning oven temperature. A ship isn't kiln dried, not a huge difference and it's also not red oak. However, as a guideline...
Iron starts to glow just a bit over 1000 but will be over 1500 when it becomes a bright, cherry red.
So, imagine a red-hot ball, taken from the furnace and put down the tube - with a wad of either wet clay or rags as a buffer - and sent downrange.
I'd say - less than a minute from start to finish. All that time our hypothetical ball is losing heat but how much heat?
I'm thinking it would be a significant amount but that it wouldn't matter.
The time spent being trundled from the furnace to the gun, the contact with the barrel and the wad followed by its final trip through the air, have of course cooled it but only on the surface.
Old, ARTY expression: "You've gotta have a lot of balls to justify a hotshot furnace!" It'll be old by the time you read it, older anyway.
Point is: These batteries weren't throwing rounds on any quick schedule so a ball on the bottom row of the furnace may have spent the entire day rolling down there, all the while getting a nice long soak.
So, the ball itself may have even lost its rosy glow at least temporarily all that other cast iron on the inside would be unaffected.
USS Constitution carried 24 and 32-pounders. The coastal batteries would have gone bigger but there's a limit to how much red-hot iron two guys can carry, with tongs, at a run.

Because I seem to lack a purpose in my life but do own a sixteen pound cast iron ball from a ball mill, I stuck it into my propane forge. I then spent twenty minutes running it up to cherry red.
Having been taken out and sitting in the open air it was still perceptibly glowing eight minutes later.
Two minutes after that it didn't look hot at all but a piece of cardboard put next to it caught fire in less than a minute.
So it would appear that when a chunk half again as large or twice as large or larger (I would think a 50 pounder would be the upper limit of manageability) would hold onto its heat even longer.

So it's easy to imagine the sense of urgency 32 pounds of hot iron resting in a nest of kindling would engender on a hugely flammable ship.
What would be needed to be rid of it was the boarding axe.
The pictured example is from the War of 1812.
These are thought of as weapons but in reality they are weapons in much the same way that a hammer would be a weapon in the case of a crew of house framers defending themselves. It could definitely be used as a weapon but its main function was damage control and firefighting.
This bad boy was used for chopping away fouled rigging and spars, and chopping out any hotshot that it may be herded to a nearby scupper.
This prosaic hero is also the direct forerunner to the well known, modern fire axe.

In closing, this has not been just an attempt to bore you with minutiae.
Rather it's a grand product roll out. Places everyone!

Introducing my new and improved Naval Boarding Axe.
Bigger, heavier with more authentic langets!
24 oz head, 23" overall length.
Coming soon.
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