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England’s Secret Weapon: The Two Million Ton Megacarrier Made of Ice


Britain was taking a beating from the German ships
and submarines and were looking for something to build a ship out of that couldn’t be
destroyed by torpedoes, or at least could take a major pounding without incurring a
fatal amount of damage. With steel and aluminum in short supply, Allied
scientists and engineers were encouraged to come up with alternative materials and weapons. A scientist named Geoffrey Pyke was the king
of alternative ideas (as you’ll see in the Bonus Facts below). One of his ideas was to build a 2,000 foot
long, 300 foot wide and two million ton carrier. Pyke named his project Habbakuk, a biblical
reference that seemed to mirror the project’s goal: “…be utterly amazed, for I am going
to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5, NIV) Unlike in the Bible though,
the ship’s name was spelled with two b’s and one k, which is thought to be simply a
spelling error that was repeated so many times that it became official. Besides the ship’s size, what was so different
about Pyke’s vessel was that it would be built of ice. There is no real limit on the availability
of ice; it’s easy to make, fairly durable (except in warm temperatures), buoyant, and
very easy to repair when damaged. Further, repairs can be made extremely quickly
with the right equipment, even during a battle. The ship was also to include 40 dual-barreled
gun turrets, as well as other anti-aircraft guns, and an airstrip that could accommodate
up to 150 fighter planes or twin-engined bombers. Pyke was able to sell Winston Churchill on
his plan in 1942, including Churchill stating it should be given the highest priority. In testing, though, it was discovered that
ice might not be as strong as the ice-bergs that Pyke modeled his idea on. It turned out that ice frozen into blocks
for the hull could be broken very easily with something as small as a hammer. The project was temporarily abandoned as a
result. However, later that year, a New York polytechnic
firm added cellulose- sawdust, wood chips and paper shreds- to water and froze it for
a much more promising base structure for such a ship. Not only was it stronger than straight frozen
water- with as little as 4% of wood pulp added it made it as strong as concrete, pound for
pound- it was also much slower to melt and more buoyant. Pykrete, named after Geoffrey Pyke, could
also be cut like wood and easily milled into shapes like metal. There was one problem though- melting and
refreezing would cause warping in the structure. Tests showed that a pykrete ship would eventually
sag unless consistently cooled to around 3° Fahrenheit. To maintain this, the ship’s surface would
have to be covered in insulation and it would need a refrigeration plant and duct system. To test the feasibility of getting around
this problem, a small scale version of the Habakkuk was constructed in Alberta, Canada’s
Lake Patricia to experiment with insulation and refrigeration possibilities and to see
how it would stand up to artillery shelling. The test ship was 30 feet wide by 60 feet
long, weighed 1,000 tons and was kept refrigerated with a one-horsepower engine, which was sufficient
to keep it from melting even through the hot summer months. In ballistic testing, it was determined that
a direct torpedo hit would only cause about a 10 foot crater in the hull, which was insignificant
given the size of the proposed ship. Thus, it would be nearly impervious to torpedo
attacks for all practical purposes, as it would take a huge number of torpedoes and
other bombs to sink the ship. So even if the ship was broken up, the Axis
powers would have had to invest a massive amount of their resources in a given area
to do it (particularly considering the arsenal of aircraft the ship carried), which would
have weakened them significantly on other fronts during the attack. If they were unsuccessful, the ship could
be easily and quickly repaired right on the spot. So overall, the test ship made the full size
version seem like it might actually work out. At this point, it was estimated that construction
on the real Habakkuk would cost $2.5 million (about $32 million today), which is a bargain
for a ship like this. There were still some hurdles to overcome,
though. The rudder on such a ship would have to be
massive. How to effectively mount this in the structure
in a way that would be resistant to attack was a problem, as was controlling such a rudder. Also, the amount of wood pulp needed would
have impacted paper production; while this ship used significantly less steel than most,
the steel tubing it did need for reinforcing the structure would have depleted reserves
for conventional, proven warships; a huge amount of cork would also be required to insulate
the ship; and, finally, the ship’s top speed of just six to seven knots (6.9 to 8.1 mph)
was deemed too slow, even with it being fairly torpedo-proof in terms of the main structure
itself. In the end, these problems, combined with
the fact that during the planning phase the range of aircraft had increased significantly
to the point where the need for a floating island became less necessary, ultimately sunk
the plan. While the plan to build Habakkuk was short-lived,
its prototype was surprisingly resilient. It took three hot summers to completely melt
the smaller version of the boat.

100 thoughts on “England’s Secret Weapon: The Two Million Ton Megacarrier Made of Ice

  1. In a game for the PS2 called Naval Ops: Warship Gunner, they actually recreated some of these ships as bosses. One of them was indeed the Habakkuk!

  2. This guy talks crap in so many videos. The German navy has never even worried the British navy in both wars. Merchant ships off u boats. But German ships were just expensive targets for the navy

  3. "Giant ships, not exactly known for there torque", torque specs from one of the higher torque ship engines, but shows how torque ALL ship engines are. "5,608,310 lbf⋅ft". Yea. more than 5 million pound feet.

  4. A minor inaccuracy at the start, more of misinterpretation than a falsehood: Germany had a much smaller Navy than Britain or America, due to its disarmament after the treaty of Versailles. Instead, the Kriegsmarine went for quality over quantity, fitting their ships with as much firepower and tech as they could. However, this meant that, in an engagement, the odds were only mostly against the German Navy, as opposed to monstrously against them. The Germans lost almost every Naval engagement against the British, but they never went down without a heavy fight. They would usually fight to the last man, causing heavy losses to the victors, but in a war of attrition, they would definitely lose. It's just that Britain's Royal Navy didn't like having to take so much damage even when they won. That's all.

  5. why is it annoying me when he called an (nimitz class it looked like) aircraft carrier 'battleship'….. a Supercarrier is not a battleship.. its a carrier… a battleship is a battleship…

  6. To anyone wanting to play World of warships dont do it, dont play any of wargamings games because they are nothing but a ripoff and you WILL get ripped off not to mention they spit on the community itself
    if you like tanks then i suggest you check out armored warfare its way better and you can gain everything ingame without having to pay for anything

  7. >>thinking man's action game
    ahahahaha, like literally rng p2w f2p which don't even have any action while everyone is hiding behind the nearest iceberg and all linear ships stay at base throwing ammo at eachother hoping for a jackpot

  8. I like the game. Its fun. But of course its free, so it has little investments ;p
    So dont be a gear collector in those games, could be expensive for everything ^^

  9. Maybe I held to high of hopes for Simon Whistler. I expected him to play like the Mighty Jingles (a famous British YouTuber who does WOW and WOT) only for him to explode in glorious fashion after 5 seconds. Lovely. Still I love your Top Tenz channel Simon and your Today I found out channel. Both are very informative and I have profound appreciation and respect for your work. Especially that time you did a video about Nickelback. 🙂

  10. This material scheme might’ve been possible if the numbskulls had tried to use newspapers instead of unrefined wood pulp in their ice. And had a cooling system.

  11. germany was known for it's engineering… but one problem, they forgot to engineer radar eyes and that fact was exploited

  12. Well they could’ve made the ship half the size and that would’ve fixed the turning and speed problems. And then make another amirite

  13. That "Let's Play" was pretty great. I'd say do more, but we have enough of those videos, and not enough informative videos like this channel is the best at.

  14. Simon might actually not be a terrible Let's Player. Especially with his knowledge through the channel. He'd definitely need to get a better mic though.

  15. i played this game hard for like 3 weeks, and to be honest it was much more fun watching you just putz around with the game, thank you for the laughs

  16. This idea of an un-sinkable aircraft carrier would have worked. Allied marine convoys needed a way to provide air cover to protect themselves from wolfpack submarine attack. A huge gap existed in the Atlantic route where convoys were not covered by long range aircraft. The plan to build an unsinkable aircraft carrier would have worked – it would have provided complete air cover for all the shipping crossing the Atlantic bound for Europe. In the end – we simply out produced the axis.

  17. This is a little unclear. Pyke actually escaped from Germany during the FIRST world war, hence reaching safety in Holland, which was neutral during that conflict.

  18. A rather large number of British war geniuses committed suicide – a sad reflection on our society at the time.

  19. It WAS NOT going to be made if ice. It was PROPOSED that it should be made of pyecreate, which is frozen water and sawdust. But the whole thing was a stupid idea and you are a self-gratifying idiot for bringing it up and making one of your interminable videos about it. Anyone can spout a ridiculous idea, are you going to make a video about all of the? You tedious fool.

  20. I can just imagine the talk on that destroyer. 'Who's commanding this ship?' Ah sir it's captain Whistler'. 'Ah in that case send out the order everybody abandon ship before we're blown to smithereens!.'

  21. Would have been nice to know that this game(World of Warships) required you to be running a program in Window$ before trying to start playing it. I thought it was an online game using browser.

  22. I'm actually kind of disappointed though. HMS Campbeltown I42 was originally USS Buchanan (DD-131), a Wicks-class flush deck destroyer. Her claim to fame was that she was modified to look like a German destroyer, packed with nearly 100 tons of explosives, and rammed into the dock gates where the Tirpitz was hiding in Operation Chariot. You should do a video on that.

  23. Speaking of secret weapons- check out this video about The Man Who Fought in WWII With a Sword and Bow:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiEx40M3Vdw

  24. Couldnt they have made ice pannels to strap on the side of existing ships….would probably be more practical than a 2 million ton ship haha

  25. I read that he has another idea for the ship: a "freeze" gun. Basically it would use super cooled water and nozzles could be directed at invading soldiers. Due to the properties, it would essentially instantly freeze upon contact.

  26. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Campbeltown_%28I42%29
    Here's the Wikipedia page on the HMS Campbeltown……. interesting history…

  27. Finally stopped giggling,. You started his video saying it was an Aircraft Carrier. Then said it was a Battleship. Make up your fkn mind! Those are two different types of ships. Seriously, you have to to better to get me to subscribe. And your accent seems to come and go. Are you really British?

  28. World of Warships sucks, War Thunder is better, less Pay 2 Win, and it has Ships, Subs(Soon), Airplanes, and Tanks all in one, and it is way more realistic and has different gamemodes, Arcade, Realistic, and Simulator.

  29. 5:45 Pyke's "crazy idea" did pan out in that the concept was workable and would have performed better than predicted. His carrier was sunk for resource reasons, not technical ones.

  30. No I will not sail a namesake ship in world of warships… I tried the other online war simulator called War Thunder, and no matter how good I was and what tank or plane I used I and many others got creamed by the big headed premium paid players who are allowed to play with the free low level players in the battles and kill them with total ease and get tons of points and laughing at the low level unpaid players!  So they can stick those type of games.

  31. Another reasons it was cancelled was the time it would take to build .It wouldn't be completed until long after the war was over.

  32. It seems like you copied a video made previous, VERY simlar wording even. What's up with that? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8a0xMASQZjM

  33. Added fact…during a demonstration in front of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, a bullet ricocheted off the pykrete and put a hole into Admiral King's pants.

  34. Why wasn't this a gaming channel…hail Admiral Simon the Competent…I'm getting sick of editing this comment but more bonus facts after witnessing how the Allies won ww2…nah mate…woah dark place to end on…nice

  35. I’ve been here apparently? What probably happened was I saw the video, meant to watch it, commented, and my phone died. Anyway what’s the deal with calling torpedos missiles? You know better than that if you played! And that sudden death thing was probably a citadel hit. Campbelltown is a light cruiser, which has an armored citadel. The thing is if an enemy shot gets through the armor it can cause a huge amount of damage up to your ship straight up exploding instantly. Destroyers don’t have citadels as they’re too small.
    I’ve never personally played (due to hardware constraints) but I’m a fan of the Mighty Jingles so I’ve learned the game.

  36. Once the royal navy gets stronger THEY must likely will handle the rust bucket Russian navy.the Brits are probably the best pound for pound sailors in the world.

  37. World of War Ships (WWS_ is a great game is you love using hacks when gaming. WWS wastes no resources on even looking at for hackers. Hack, cheat and enjoy!!

  38. The cambeltown was the british ship the britsh comandos used to blow up the dock in france so the turpits couldnt be repaid in france

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