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4158.  Sun Jan 11, 2004 6:50 pm Reply with quote

Soviet submarines used to have a naval commander on board but also a political commissar whose responsibility was directly back to the political authorities in Moscow. The commissar's bunk was in the radio room, an armoured chamber which had the only lockable door on the vessel, the idea being that if there was a mutiny or attempt to defect he could barricade himself in and hold out against the crew.

Psychologically an interesting situation to be in - living literally cheek by jowl with the crew for weeks on end, whilst all the time they and you both know that your only function there is to keep tabs on them and report on their conduct to the authorities.

s: my visit to a Soviet submarine docked in Folkestone harbour as a tourist attraction.

Frederick The Monk
4768.  Sun Jan 18, 2004 7:46 am Reply with quote

Unusual Boats
(prompted by some saints stories)

St. Pirrin floated from Ireland to Cornwall on a millstone
St. Bega came across the Irish Sea to Cumberland on a clod of earth
St Ia reached Cornwall on a leaf (and had St. Ives names after her)
St. Francis of Paola crossed the straits of Messina on his cloak (Franz Liszt commemorated this in his "St. Francis of Paola Walking on the Waters"


4789.  Sun Jan 18, 2004 12:51 pm Reply with quote


6060.  Tue Feb 17, 2004 10:44 am Reply with quote

In 1943 the SS Schenectady sunk, at only 1 day old, having just returned to harbour after sea trials. The cause of its demise was a tiny crack, which ended up splitting the vessel in 2. In 1928 the White Star Liner Majestic was saved from a similar fate by a porthole.

When a crack starts, all of the stress is concentrated at the sharp tip of the crack (like when someone stands on your foot with a stiletto heel, it hurts). If there is enough pressure to start a crack, there's enough pressure to finish the job and crack something completely in half. As the crack can only progress if the tip remains sharp, you can stop a crack by blunting its point, which then dissipates the pressure and therefore the progress of the crack.

"Crack stoppers" are any soft components in a composite material - that's why specific materials and combinations of materials are needed to eg. build a jet engine, a bridge, or even a biscuit. The crack stoppers in a biscuit are sugar, starch and fat. The best crack stopper on a biscuit is a coating of chocolate (this has been scientifically proven with dunking experiments).

Any rounded corner also stops, or at least slows a crack, as the sharpness of the crack is blunted so the pressure dissipates. The ultimate crack stopper is an actual hole - the Shenectady sunk while the Majestic was saved because the crack in the Majestic hit a porthole.

S: How to dunk doughnut - Len Fisher

6061.  Tue Feb 17, 2004 11:22 am Reply with quote

There's got to be a question in that somewhere, even if it's only about dunking biscuits. There's an article on the net by Len Fisher, about dunking:

Q At what angle would you have to dunk a biscuit into your tea to make it less likely to collapse and fill your teacup with soggy biscuit crumbs?

A Hold it with the flat surface parallel to the tea rather than at 90 degrees, as long as you don't mind burning your fingers on the hot tea.

We could go in further detail into the Washburn equation if necessary - there's a rather nice analogy Fisher makes about the length of time a drunken man takes to stagger back from the pub.

6078.  Tue Feb 17, 2004 7:02 pm Reply with quote


In Australia you can get a biscuit called a TamTam which is sort of like a Penguin. They bite two pieces off opposite corners, then dip one end in their tea and suck the tea up through the wafers, like a straw. Then they eat the tea-impregnated biscuit. Excellent, I imagine. Dan?

6086.  Wed Feb 18, 2004 6:32 am Reply with quote

For further info on dunking, the first chapter of How to Dunk a Doughnut goes into it in huge detail, including biscuit thinness, brittleness, angle of dunk, time of dunk, hot liquids, cold liquids - there didn't seem space to go into it, but I will if we're going to have a question on it. Standing by.

6194.  Sat Feb 21, 2004 10:28 pm Reply with quote

To wrench the subject back to boats - or rather, ships - my husband presented me with a nice little snippet today and suggested I post it here. However, be warned, I have not fact-checked this:

The U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) as a combat vessel carried 48,600 gallons of fresh water for her crew of 475 officers and men.

This was sufficient to last six months of sustained operations at sea.

She carried no evaporators (fresh water distillers).

However, let it be noted that according to her log, "On July 27, 1798, the U.S.S. Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of fresh water, 7,400 cannon shot, 11,600 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum."

Her mission: "To destroy and harass English shipping."

Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300
gallons of rum.

Then she headed for the Azores, arriving there 12 November. She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine.

On 18 November, she set sail for England.

In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war and captured and scuttled 12 English merchantmen, salvaging only the rum aboard each.

By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted.

Nevertheless, and though unarmed, she made a night raid up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland.

Her landing party captured a whiskey distillery and transferred 40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch aboard by dawn.

Then she headed home.

The U.S.S. Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February 1799, with no
cannon shot, no food, no powder, NO rum, NO wine, NO whiskey and 38,600
gallons of stagnant water.

6195.  Sun Feb 22, 2004 7:50 am Reply with quote

Very nice. Is the implication meant to be simply that they drunk it all, do you think? ie is this the story of the mother of all pub crawls, or is there something more interesting going on?

6198.  Sun Feb 22, 2004 11:00 am Reply with quote

The bits I didn't post said things like 'Now there were men who knew how to drink - GO NAVY!' so I think the implication was that they drank it all.

559937.  Tue May 26, 2009 6:54 am Reply with quote

Contrary to what was said on QI, I was told by an RN officer I knew some years ago that nuclear submarines are ships and all other submarines are boats. Just because he was in the RN doesn't mean he was right of course so could the elves check this.

559941.  Tue May 26, 2009 7:10 am Reply with quote

According to the National Maritime Museum, the Historic Ships Committee have designated a vessel below 40 tons and 40 feet in length as a boat. However, submarines and fishing vessels are always known as boats whatever their size.

I remember in the past Stephen has caught out returning guests on questions he'd previously asked and the answer had changed, maybe the same is due here?

559948.  Tue May 26, 2009 7:21 am Reply with quote

Thanks for the definitive answer. The version I was given was back in the early 70s and I have no idea if it was ever correct.

603028.  Mon Aug 24, 2009 8:03 am Reply with quote

Frederick The Monk wrote:
Unusual Boats
(prompted by some saints stories)

(St. Pirrin floated from Ireland to Cornwall on a millstone)

Hello mates, My dads from truto and his dad built the little stone bridge that you use to cross the stream that makes it's way down Perranporth beach (which was based on St Pirrins name) to the ocean.
He used to tell me about St, Pirrin and the grubwumps that ran the treackle mines, some of which I believed, especially the Cornish Piskies but he never went into details about St Pirrin and what he was doing on the millstone. Was it a similar idea to quetzacoatl the red headed Aztec God that floated off in a very unstable craft to pay penance for the somewhat more than sibling love he felt for his sister or was it something else. I'd be really interested to hear about it. If you want to read books with all the old Cornish slang mixed in with Gaelic, there's a series out that's out of print except on EBAY that is highly amusing if you cam get your head around the language. Cheers, Chris

603074.  Mon Aug 24, 2009 11:06 am Reply with quote

Welcome Chris, and thanks for the contribution :-)


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