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Learned old salts,

I have always been interested in the expression "sea cocks" used to descibe some kind of valves supposedly mounted in the lowest regions of a ship (naval or merchantile apparently) which seem to serve the sole function of providing a speedy and neat way of deliberately sinking said ship for reasons unknown. I have also read one or two artilce by various 'salty sea dogs" who claim the entire concept of sea cocks is a myth spawned and propgated by writers of cheap novels, and why would any well-designed ship require a built-in self-sinking device anyway? What would the ship's insurers think of such an installation for instance? As my only experience of the bottoms of ships was working for about one wek in 1967 in a graving dock (where I also learned that practically all ships of whatever size have flat bottoms - this in itself was a revelation to me), I wonder if any of the highly knowledgeable blokes on this board could enlighten the rest of us land lubbers as to the truth or otherwise of the sea cocks legend. I can see that such a device might be useful in a top-secret experimental type of warship that might be in danger of falling into enemy hands and would have need of a rapidly functioning self-scuttling capability, and perhaps some kind of valves might be handy for purging some difficult to get at bilger water deep within the bowels of a ship in dry dock perhaps (something akin to the corks found in transom of some dinghies and small yachts), so any htopughts on this matter would be of great interst to me.

DAvid Duxbury

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Learned old salts,

I have always been interested in the expression "sea cocks" used to descibe some kind of valves supposedly mounted in the lowest regions of a ship (naval or merchantile apparently) which seem to serve the sole function of providing a speedy and neat way of deliberately sinking said ship for reasons unknown. I have also read one or two artilce by various 'salty sea dogs" who claim the entire concept of sea cocks is a myth spawned and propgated by writers of cheap novels, and why would any well-designed ship require a built-in self-sinking device anyway? What would the ship's insurers think of such an installation for instance? As my only experience of the bottoms of ships was working for about one wek in 1967 in a graving dock (where I also learned that practically all ships of whatever size have flat bottoms - this in itself was a revelation to me), I wonder if any of the highly knowledgeable blokes on this board could enlighten the rest of us land lubbers as to the truth or otherwise of the sea cocks legend. I can see that such a device might be useful in a top-secret experimental type of warship that might be in danger of falling into enemy hands and would have need of a rapidly functioning self-scuttling capability, and perhaps some kind of valves might be handy for purging some difficult to get at bilger water deep within the bowels of a ship in dry dock perhaps (something akin to the corks found in transom of some dinghies and small yachts), so any htopughts on this matter would be of great interst to me.

DAvid Duxbury

Looking through my old Coast Guard Manual a seacock is defined as such: A vavle in a pipe connected to the sea; a vessel may be flooded by opening the seacock. The seacock is connected to the sea chest which is the opening in the hull to to allow water in.

You are right that a ship could be scuttled that way but there are other reasons, mostly to allow counter flooding to keep the ship level. But the seachest(s) allowed sea water in for various functions, engine cooling, fresh water distillation, sanitation (before self contained sewage systems). There are many mysteries to a ship that defy reasoning but it all works.

If your ship is in danger of capture, a valve opening to the sea is a handy thing to have, otherwise the more dangerous way would be to blow the ship up. That doesn't give much time to clear the ship.

Edited by coastie
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Looking through my old Coast Guard Manual a seacock is defined as such: A vavle in a pipe connected to the sea; a vessel may be flooded by opening the seacock. The seacock is connected to the sea chest which is the opening in the hull to to allow water in.

You are right that a ship could be scuttled that way but there are other reasons, mostly to allow counter flooding to keep the ship level. But the seachest(s) allowed sea water in for various functions, engine cooling, fresh water distillation, sanitation (before self contained sewage systems). There are many mysteries to a ship that defy reasoning but it all works.

If your ship is in danger of capture, a valve opening to the sea is a handy thing to have, otherwise the more dangerous way would be to blow the ship up. That doesn't give much time to clear the ship.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Hey David,

just reading your post.

I will try lifting the vail for you,but you have to forgive my Englisch.

It is true that ships are scutteld due to opening what you are naming the "seacocks".

It is not true (as far as i know after 26 years in the navy) that ships have build in sinking installations.

What is happening in wartime is if a ship is in danger of falling in the hands of the enemy,the ship will be scutteld.

This can be done by opening the seachest so the water runs in to the bilges of the ship and the ship will sink.

Now for the seachest.This is like a box connected to a pipe who runs to the cooling pump of the engines.

The other side is connected also with a pipe and runs to the outside of the ship under the waterline.

this pipe has a valve that can be closed and opend to let the seawater in.The seachest act as a filter so inpurities will

not enter the cooling pumps.Also in the seachest are blocks of zinc that eliminates "electrolise".

This is a fenomenon witch occures when seawater runs allong metals.To put it simple the metals are eaten away by the water.

You put a soft metal in and it will eat the soft metal first,so your pipes and other metal parts are spared.

What happens if the orders come for scutteling.

The seachest are opend so the seawater runs freely into the ship with due cause.

Somethimes explosives are placed on these and the pipes,but time has to permit this.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Not as dreaded as the 'golden rivet'...

The very thought brings tears to my eyes :unsure: . Thank goodness for "soap on a rope" :cheeky:

Theodor is correct, they are known as Kingston valves.

A seacock is generally accepted in the RN to be a valve that is fixed directly to the hull usually on a reinforcing pad. The term "cock" is really a misnomer as this suggests a 90 degree turn valve whereas most skin fitted valves are screw down types. Magazines have been known to have rapid flooding valves and some steam ships had a large gate valve on the main condenser inlet before the circ pump. This was more a last ditch effort if the engine room was flooding but would be an excellent means of scuttling the vessel.

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In the unlikely event that you would need to scuttle a ship in the present, it would be a matter of flashing up the firemain booster pump and flooding simply by opening firemain outlets. An additional method to expedite flooding would be the use of plastic explosive (which all ships carry) to cut through the hull.

Regards;

Johnsy

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