A Big Ship Chop Shop On The Georgia Coast

Last week we saw a hapless container ship vaulted to fame, where people converged on its combination of mind-boggling size suffering an easily relatable problem of getting stuck. Now that it is moving again, armchair engineers who crave more big ship problem-solving should check out [David Tracy]’s writeup on the salvage operation of an overturned car carrier ship, the MV Golden Ray published by Jalopnik. If the ship’s name doesn’t ring a bell, the writeup opens with a quick recap.

Written for an audience of gearheads, [Tracy]’s writeup walks through some technical aspects of the salvage plan and initial results of execution. Citing from the official entity in charge, the St. Simons Sound Incident Response Unified Command, and augmented with information from elsewhere. Even though the MV Golden Ray is “only’ half the length and a third of the gross tonnage of our meme darling MV Ever Given, it is still a huge ship. Every salvage operation this big is unique, requiring knowledge far beyond our everyday intuition. At this scale, most Internet “Why don’t they just…” comments range from impractical to absurd.

Fortunately, people who actually know how to perform salvage work designed plans, submitted by multiple bidders, each making a different tradeoff in cost and speed among other factors. The chosen plan was to cut the ship into sections small enough to be carried by barge for further processing elsewhere. This required a huge floating crane, a chain pressed into cutter duty, custom fabricated lugs for lifting, and similarly custom fabricated cradles for the barges.

But we all know that no plan survives contact with reality. While this plan was seemingly chosen for speed, it hasn’t gone nearly as fast as advertised. Certainly the pandemic was a huge hinderance, but cutting has also been slowed by pieces built far stronger than spec. Delays also meant more sediment buildup inside the wreck, compounding headaches. Other bidders have started saying that if their plan had been chosen the job would be done by now, but who’s to say their plan wouldn’t have encountered their own problems?

In time St. Simons Sound will be cleared as the Suez Canal has been. Results of their respective investigations should help make shipping safer, but salvage skills will still be needed in the future. At least this operation isn’t as controversial as trying to retrieve the radio room of RMS Titanic.

Traffic Jam In The Suez Canal; Container Ship Run Aground

A vital shipping lane has been blocked in Egypt, as a 220,000 ton container ship, the MV Ever Given, became lodged sideways in the channel Tuesday morning local time. The Suez Canal, long a region of trading and strategic importance, has been blocked to travel in both directions as authorities make frantic efforts to free the ship.

Live tracking shows a flurry of activity around the stricken vessel. If you find yourself transiting the Suez Canal next week, don’t do this. Everyone’s patience is going to be pretty thin.

The Ever Given is carrying goods from China to Rotterdam, making a northward journey through the canal. The exact reason for grounding remains unclear, though such incidents are often due to mechanical malfunction or navigational errors in the tight confines of the channel. Like many important waterways, the Suez Canal requires transiting vessels to take on a pilot. This is to ensure that ships passing through the canal have someone onboard with experience of navigating the 673-foot wide passage. However, incidents still happen, as with huge container ships, there is minimal room for error.

A flotilla of tugboats dispatched to the area have begun working to free the ship, working in concert with excavators on the banks of the canal. This photo taken by [Julianne Cona] at the incident shows the sheer scale of the problem — with the excavator digging at the bow a tiny speck in the shadow of the gigantic ship.

We’re sure shipping firms and residents of the Netherlands are eager for a quick resolution, whether its to avoid costly delays or simply to get those online purchases sooner. If you live near the canal and want to keep an eye on what’s happening, you could always grab a software-defined radio and track things in real time. Alternatively, watch the progress on Vessel Finder. And, if you’ve got strong opinions on the proper procedure for navigating the Suez Canal, sound off in the comments!

Chip Decapping The Easy Way

Chip decapping videos are a staple of the hacking world, and few things compare to the beauty of a silicon die stripped of its protective epoxy and photographed through a good microscope. But the process of actually opening that black resin treasure chest seems elusive, requiring as it does a witch’s brew of solvents and acids.

Or does it? As [Curious Marc] documents in the video below, a little heat and some finesse are all it takes, at least for some chips. The method is demonstrated by [Antoine Bercovici], a paleobotanist who sidelines as a collector of old chips. After removing chips from a PCB — he harvested these chips from an old PlayStation — he uses hot air to soften the epoxy, and then flexes the chip with a couple of pairs of pliers. It’s a bit brutal, but in most of the Sony chips he tried for the video, the epoxy broke cleanly over the die and formed a cleavage plane that allowed the die to be slipped out cleanly. The process is not unlike revealing fossils in sedimentary rocks, a process that he’s familiar with from his day job.

He does warn that certain manufacturers, like Motorola and National, use resins that tend to stick to the die more. It’s also clear that a hairdryer doesn’t deliver enough heat; when they switched to a hot air rework station, the success rate went way up.

The simplicity of this method should open the decapping hobby up to more people. Whether you just want to take pretty pictures or if reverse engineering is on your mind, put the white fuming nitric acid down and grab the heat gun instead.

Continue reading “Chip Decapping The Easy Way”

Just How Can You Lose Something The Size Of A Cargo Ship?

I’m writing from a cozy farmhouse just outside of Oxford, UK where we are slowly emerging from a particularly intense Atlantic storm. Some areas have widespread flooding, while fallen tree branches and damaged roofs are countrywide. Our neighbours in the Irish Republic are first in the path of these storms, and receive an especially strong pasting.

In the news following the storm is a merchant ship that was washed up by this storm on the coast of County Cork. The MV Alta  is a nearly 2300t and 77m (just over 253 ft) freighter that had been abandoned in 2018 south of Bermuda after a mechanical failure had rendered it incapable of navigation. Its crew had been rescued by the US Coast Guard, and since then — apart from a brief sighting in mid-Atlantic by a Royal Navy polar research vessel — it had passed unseen as a drifting ghost ship before appearing on the Irish coast.

In a very literal sense it had dropped off the radar, but the question for us is how? With the huge array of technological advances in both navigation aids and global sensing available at the end of the 21st century’s second decade, should that even be possible? It’s worth taking a while as land-lubbers to look at how ships are tracked, to try to make sense of the seeming invisibility of something that is after all pretty large and difficult to hide.

Continue reading “Just How Can You Lose Something The Size Of A Cargo Ship?”

Hacking When It Counts: Setting Sail In A Submarine

By the early 20th century, naval warfare was undergoing drastic technological changes. Ships were getting better and faster engines and were being outfitted with wireless communications, while naval aviation was coming into its own. The most dramatic changes were taking place below the surface of the ocean, though, as brave men stuffed themselves into steel tubes designed to sink and, usually, surface, and to attack by stealth and cunning rather than brute force. The submarine was becoming a major part of the world’s navies, albeit a feared and hated one.

For as much animosity as there was between sailors of surface vessels and those that chose the life of a submariner, and for as vastly different as a battleship or cruiser seems from a submarine, they all had one thing in common: the battle against the sea. Sailors and their ships are always on their own dealing with forces that can swat them out of existence in an instant. As a result, mariners have a long history of doing whatever it takes to get back to shore safely — even if that means turning a submarine into a sailboat.

Continue reading “Hacking When It Counts: Setting Sail In A Submarine”

Unmanned Sailboat Traverses The North Atlantic

Sailboats have been traversing the Atlantic Ocean since before 1592, sailing through sunshine, wind, and rain. The one thing that they’ve all had in common has been a captain to pilot the ship across this vast watery expanse, at least until now. A company called Offshore Sensing has sailed an unmanned vessel all the way from Canada to Ireland.

The ship, called the Sailbuoy, attempted the journey last year as well but only made it about halfway before the mission was abandoned. This year, however, the voyage was finally completed, and this craft is officially the first unmanned ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The journey took about 80 days using sails and a small set of solar panels to drive the control electronics.

Using this technology, the company can investigate wave activity in specific areas of the ocean without having to send out a manned vessel to install a permanent buoy. The sailbuoy simply uses its autonomy to stay in a particular patch of ocean. There have been other missions that the sailbuoy has been tasked with as well, such as investigating the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. With a reliable craft like this, it becomes much easier, safer, and less expensive to explore the ocean’s surface.

Thanks to [Andy] for the tip!

Save The Tally Ho: Rebuilding A Historic Yacht

[Leo Sampson Goolden] is a boatbuilder and Sailor. He’s a prime example of a dwindling group of shipwrights who build sailing vessels the traditional way. In 2017, he was given the opportunity to buy Tally Ho, a Yacht built back in 1910. Once a proud ship, Tally Ho now sat as a shell under a shrink-wrap tarp. Her deck was rotted, her keel cracked. Any sane person would have moved on. Thankfully [Leo] is not quite sane, and began a quest to bring this history ship back to its former glory.

Tally Ho isn’t just an old boat. She is a 48-foot long gaff cutter yacht designed by the famous Albert Strange and built in Sussex, England. Tally Ho won the 1927 Fastnet Race (corrected time) when rough seas caused all but two boats to bow out.

To say [Leo] has his work cut out for him would be an understatement. Tally Ho lived a hard life, from racing to fishing. A complete restoration was needed. In fact, it would have been cheaper and easier to build a replica rather than restore the original. [Leo] wanted to save Tally Ho though, so he bought the boat for one dollar, and began to put all his time, effort, and funds into restoring her. This work includes carefully documenting each piece as it is removed.

Some of the tools and materials are traditional – such as chisels and red lead putty. But [Leo] is using power tools as well, including a custom-built chainsaw mount for shaping the keel. His videos are entertaining and illustrate many techniques of boat building. Wherever possible, [Leo] adds captions to explain the meanings of boat building terms, as well as explains the different terms used in England and the USA. In the latest video, you can watch along as [Leo] creates a Dutchman to fill in a knot in the keel. Can check that out in the video after the break.

Continue reading “Save The Tally Ho: Rebuilding A Historic Yacht”