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How were ballast stones held firmly in place to prevent them from shifting?


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Were pebbles, sand, or some other medium used to keep ballast stones from easily shifting position during heavy seas? There 'must' have been 'something' used. Surely folks didn't just pile up ballast stones in the bilge. Those loose stones would easily move around, during heavy seas, and likely turn an already bad weather event into something even worse by compromising the weight/balance of the ship...???  

Edited by tmj
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TMJ

Interesting question!   If the ship was ballasted with Belgium blocks, there was not need for anything else to keep them from shifting as the were flat sided and stacked along the curvature of the hull.  If river bed stone stone was used, I suppose it depended on the size of the stone.  If the stones were the size of an Idaho potato, they would weigh about 4 pounds so maybe were prone to moving around, but if more like the size of a melon  it would weigh in the neighborhood of 25 pounds and not so likely to move around.   Keep in mind that the stones would likely settle and lock together.  If there were pebbles and sand dumped in between it would probably wind up with a Brazil nut effect so the same situation would exist in the upper portion anyway.  I will be interested to see any contemporary information.

Allan

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  • 2 months later...

I have not found the answer but here is an example of why it is a good question:

 

"Danger of Shingle Ballast.

The following is to be added to the many instances of injury arising from the use of shingle ballast: - The Mysore, an Indian Ship of large dimensions and uncommon strength, lately, on her passage from Bengal to Bombay, sprung so serious a leak, that unremitting exertions at the pumps were for several weeks necessary to keep her afloat. On arriving at Bombay she was docked, when water was observed running through a part of the copper which covered the bottom sheathing abreast of the chess-tree, and the nails of the copper partly drawn. On removing some of the sheets, a hole was visible in the sheathing plank, which being taken off, the plank of the garboard streak on each side the keel was found to be quite cut through, and an aperture in them sufficiently large to admit a man's arm from the outside. On the timbers being cleared inside, this was discovered to have been occasioned by some round stones, nearly the size of a twelve-pound shot, having fallen betwixt the floor-timbers in this place, and by the constant motion of the Ship, perhaps from the time she was launched, had grooved their way through the garboard planks and sheathing, over the keel, which was likewise indented upwards of three inches, and through the two next bottom planks. As the stones were found in the timbers, and exactly fit the groove, and as several of the other floor-timbers had stones betwixt them, which had occasioned a similar effect, although not in an equal degree, no doubt can remain of their being the cause of the circumstance which had so nearly proved fatal to the Mysore; for, had the sheets of copper, of which the nails were partly drawn, fallen off, no exertion of the Officers and Crew could have saved the Ship.


Naval Chronicle, Vol. iV (1801), p 270. "

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Interesting quotation. This was apparently a merchant ship. In a naval one, the spaces between the frame timbers were filled to the level of the floorheads with oak, presenting a continuous surface. The circumstance described could not have happened. Also, in naval ships the floors were planked over (the ceiling planking) and permanent iron ballast placed above that.

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In the case of the Victory, pig iron blocks were laid between framing members, criss-crossing layers, then covered with pebbles/gravel/small stones. Certainly the pig iron would not move, and the stones had barrels and other items on them, usually held in place by ropes and such. I've included this "feature" in my Victory cross-section, while most similar models just show a bunch of (heavy) stones. I would think that Victory would not be the only warship to use pig iron, although also imagine that it was expensive and possibly not used on commercial ships.

 

http://margaretmuirauthor.blogspot.com/2012/11/hms-victorys-ballast-pig-iron-and.html

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The elephant in the room: this ship made it back to port because the copper sheathing held. Who knows how many other other ships that had been lost without trace had the same problem but a different outcome? The episode provided first hand evidence of what happened when ballast was treated in a sloppy manner and probably saved several other ships from the same fate.

 

By the way Druxey, perhaps you can correct me but I do not believe the gazzilions of transports pressed or hired into naval service had automatic dockyard upgrades to install ceiling planks. So yeah, the purpose built warships followed the same general rules but the privateers and commercial craft were built to whatever contract the owner stipulated.

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This is an interesting topic that does raise some questions and identifies the wide range of products used as 'ballast'  Maybe of interest to some that even cannon balls were used as ballast - these will definitely had to have been secured well.  An example is provided below from a letter written to the Admiralty by the Crown Agent General for the Colonies - this request was subsequently approved and the shot provided by HM Arsenal Woolwich.

 

"I have the honor to acquaint you that the Colonial Government Screw Steam Sloop of War “Victoria” being nearly ready for Sea it will be necessary to supply her with 30 tones more Ballast and I have therefore to request that you will give the necessary directions for the supply of 32 pounder shot for that purpose as Commander Lockyer R.N. has requested the same instead of Iron Kentledge. "

 

cheers

 

Pat

 

[Edit: -  It may also have been a 'means' of acquiring (cheaply) storing and transporting additional shot for use in the "Colony' after the ship was delivered :) ]

Edited by BANYAN
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Just looked back at what I wrote. Seemed a bit harsh, sorry about that. 

I haven't really found anything that says what happens to the ballast on commercial ships except (I think) a couple of times in the contracts. IIRC, one of the contracts just said the slate ballast 'to be set fair on fir and stayed' which I took to mean placed on battens and wedged into place. Whether the slate was shaped or not wasn't mentioned. I didn't take notes so I can't call it up again but I am pretty sure it was a Colonial (Virginia?) craft mid 18th c.

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On 11/29/2020 at 2:18 AM, allanyed said:

If the ship was ballasted with Belgium blocks, there was not need for anything else to keep them from shifting as the were flat sided and stacked along the curvature of the hull. 

 

Decades ago, I had home just north of San Francisco, CA, which had a 14" high living room wall built of exposed Belgian blocks, recycled cobblestones from the streets of San Francisco. In earlier times, the ships would arrive in SF in ballast carrying Belgian blocks, unload the blocks and take on a cargo of grain for the return trip. The blocks were used to pave the streets. In later times, some of these cobblestone streets are still to be seen, although most have be asphalted over. The City now has an ordinance requiring that any cobblestones dug up in street repair belong to the City, which reuses them in parks and other landscaping applications. The cobblestone streets are famous, but their origins aren't commonly known.

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The problems of ballasting merchant ships were different from those with warships.

 

The ballast in warships was semi permanent as it would remain in place until being discharged at the end of a commission or in some cases when the ship was careened on a distant station.

 

Merchant ship’s arriving at a loading port “in ballast” on the other hand would need to discharge all or some of this ballast before loading cargo.  This is was a time consuming operation that increased the vessel’s operating expenses.  

 

Particularly hard hit were sailing vessels engaged in supplying the city of London with coal.  These were short voyages and there was no back haul cargo so ballast had to be discharged each time the vessel reached the N.E. English coal loading port.

 

In the mid 1800’s a Lloyd’s surveyor named McIntyre patented the idea of building  watertight iron ballast tanks on top of the floor timbers in the wooden colliers sailing in the London coal trades.  This meant that water ballast could be quickly discharged upon arrival and that laborers would not have to be paid to dig out ballast.

 

When the first iron and later steel colliers were built ship owners and naval architects duplicated wooden shipbuilding practice by building McIntyre ballast tanks on top of the iron or steel transverse floors.

 

Towards the end of the 1800’s they improved this design by simply plating over the floors and using the “double bottom” to hold water ballast, a design that is still used today.

 

Roger

Edited by Roger Pellett
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