THE ONE THAT (ALMOST) GOT AWAY
DURING AN ATTACK ON A ROYAL NAVY SHIP, CREW TRIED, AND FAILED, TO ESCAPE ON A SMALL BOAT. AFTER 78 YEARS, THE VESSEL HAS BEEN FOUND.
In the early days of World War II, Royal navy crewmen attempted to escape the wreck of HMS Royal Oak using a steam pinnace, only to capsize their escape vessel. Seventy-eight years later, underwater archaeologists have finally found the remains of this wayward craft.
On October 13, 1939, German submarine U-47 infiltrated Scotland’s Scapa Flow and fired three torpedoes at Royal Oak. The battleship, at anchor in a safe harbor, was taken by complete surprise. Royal Oak was underwater in minutes, and those who were able to escape the sinking ship faced a half-mile swim to shore through bone-chilling water slick with oil. By the end of the ordeal, 834 of the ship’s 1,200 crewmen would perish.
Some tried to escape using Royal Oak’s portside pinnace, a 50-foot steampowered boat tethered to the side of the battleship. There had not been enough time to get the pinnace up to steam, so men resorted to paddling it with boards. The vessel had a capacity of 59, but it was crammed with about 100 men. Shortly after getting underway, the boat capsized and was lost to history.
The missing pinnace has finally been found by archaeologists as part of the collaborative Shiptime Maritime Archaeology Project, surveying wrecks in Scapa Flow. It was found more than 950 feet from the wreck of Royal Oak using multibeam sonar.
The project is led by Sandra Henry of UHI Archaeology Institute, Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, the Univer- sity of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, and Kevin Heath of SULA Diving in Stromness, Scotland.
Divers from SULA Diving were sent down to investigate the wreck.
“It is a great privilege to be involved with the monitoring of such an important wreck site as HMS Royal Oak and in finding the missing pinnace,” Pete Higgins, ORCA senior project manager, said in a statement. “The site will now be recorded and will add to our knowledge surrounding the sinking of HMS Royal Oak.”
While 3D printing isn’t new, testing the limits of 3D-printed watercraft is. In July, the U.S. Navy teamed with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to create the first prototype of a 3D-printed submarine. The 30-foot craft — which unlike a typical submarine will be waterfilled — can carry four to six Navy divers who will be on open-circuit scuba or rebreathers. The sub also can be operated unmanned.
When a team of 25 naval architects from Carderock arrived at ORNL, they didn’t have a design — just the idea. In week one, a design was hatched. In weeks two and three, the design was printed and then assembled. The sub was delivered for testing on week four. Testing was limited, however, because this version is a proof of concept, not a model designed for in-water use. That will come next.
The advantages of 3D-printed submarines and other watercraft are many, starting with the facts that there are far fewer parts and the cost is a fraction of traditional manufacturing. Traditionally, producing a submarine of this size is estimated at $600,000 to $800,000. The 3D-printed sub cost just $34,000.
“The disadvantage now is that it’s not as structurally sound as the original,” says Lonnie Love, corporate fellow at the ORNL, pointing out that plastic is heavier and weaker than aluminum.
The trick will be finding how much carbon fiber to add to the printing material to decrease weight while adding strength.
For divers and the boating community at large, what’s perhaps more exciting is that 3D printing allows anyone to affordably design and produce a single, customized vessel, such as a catamaran, as well as jigs, fixtures and boat parts.
“What’s really neat about this is mass-customization,” he says. “You can design a one-of-a-kind thing and print it. It doesn’t cost any more than making 10 or 100 of something.”
The laboratory also is looking at how to use the technology to lower manufacturing costs for the whole marine industry.
Reef Smart Guides: Barbados
Combining the artist behind Arttomedia and two marinebiologist partners, Reef Smart expands the richly rendered maps divers love. The first of several books — including upcoming releases on Florida’s Broward and Palm Beach counties, the Florida Keys and Bonaire — focuses on Barbados, with an extensive guide to the island’s diving, snorkeling and surfing sites. No stone is left unturned as the Reef Smart team treats the reader to a tour of all things Barbados. The guide features beautiful images, more than 50 detailed, 3D dive maps, and loads of info on where to find the best seaside food and entertainment. If the first release is any indication, Reef Smart Guides are poised to join the REEF Fish Identification sets as must-have works for traveling divers. Miller Publishing, $27.99
BY SCUBA DIVING STAFF
The Royal Oak’s steam pinnace is now covered with marine growth.