Mar 8, 2017

Project Habakkuk: Britain’s Secret Ship Made of Ice

By on Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and no time in history was as desperate as the time when the world’s most powerful nations were determined in destroying each other. It was time of the Second World War, and the allies were running out of essential resources needed to construct military and naval equipment. One of them was steel.

In the North Atlantic, the British fleets were taking a pounding against the German U-boats. Allied supply ships on their way across the ocean were being intercepted and sunk by German U-boats at an alarming rate. Planes could protect the ships, but they cannot be deployed in the middle of the ocean without aircraft carriers, and those things are massive and required enormous quantities of steel to manufacture, which was in short supply. What was needed was a way for aircraft to land and refuel without overtaxing already strained resources.
A British scientist named Geoffrey Pyke, who worked at the Combined Operations Headquarters as adviser to the Chief, Lord Mountbatten, came up with a fantastic idea: make an aircraft carrier out of ice. Ice is hard, they don’t sink, and any damage could be easily repaired on spot by just freezing new chunks of ice into place.

Pyke, who had a penchant for outrageous ideas, suggested that a large piece of arctic iceberg be cut off and towed into the ocean. With its surface leveled, the ice would serve as a landing platform, and if they could hollow out the center, it would provide an ideal place to shelter aircraft.

Somehow, Pyke managed to sell the idea to Lord Mountbatten, who was able to convince Winston Churchill that the war could be won with ice. Churchill gave the go-ahead and the project was codenamed “Project Habakkuk”, a reference to a verse from the biblical book of Habakkuk: "... 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)

The aircraft carrier that Pyke envisioned was to be 2,000 feet long, 300 feet wide, and weigh more than 2 million tons. It’s torpedo-proof hull would be 40 feet thick. It was to be equipped with 40 dual-barreled turrets and numerous light anti-aircraft guns. The airstrip could accommodate up to 150 twin-engine bombers or fighters planes. There was one major problem: ice melts, but Geoffrey Pyke had a solution for that too. A massive cooling system consisting of a complex network of pipes would pump chilled refrigerant throughout the ship to keep the ice from melting.


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