The floating serpent

The source of the featured header image above is

The ‘floating serpent’ is a flexible, long,watertight flat-bottomed boat (sort of, tube is better) for carrying crude oils from wells to distant refineries, as an alternative to tankers and pipelines.

The oil shortages during the Suez crisis and the undying interest in matters concerning energy prompted British scientist, William Rede Hawthorne, to invent this barge in 1956.

The intent was to improvise technology for transportation: the long tube can be pulled by a lower powered vessel than the equivalent tanker, the cargo can be handed off at the destination very quickly, and incurs no drag cost when empty (because it can easily be taken aboard), as compared to the similar unladen to laden drag of the rigid-hulled tanker of equivalent capacity.

Hawthorne called it ‘Dracone’-which means serpent in Greek. Dracone is also a reference to Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel, Dragon in the Sea, in which a tanker with similar attributes was featured. Various sources say the naming was an “overt acknowledgment of the source of his idea”.

Nevertheless, this enormous vessel, was made of rubber-proofed cloth, could be filled with oil and towed, just beneath the surface of the water. This idea was later implemented as a means of taking fresh water and other liquids to Greek Islands very far away.

img source: The Robinson Library

One large current example has a capacity of 935 cubic metres (4.23m diameter, 91m long) while weighing only 6.5 tonnes empty.

But as an oil carrier, the ‘Dracone’ was abandoned for better alternatives

This was because it had some major setbacks: it could be towed only at slow speeds and was not suitable for large shipments.

And not to mention, the pollution threat it posed, in case if it would burst.


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