Monday, October 21, 2013

Code name Habbakuk

by L.D. Cross
2012, 130 pages

In 1942, as the Allies faced mounting losses in the Atlantic from German U-boat attacks, they began anxiously exploring new ways of protecting their shipping. The oddest possibility they investigated was "Project Habbakuk" - a secret plan to build gigantic, unsinkable aircraft carriers out of ice. Ice, it was suggested, could be an ideal ship building material: it floated, was inexpensive, easily available, and after an attack ship's repairs could be done by simply spraying on some super-cooled water wherever dents and holes might be found.

Winston Churchill was an enthusiastic proponent, and probably the reason the idea was given serious study. But it was up to the Canadians, with our suitably cold climate, to build the first scale model. So that's why a crew of dozens soon found themselves secreted away in the middle of the Rocky Mountains building a 1,000-ton ice boat on the surface of a frozen lake.

It's a weird and wacky story, but it gives genuine insight into just how desperate the Allies were in 1942. An aircraft carrier made out of ice? It should have been a laughable. But with supplies low, and losses high, the Allies were looking for something - anything! - that could turn the course of the war their way. Author L.D. Cross does a great job of delivering the fascinating and highly amusing tale of Project Habbakuk's inspiration, testing and ultimate demise.

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