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Old 10-13-2019, 02:43 PM   #1
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Cousteau's Calypso - polar cruising with a wooden hull

I came across an interesting old article from the 1973 New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/1973/03/11/a...on-saying.html and just thought I'd share it for any of you who, like me, grew up on Cousteau's adventures. I've been wondering lately how the Calypso fared in ice, since it made numerous trips through polar and antarctic waters. I don't ever recall any special reinforcements to the hull or any metal ice-bands at the waterline. However this article does document a time when the boat was actually holed and had it's shaft and propeller damaged (another argument for singles versus twins here!).
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Old 10-13-2019, 02:56 PM   #2
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A non-ice capable ship in ice is looking for trouble.


Ice can form and thicken quickly and is very strong like glass in compression when you hit a big, thin piece.
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Old 10-13-2019, 03:26 PM   #3
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There was an excellent mini series on Amazon Prime, it was called The Terror, it was the semi true story of the Polar Explorers , The Drake Passage I think..the wood ships got caught in the ice..and crushed..
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Old 10-13-2019, 03:34 PM   #4
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Heck, my friends were on the USCGC Westwind icebreaker when the ice pack pushed her against the Ross Ice Shelf and it gashed her open just above the waterline for something like 140 feet on a 269 foot ship.

Glad I missed that trip....


Had to melt ice off the flight deck in the sink just to shave for the rest of the trip home.
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Old 10-13-2019, 04:22 PM   #5
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From various articles on the web, it seems that the wooden boats that venture into ice these days all sheath in fiberglass. S-glass is very high tensile and abrasion resistant.
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Old 10-13-2019, 05:22 PM   #6
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From various articles on the web, it seems that the wooden boats that venture into ice these days all sheath in fiberglass. S-glass is very high tensile and abrasion resistant.

Still.... going into areas that can build in thick ice quickly...it's not abrasion you are worried about.


There are quite a few failed missions compared to successful when talking ice.


Some people read about those areas of the planet and think they have it covered.....wrong.
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Old 10-13-2019, 08:08 PM   #7
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Maybe so, but I'm still amazed by what the Calypso accomplished with basically a "stock" minesweeper hull that was never designed for ice.
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Old 10-13-2019, 08:14 PM   #8
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luck is a great contributor to history...without it many famous people would never be remembered.
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Old 10-13-2019, 09:10 PM   #9
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About 50 years ago, wood boats operating in the ice had Iron Wood as a 2nd layer of planking above and below the waterline where ice would rub. It's very dense wood and usually doesn't float on its own. In my youth as a shipwright I worked on a number of Alaska boats and barges that had ice protection. It didn't make them ice breakers, but allowed them to work their way thru ice flows and pack ice.
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Old 10-13-2019, 10:50 PM   #10
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Years ago my uncle was director of EPA in Alaska. Calypso came into Anchorage. Was dumping garbage over the side in harbor (according to my uncle).

He showed up at the dock, was invited on board.

Once they understood why he was there, they didn't speak english anymore, only French!
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Old 10-13-2019, 11:14 PM   #11
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About 50 years ago, wood boats operating in the ice had Iron Wood as a 2nd layer of planking above and below the waterline where ice would rub. It's very dense wood and usually doesn't float on its own. In my youth as a shipwright I worked on a number of Alaska boats and barges that had ice protection. It didn't make them ice breakers, but allowed them to work their way thru ice flows and pack ice.
Quite right. We called it iron bark, same stuff and yes it will sink like a stone. Actually a very pretty wood, dark with lots of contrasting grain, but super tough. Cannot drive a nail into it either.

My dad used to occasionally work on a local tug that had been converted from one of those same sweeper hulls, company was Alaska Outport, don't remember the name of the boat though, wait!! Just remembered. It was the Klehowa.

I was visiting my grandparents place in Fremont many years ago, family get together. I happened to look out towards the Fremont Bridge when lo and behold, the Calypso had just passed! Only time I ever saw it, outside of TV and books.
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Old 10-14-2019, 08:17 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by makobuilders View Post
I came across an interesting old article from the 1973 New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/1973/03/11/a...on-saying.html and just thought I'd share it for any of you who, like me, grew up on Cousteau's adventures. I've been wondering lately how the Calypso fared in ice, since it made numerous trips through polar and antarctic waters. I don't ever recall any special reinforcements to the hull or any metal ice-bands at the waterline. However this article does document a time when the boat was actually holed and had it's shaft and propeller damaged (another argument for singles versus twins here!).
The calypso as well as her sistership Calisto ( presently in Thailand) had reinforced copper at water line since they were built as minesweeper.
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Old 10-14-2019, 08:20 AM   #13
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I used to craft wood doors in Vietnam from pyinkado, which is what we called ironwood. I believe there are many species of wood referred to by the ďironĒ name.

The wood was so hard that our carbide blades were constantly wearing out. Drove up our costs. It was very dense and probably would make a great ice belt.
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Old 10-14-2019, 08:41 AM   #14
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When Cousteau was exploring the Mississippi River, Calypso was holed by a log, and had to be hauled out in Greenville, Mississippi for repairs. A female friend of mine ran into Cousteau's son in a bar there while it was being repaired, and didn't believe him until reading about it in the paper the next day.
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Old 10-14-2019, 09:00 AM   #15
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ironwood....marvelous stuff...


Anyone with experience with it ever spend much time icebreaking or in Arctic/Antartic waters?


Copper sheathing? Unless very thick plate not much protection from real ice...just against abrasion in newly forming ice.
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Old 10-14-2019, 09:05 AM   #16
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luck is a great contributor to history...without it many famous people would never be remembered.

Yeah, those guys were just lucky right, no idea what they were doing. What arrogance..and ignorance.
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Old 10-14-2019, 09:29 AM   #17
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ironwood....marvelous stuff...


Anyone with experience with it ever spend much time icebreaking or in Arctic/Antartic waters?


Copper sheathing? Unless very thick plate not much protection from real ice...just against abrasion in newly forming ice.
The copper was designed to protect the hull from the blasts from the mines, donít know the thickness nor the efficiency for ice protection
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Old 10-14-2019, 09:55 AM   #18
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The copper was designed to protect the hull from the blasts from the mines, donít know the thickness nor the efficiency for ice protection

Protect from a mine blast?


I hardly think copper sheathing could do the work of inches of steel on larger warships they are designed to sink.



The copper might have been used to protect the wood before the use of fiberglass from worms like in the olden days.


You could be correct, but I would love to see the evidence and specifications of copper "mine protection".
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Old 10-14-2019, 09:59 AM   #19
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I recall this trip made the TV series. Lots of folks banging away at deck ice. But, that was from an ice storm. That boat was double planked; can't hurt.
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Old 10-14-2019, 10:09 AM   #20
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Protect from a mine blast?


I hardly think copper sheathing could do the work of inches of steel on larger warships they are designed to sink.



The copper might have been used to protect the wood before the use of fiberglass from worms like in the olden days.


You could be correct, but I would love to see the evidence and specifications of copper "mine protection".
The Calypso was initially a minesweeper, so the copper was designed to protect the hull from a distant blast, not from the direct impact of a mine. As mentioned the sistership of the Calypso is at the same marina where I have my boat and it is the explanation Iíve got from her captain... i know that they have removed the copper but no idea of the thickness, I will check with the captain once the yacht is back from the shipyard and will update accordingly
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