Thursday, 26 March 2009

Oil on the Waves

It is well known that the ancient metaphor about "pouring oil on troubled waters" to calm them is literally true; and ships at sea have been saved from foundering by pouring barrels of oil upon the waves around. A striking experiment of the kind was recently made at Peterhead in Scotland, in order to allow a fleet of fishing-boats to enter the stormy harbour with their cargoes. By means of a reservoir and pipes leading to the harbour, a stream of oil was discharged upon the water, and spreading in a thin film over its surface, reduced the rough waves to a mere swell, and permitted the boats to land. The chief action of the oil is probably to diminish the friction between the wind and water, and thus prevent the formation of waves, while the existing motion of the water quickly subsides into a low heaving. Probably the experiment, after the success at Peterhead, will be repeated elsewhere.
Cassell's Family Magazine, 1883.

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