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How do Magnificent Iron Cruise Ships Float?                                                                     
 
 

 

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Ever wonder how Magnificent Iron Cruise Ships Float?

Have you ever been on a cruise ship and wondered "How do these iron cruise ships float?"? I'm sure that most of us have been washing dishes and had a metal pie plate or pan float in the water. The answer is surprising simple. The principle of how this works dates back to Archimedes, about 200 B.C. Because nobody really believed him, boats and ships were made of wood until a couple of centuries ago. So……..how does an iron ship float?

The quick response is floatation or the buoyant force. If you were to place a block of wood in a bucket of water, it will float with very few exceptions and the water level in the bucket will rise. The reason? The block sinks into the water slightly. The weight of the block is less than the weight of the water that was moved out of the way (causing the water level to rise). A block of steel would sink to the bottom again raising the water level. In this case the water that has been displaced weighs less that the steel block. Now come the interesting part of how iron ships float.

If you take that same small block of steel and flatten it to a very thin sheet and form it into a hollow box, magically it floats! Why? We spoke earlier of the weight of the water verses the weight of the steel. It's really more accurate to say that the density of the steel is greater than that of water. If that is indeed the case, then how does an iron ship float?

Density is calculated by dividing the weight divided by the volume of an object. The reason that a metal pie plate floats is because the total weight of the plate itself AND the air that fills it divided by its total volume is less dense than the water below it. It's the same principle that makes a helium balloon float in the air. The density of the balloon and the helium combines is less that the density of the air. So how does the magnificent iron cruise ship that you're strolling the decks of float?

The total weight of all of the components of the cruise ship - the iron hull, engines, furniture, food, walls, floors, AND people - divided by the total volume is actually less than the density of the water. University students in the United States actually design CONCRETE boats (actually canoes) and race them against each other.

How then would a ship sink? Take the infamous Titanic for example. Her mammoth size might lead one to believe that she would sink. But, because her density as described above was less that the water she elegantly left port in England. Her demise was caused not by an engineering blunder, but by a hole ripped in her side by an iceberg. For over two hours, water poured into the hull of the ship displacing the air (one of the least dense of the materials making up the over-all density of the ship). When sufficient air was removed from the volume of the ship and replaced with the water, the over-all density of the ship became greater than the ocean water. Now, had the engineering of the ship been such that the compartments where the hole had been ripped in the side of the ship could have been contained and water could not have passed beyond those compartments, Titanic may still be floating today.

I hope that some light has been shone on the question of how iron ships float. The magnificent and majestic cruise ships today are safer, bigger, and more entertaining that ever. One needs not ponder the question of whether or how these monsters float. Just get on board and ENJOY!


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