The recently renovated US Naval Surface Warfare Centre’s “manoeuvring and seakeeping” (MASK) basin simulates wave conditions to test the stability and control of scale models up to 9 metres in length so the Navy can predict how the full-scale vessels will perform on the ocean. The improvements to this Maryland facility – which has been testing the seaworthiness of warships and subs since 1962 – mean that MASK can generate a multitude of different kinds of waves, at any angle, and with 99 per cent precision. The results provide far more realistic conditions than its predecessor. It can also now be used to explore new ways to extract energy from ocean waves, to test breakwaters and beach-protection architecture, and to fine-tune emergency helicopter landings. The pool’s first tests are scheduled for this year.
Watch a timelapse video showing the construction of the MASK basin…
1. Basin | MASK has a depth of 6 metres, except for one 15-metre swathe with a depth of 10 metres, which is used to test oil rigs and other stationary platforms. Approximately 45 million gallons of water slosh around inside the basin, which is as long as a football field and nearly one and a half times as wide.
2. Waves | The wave boards can generate waves up to 1,2 metres high. For a scale model, that height simulates the very worst conditions on the high seas.
3. Bridge | Spanning the entire length of the pool, the bridge has a tow carriage on its underside that can pull a model ship around the basin at a speed of up to 15 knots (almost 30 km/h).
4. Lights | Lighting is kept to a minimum so algae won’t grow and clog up the pool.
5. Control Room | Before testing, operators enter the desired wave characteristics into the computer controller and run simulations using a virtual wavemaker.
6. Wave boards | Ocean waves vary in different parts of the world and at different depths. Fingerlike paddles – 216 in all – operate individually to simulate a variety of waves found in Nature.
7. Shoreline | A shoreline made of angled concrete slabs absorbs and dissipates energy – much the way a natural beach helps quiet waves – between test runs.