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Project Habakkuk

Triton

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Project Habakkuk was a plan by the British in World War II to construct an aircraft carrier out of 280,000 blocks of pykrete (a mixture of wood pulp and ice), for use against German U-boats in the mid-Atlantic, which was out of range of land-based planes.

This gigantic aircraft carrier, 2,000 feet long, 300 feet across the beam and 200 feet in depth, was projected as the War was entering its third year. This floating airfield would have had hangar capacity for 200 Spitfire fighters or 100 Mosquito bombers, complete with every facility in the shape of operational and repair shops, etc. It would have been propelled at a speed of seven knots by Diesel-electric machinery with a normal consumption of 120 tons a day. Fuel capacity for 5,000 tons was to be provided, which would have given the ship a radius of action of 7,000 miles. The complement was to have been 404 officers and 3,216 petty officers and men. Displacement was to be around 2,000,000 tons.

Project documents consistently misspell the name Habakkuk as Habbakuk. The name is a biblical reference to the project's ambitious goal: "...be utterly amazed, for I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told." (Habakkuk 1:5, NIV)

For more information:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Habakkuk

http://www.royalnavalmuseum.org/info_sheets_Habbakkuk.htm
http://www.thewarillustrated.info/230/strange-story-of-hms-habbakuk.asp
http://www.darkroastedblend.com/2007/12/giant-iceberg-aircraft-carrier.html
 

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Abraham Gubler

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Myth Busters recently looked at pykrete and an enhanced pykrete (using newspaper rather than bulldust). They found that the stuff was certainly strong enough but their small boat did not last that long in the water, even cold water.
 

Triton

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Abraham Gubler said:
Myth Busters recently looked at pykrete and an enhanced pykrete (using newspaper rather than bulldust). They found that the stuff was certainly strong enough but their small boat did not last that long in the water, even cold water.

The Mythbusters program did not create the refrigeration plant and ducting system intended for Project Habakkuk that would maintain the structure against melting. The Pykrete would have been further protected from melting or erosion by an insulating skin.

Not that the idea was practical. The 280,000 40-foot-thick Pykrete cubes needed for construction would take eight months and 8,000 workers to make in Canada. The ship's deep draft would have kept it out of most harbors. The cost of each ship was estimated at £10,000,000.
 

XP67_Moonbat

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Trit,

You rock ,dude! I'm surprised we haven't had a thread on this before! I wish I still had the Air & Space article on Habakkuk from around 1989. Lost it years ago. That was my introduction to Habakkuk.

Here's a little quick something on this project:

http://www.mondolithic.com/?p=719
 

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XP67_Moonbat

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Hey I just did some backtracking and I guess we did have something on here about Habakkuk, under the name Project Tentacle. Check it out:
http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,1719.0.html

BTW, seeing the illustration of Habakkuk alongside a Nimitz Class carrier makes me shake my head. Having served five years on the Truman, I have a good idea of how big Habakkuk would have been. But I'm still amazed.

Moonbat

From that previous thread:
 

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TomS

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Triton said:
Abraham Gubler said:
Myth Busters recently looked at pykrete and an enhanced pykrete (using newspaper rather than bulldust). They found that the stuff was certainly strong enough but their small boat did not last that long in the water, even cold water.

The Mythbusters program did not create the refrigeration plant and ducting system intended for Project Habakkuk that would maintain the structure against melting. The Pykrete would have been further protected from melting or erosion by an insulating skin.

I was really disappointed in that show. They also claimed they were the first people to build a boat using Pykrete, which is totally untrue. The original proponents of the concept built a 1,000-ton testbed on Patricia Lake, Alberta, Canada in 1943. It lasted a whole (northern) summer even without the installed refrigeration plant running.
 

archipeppe

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As far I know the "artificial ice" was really tested during 1942-44.
The project was abandoned due to the decreasing of U-Boot menace in 1944 and the fall of III Reich in 1945.

Anyway it would feaseble, even with the technology of that times, but rather really expensive.
 

airman

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Jemiba said:
It's only TV, of course .... ;)

oh yes, in Italy there was an episode of "Atlantide :Storia di uomini e di mondi" about this project, on italian tv network : La7!
::)
It was funny project with touch of geniality ! :D
 

phil gollin

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As the author of the original post linked to on the warships board re. Project Tentacle, I thought I would post the whole of the original (I have emboldened the relevant bit) :


Project Tentacle (sort of)

Well as I was popping into the PRO today, I put “Tentacle” into the search catalogue and got “ADM 116/4882” which is staffnotes covering Project Habbukuk and Tentacle.

HEALTH WARNING – This is only one file and is only part of the story, still it is interesting.

First, the file covers minutes and minor correspondence from June to November 1943

The vast majority of the file covers Habbukuk, only two pages and one refernce to “Tentacle” is in the file.

I learnt a lot more about Habbukuk, it wasn’t just the pyecrete vessel, it was a whole range of options.

The initial specification was for a floating airfield due for delivery by Spring 1944 with approximate dimensions 1,500 ft by 250ft and capable of being towed at approx. 2 knots.

Later the spec changed in various iterations to increase the length to 2,000 ft, width to 300 ft and a self-propelled speed of, variously, 7 and then 10 knots, all depending upon the proposed function of the vessel.

Five different vessel types were proposed ;

1: Pure Ice

2: Pykrete

3: Steel (est. 50,000 tons)

4: Concrete (see below)

5: Timber (quoted at different places at 47,000 tons and 100,000 tons)

Originally the Timber version was recommended.

In relation to the concrete version, two types (sub-types ???) are mentioned, Habbukuk II intended as a staging post for bombers and transports, 2,200 ft long with a speed of 7 knots. Habbukuk III was meant as support for amphibious landings, operating fighters and light bombers, 1,000 to 1,200 ft long with a speed of 12 knots.


----------------------------


Well that’s Habbukuk, what about Tentacle ?

Tentacle is mentioned right at the beginning of the file XXXXXXXXX

In addition there is a memo dated 10th November 1943 from “J.S.M. Washington” addressed to “W.C.C. London”.

It notes that “flying test on steel pontoon type 1800 ft long on November 6th highly successful. …….. 16 Hellcats, 9 Avengers and 9 Dauntless landed in 20 minutes without practice ……… 33 planes took off in under 14 minutes …… Outboard motors at 2 diagonal corners successful in keeping platform head to a changing wind which increased to 10 knots. Anchor cable was brought to centre of contraption. …… Strip rigid and free from tendency to wave motion under load. Has withstood waves up to 4 foot high with 45 m.p.h. wind for three days. ……. All U.S. and British observers very pleased with results. ……. It seems doubtful however if even with the best boat drill it could be assembled in much under two days, and this makes its tactical use questionable.” The last comment reads “11. We have encountered obstacles and obstinacy in the way of HABBUKUKS made out of cement.”

It is also noted that films were taken of the test.

-------------

The comment earlier in the file is a sort of “index” to the file and reads (in its entirety :-

“Tentacle Airfield
(Floating Steel Pontoon)
Reports of flying trials conducted in U.S.A.
Anglo/US co-operation

------------------------------------


Make of that what you will.



I never did find out any more about project tentacle.

.
 

smurf

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There is an article on Habbakuk in Warship V, and
http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://mx.geocities.com/sonambuloismo/b/blog/habb.jpg&imgrefurl=http://mx.geocities.com/sonambuloismo/b/2003_06_01_archive.html&h=132&w=130&sz=3&tbnid=sqDSUbuGvpxm6M:&tbnh=86&tbnw=84&hl=en&start=54&prev=/images%3Fq%3D%2B%2522habbakuk%2522%26start%3D40%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26safe%3Doff%26sa%3DN

go to the bottom and click um protótipo.
 

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A few thoughts- Properly insulated, ice will survive through warm weather. The trick is to keep the ice away from the water. Water is a poor insulator, and is about 1000 times denser than air. That is why you can run around all day in a t-shirt in 60 degree weather, and be dead in an hour were you in 60 degree water. I remember ice houses in Wisconsin that were insulated with a foot or so of straw, and the ice kept all summer. As I recall, in the 1860s the clipper ships that brought tea to the west coast would carry ice on the return trips to tropical areas. Luxury goods, granted but still feasible. With a foot of airy insulation between the surface of the ice and the water (a simple double hull would work easily) not all that much refrigeration equipment would be needed.

Also- is it just an artifact of the drawings trying to keep typical aircraft carrier proportion, but the ship's island is almost as large as the battleship escort.
 

JohnR

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I like the AI posted by Moonbat, the multiple heavy gun turrets amuse me; sponsoned out 14"guns with no barbettes.

Regards
 

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royabulgaf said:
A few thoughts- Properly insulated, ice will survive through warm weather. The trick is to keep the ice away from the water. Water is a poor insulator, and is about 1000 times denser than air. That is why you can run around all day in a t-shirt in 60 degree weather, and be dead in an hour were you in 60 degree water. I remember ice houses in Wisconsin that were insulated with a foot or so of straw, and the ice kept all summer. As I recall, in the 1860s the clipper ships that brought tea to the west coast would carry ice on the return trips to tropical areas. Luxury goods, granted but still feasible. With a foot of airy insulation between the surface of the ice and the water (a simple double hull would work easily) not all that much refrigeration equipment would be needed.

Given that the ice would be the structure, I doubt that's a feasible approach. However, assuming an intention to use the vessel on the North Atlantic and Russian convoy routes, the water ought to be cold enough to reduce the melt to an acceptable level. In northern waters, the sea temperature can actually fall below zero at times: this would reduce the melt to zero. Timber cladding, combined with the poor thermal conductivity of water (not insulation: water is a fairly good insulator compared to air, largely because it doesn't conduct heat well) would probably go a long way to a very low melt rate.
 

Abraham Gubler

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You could always build a ship of the same dimensions as the Habakkuk out of steel reinforced concrete. Such a ship with a 150 feet (45m) draft would displace around 650 million cubic feet which is about 19 million tonnes. For the 40 foot (12m) thick walls, deck and bottom of the Habakkuk the hull would require about 9,000,000 tonnes of concrete and 755,000 tonnes of steel (based on the Troll A condeep). Allowing for another 9,000,000 tonnes of payload and components without sinking beneath the bottom of the upper deck giving an air draft of 40 feet to the top of the main deck.

Such a ship would have no problems with ice melting and 40 feet thick ferro concrete is the same as Fort Drum so it would be pretty much invulnerable to anything but the biggest Tall Boy/Grand Slam type bombs. Certainly no non-nuclear anti-ship missile in service today would do anything other than peck at the surface. Hard to imagine a heavy weight torpedo doing significant damage to the overall ship as well.

The enormous internal volume of such a ship would equal around 26 million cubic foot not counting the space set aside for machinery, crew and so on. If broken up into the 26 foot high decks (as in a CVN) this would enable a million square feet of hangar space or 2.8 million square feet of normal height (9’) deck space. This is enough hangar space to carry over 600 F-14s.

Anyway just an idea in case the rest of the world ever had to invade the Americas again.
 

Jemiba

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One important point of a ship built from ice seems to have been, that you'll get
the raw material, water and saw dust, "for free" and both weren't strategically
important.
 

Abraham Gubler

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Jemiba said:
One important point of a ship built from ice seems to have been, that you'll get
the raw material, water and saw dust, "for free" and both weren't strategically
important.

Yeah, pykrete was claimed to take 1% of the effort per cubic whatever of other materials.
 

TinWing

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Jemiba said:
One important point of a ship built from ice seems to have been, that you'll get
the raw material, water and saw dust, "for free" and both weren't strategically
important.

Actually, it would have involved massive quantities of "strategic materials" for such things as steel reinforcements and a refrigeration plant of unprecedented size.

It's worth remembering that a broad, vaguely defined concept has been conflated and exaggerated. Even a number of "official' sources are entirely anecdotal.
 

Triton

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Sir Charles Goodeve, Assistant Controller of Research and Development for the Admiralty during World War II, wrote an article for the London Evening Standard titled "The Ice Ship Fiasco" published on April 19, 1951:

http://www.goodeveca.net/CFGoodeve/habakkuk.html

In the article, Goodeve points out the large amount of wood pulp that would be required, enough to affect paper production significantly. He also claimed that each ship would require 40,000 tons of cork insulation, thousands of miles of steel tubing for brine circulation, and four power stations, but that for all those resources (some of which could be used to manufacture conventional ships of more effective fighting power) Habakkuk would only be capable of six knots of speed.

With a length of 2000 feet, a beam of 300 feet, and a draught of 150 feet, I wonder where the 280,000 40 foot Pykrete blocks would be assembled to create the aircraft carrier and then how the aircraft carrier would reach the Atlantic.

Thank you for the information about the Habakkuk made out of steel reinforced concrete, Abraham.
 

Abraham Gubler

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Triton said:
With a length of 2000 feet, a beam of 300 feet, and a draught of 150 feet, I wonder where the 280,000 40 foot Pykrete blocks would be assembled to create the aircraft carrier and then how the aircraft carrier would reach the Atlantic.

The blocks would have to be made from water not cut from ice as the wood pulp needs to be impregnated to make pykrete. So wherever there is a lot of electricity for refrigeration, running water, access to the sea and still cold enough so it doesn’t melt. I would imagine somewhere in the Canadian maritimes or the St. Lawrence river.
 

A51dude

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If you want some interesting construction info., I stumbled across this link a day or two ago. There's even some schematics showing refridgeration ductwork and power plant setup.
http://www.erudit.org/revue/scientia/1986/v10/n2/800233ar.pdf
 

Antonio

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Model

http://www.modelshipgallery.com/gallery/misc/whatif/habakkuk-700-em/index.html
 

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http://www.shipbucket.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=5130
 

XP67_Moonbat

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Wish there was a good book on this project. It's a story that begs to be told.
 

Antonio

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Wish there was a good book on this project. It's a story that begs to be told.

According to Zack Parsons "My tank is fight. Deraged Inventions of WWII" there's little to be told about Habbakuk.

Geoffrey Pyke was literally crazy
. Pg 185

Habbakuk was unrealizable, unaffordable and had little military value. Some projects look fascinating at first sight but a closer examination reveal why it never passed from the blueprints.
 

TomS

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Behold the power of Google... :)
Air power on ice [article] / by Noel Vietmeyer.
spacer.gif
Title:
Air power on ice [article] / by Noel Vietmeyer.[/t][/t]
spacer.gif
Published:
1989.[/t]
spacer.gif
Subject Name:
Pyke, Geoffrey Nathaniel. ;Habakkuk (Aircraft carrier) History[/t]
spacer.gif
Published in:
Air and space : Smithsonian. - Vol.3, no.6 (Feb./Mar), p.45-49 (1989)

[/t]
 

kcran567

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Would the heat generated from the normal internal operations and human activity finally cause it to melt from the inside out?
 

Jemiba

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It would have needed inside insulation, too, but principally it should be the same, then
for those artic/antarctic stations, that are partly built into the ice, without sinking in
considerably .. if we believe in those often seen TV reports.
 

Antonio

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Thermical insulation was obviously included in the concept.

The hull was expected to naturally melt from outside to inside in a few years from construction.
 

Jemiba

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pometablava said:
Geoffrey Pyke was literally crazy ......Habbakuk was unrealizable, unaffordable and had little military value.

As generally presented, with its gigantic dimension it probably was. But taken into account, that
new ideas nearly always change during development and very rarely are realised in the way originally
conceived, the basic idea of Habbakuk may have led to icy "aircraft carriers" of much smaller
dimensions, maybe nearer to the original idea of floes with a landing strip. Just saw a TV docu about
the battle against the Uboat threat in the Atlantic, reminding me, how desperate the situation was.
In 1942/43 two or three "ice barges" with aircraft capabilities, covering "the gap" perhaps could have
been decisive. Each of them maybe 200 meters long, perhaps not even powered, but towed and
stationed as far north, as possible. Wouldn't have been, what we know as "Habbakkuk", but a down-
sized form of the same basic idea.
And the general idea of Pykrete seems not to be that crazy, as you can read in the document linjked
here http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,8045.msg71469.html#msg71469
(".. Recently, some Arctic oil drilling rig specialists have agreed to explore the possibility of using it in
building the ice islands which cushion rigs from winter sea ice.")
 

Antonio

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the general idea of Pykrete seems not to be that crazy

Pykrete was a good idea, it showed a great resistance against shell fire.

In 1942/43 two or three "ice barges" with aircraft capabilities, covering "the gap" perhaps could have
been decisive. Each of them maybe 200 meters long, perhaps not even powered, but towed and
stationed as far north, as possible

I agree, that's a much better idea than Habakkuk.

However escort aircraft carriers was the preferred choice and it worked
 

Jemiba

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pometablava said:
... However escort aircraft carriers was the preferred choice and it worked

Of course, but we are talking with hindsight. HMS Audacity, Britains first escort carrier was soon sunk by
a Uboat. More such losses could have emphasized the relative impunity of Pykrete built platforms. Maybe
they would have stayed on sea permanently, this would have allowed for unlimited draught, so higher free
board. Two or three may have been enough for coverage of the gap.
I don't want to rewrite history, but the article linked here http://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,8045.msg71360.html#msg71360
just is good for entertainment, not for information. Available resources and more development could well have
turned the original idea into pared-down reality. Just think about the crazy idea of driving four centrifugal
compressors by a single turbine engine and then even try to squeeze this conglomeration into an airframe !
But that was the start of what later became the Bristol Pegasus engine and the Harrier ! ;)
 

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.


I looked up something I posted on a different (?) board about 7 years ago - it really contradicts the idea that "we" know everything about Habbukuk (NOTE "proper" spelling) ;



Project Tentacle (sort of)

Well as I was popping into the PRO today, I put “Tentacle” into the search catalogue and got “ADM 116/4882” which is staffnotes covering Project Habbukuk and Tentacle.

HEALTH WARNING – This is only one file and is only part of the story, still it is interesting.

First, the file covers minutes and minor correspondence from June to November 1943

The vast majority of the file covers Habbukuk, only two pages and one reference to “Tentacle” is in the file.

I learnt a lot more about Habbukuk, it wasn’t just the pyecrete vessel, it was a whole range of options.

The initial specification was for a floating airfield due for delivery by Spring 1944 with approximate dimensions 1,500 ft by 250ft and capable of being towed at approx. 2 knots.

Later the spec changed in various iterations to increase the length to 2,000 ft, width to 300 ft and a self-propelled speed of, variously, 7 and then 10 knots, all depending upon the proposed function of the vessel.

Five different vessel types were proposed ;

1: Pure Ice

2: Pykrete

3: Steel (est. 50,000 tons)

4: Concrete (see below)

5: Timber (quoted at different places at 47,000 tons and 100,000 tons)

Originally the Timber version was recommended.

In relation to the concrete version, two types (sub-types ???) are mentioned, Habbukuk II intended as a staging post for bombers and transports, 2,200 ft long with a speed of 7 knots. Habbukuk III was meant as support for amphibious landings, operating fighters and light bombers, 1,000 to 1,200 ft long with a speed of 12 knots.

----------------------------


Well that’s Habbukuk, what about Tentacle ?

Tentacle is mentioned right at the beginning of the file

In addition there is a memo dated 10th November 1943 from “J.S.M. Washington” addressed to “W.C.C. London”.

It notes that “flying test on steel pontoon type 1800 ft long on November 6th highly successful. …….. 16 Hellcats, 9 Avengers and 9 Dauntless landed in 20 minutes without practice ……… 33 planes took off in under 14 minutes …… Outboard motors at 2 diagonal corners successful in keeping platform head to a changing wind which increased to 10 knots. Anchor cable was brought to centre of contraption. …… Strip rigid and free from tendency to wave motion under load. Has withstood waves up to 4 foot high with 45 m.p.h. wind for three days. ……. All U.S. and British observers very pleased with results. ……. It seems doubtful however if even with the best boat drill it could be assembled in much under two days, and this makes its tactical use questionable.” The last comment reads “11. We have encountered obstacles and obstinacy in the way of HABBUKUKS made out of cement.”

It is also noted that films were taken of the test.

-------------

The comment earlier in the file is a sort of “index” to the file and reads (in its entirety :-

“Tentacle Airfield
(Floating Steel Pontoon)
Reports of flying trials conducted in U.S.A.
Anglo/US co-operation

------------------------------------

Make of that what you will.
 

XP67_Moonbat

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Well, that's news to me. Love to see the test footage of that experiment and pictures.
 

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Judging the men standing besides that three-funnel liner and the buildings on the
focsle, I think, the artist wasn't interested in proportions. And the draft, that would
fit the freeboard would be quite impressive either. But the name Gerke von Waldenburg
gives a clue for further searching:
https://books.google.de/books?id=FygDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA33&lpg=PA33&dq=gerke+von+waldenburg&source=bl&ots=xod1M1TKa7&sig=1XN7EvcFVGDYiEg1RiywE1RQRCk&hl=de&sa=X&ei=qqoNVeHaIIGuOKfxgJgE&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=gerke%20von%20waldenburg&f=false

But contrary to Habakkuk pure ice seems to have been the building material.
 

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Habakkuk: Is it more American or British design?

Project Habakkuk
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Habakkuk
From reading the Wikipedia link, you will see a lot of the historical design/information of the Habakkuk was from British eccentric inventor Geoffrey Pyke. Therefore, the Habakkuk is a British design and a British ship. But in recent days and weeks as I've done more research about Habakkuk in future preparation for construction of a 1/350 scale model, I can't help but wonder if the Habakkuk would be thought of as more of an American/Canadian design/ship rather than a British one.
If WWII had gone on longer and if events had changed to the point where Habakkuk was to be built and used, then it would've been built by the Americans and Canadians as those two countries had more resources to build the Habakkuk than what Britain did. According to the book "Code Name Habakkuk: A Secret Ship of Ice", the Habakkuk was to be built in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Canada. If that truly was the case, which I believe it to be, then wouldn't it make sense to just ship extra American weapons and other carrier systems up the American east coast from American shipyards to Corner Brook to be used on the Habakkuk? After all, why have British armament and/or other systems shipped from Britain, or have American factories retooled to produce British stuff, when instead the Habakkuk can just use already existing American stuff? Seems a lot more sensible and efficient to me. And what would a American/Canadian Habakkuk ship use? Well, the original British plan was to try and get a Habakkuk ship constructed sometime in 1943, and have it operational by late 1944 or early 1945. Taking this into account, I think the Habakkuk could have benefitted from using already existing weapons and other systems being designed and used on the American ESSEX class aircraft carriers being built during WWII. Everything such as, but not limited to: Armament, Radars, Aircraft elevators, Gun directors, Flight deck catapults and arresting gear, etc., etc. The ESSEX class carriers were the latest design from America and were quite formidable in battle.
So what do others think? Is the Habakkuk more American than British?
For those who want to learn more about Project Habakkuk, I created the following group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/Project.Habakkuk.Research.Group/
 

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