Thursday, May 27, 2010

Underway Replishment Experiment

One of the most underappreciated skills the U.S. Navy has that only a few other navies in the world have is the ability to transfer fuel from one ship to another while moving and out at sea. Like many skills, this ability has come from years of experience, training, and experimentation.

American civil engineer Spencer Miller first invented the necessary equipment in the 1890s for the Navy and continued to work with the Fleet to design proper replenishment ships for the remainder of his career. Miller perfected the technique for one ship to refuel another in a harbor, but how to actually refuel a ship at sea was another matter.

This picture shown above of one underway replacement experiment that took place just outside Hampton Roads. It shows two locally based ships, the collier USS Cyclops (AC-4) and the new dreadnought USS South Carolina (BB-26) off the Virginia Capes in 1914. Notice on how Cyclops is in front of the battleship (as opposed to being the battleship's port or starboard side).

This called for Cyclops's company to send 800 pound coal bags from their ship's stern the line to South Carolina's number one gun turret. Then it was hauled over to the battleship's bunkers. The technique worked, but it was not practical. It was slow and a battleship like South Carolina needed several thousand tons of coal. There is no record of the Navy ever trying this method again.

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