National Geographic : 1969 Sep
GEOGRAPHIC assignments. One of his first voyages was on Lake Baykal, in Siberia. "I sat in the cabin for a while," Dean told me, "trying to watch the scenery through a thick sheet of spray that was being kicked up by the foils. Then I decided to go on deck to get a better view. That was a mistake." He chuckled at the memory. "When I opened the hatch and moved outside, a blast of air hit me and told me how fast we were really moving. It was like-well, like trying to take a stroll on the wing of an airliner!" I talked with Dr. Jean C. Meier, Director of the Com pagnie Generale de Navigation de Lac Leman, which oper ates a hydrofoil ferry on Lake Geneva. "Hydrofoils make sense on any route that takes two hours or longer by con ventional ships," he said. "The ride is sometimes bumpy, but a hydrofoil doesn't roll like a ship." Hydrofoils-planes attached by struts to a basically con ventional hull-generate lift in much the same way that an airplane's wings do. As the boat gains speed, the hydrofoils lift the hull completely out of the water, eliminating much drag (preceding pages). That is why the hydrofoil on Lake Geneva can make the trip from Lausanne to Geneva in less than half the time taken by conventional ferries. "Hydrofoils are generally restricted to sheltered waters," Dr. Meier told me. "Rivers, lakes, and estuaries. And the water must be reasonably free of debris." He pointed out that the foils, skimming the surface, are subject to severe damage if they strike logs or other objects. New Warship Gives Memorable Salute Not long ago on Puget Sound, I boarded a new type of hydrofoil craft, the Navy's U.S.S. High Point. This ship utilizes submerged foils. Attached to the hull by long, thin struts, they remain entirely below the surface. Since they "fly" beneath the waves, the vessel rides more smoothly, and only the struts come into contact with floating debris. Lt. S. W. McGanka, captain of the High Point, told me that those delicate-looking struts had sliced logs in half. By changing the settings of the submerged foils, he could vary the height of his ship above the surface. Very handy, he pointed out, in a rough sea. On our test cruise, an oncoming Navy destroyer churned past us. Heeding naval etiquette, the sailors on the decks of both warships gave hand salutes. Lieutenant McGanka then added what I hope will ultimately become a tradition in the U. S. Navy-he solemnly dipped his ship! This exciting new generation of vehicles-more versatile hydrofoils, air-cushion boats and trains, automated cars, V/STOL aircraft, jumbo jets, supersonic transports-can revolutionize our transportation system. Will they? As I look back, the statements heard during my travels seem to blend into one composite voice: Yes, the transporta tion revolution is on its way. Society can no longer tolerate traffic as it is today... its high death toll... its contribution to airpollution ... its noise ... its frustrations. But over that enthusiastic clamor I hear the cautioning words of former Transportation Secretary Boyd: "Don't 336 For thirsty leviathans, a super filling station: Beyond a flaring oil derrick, huge tankers gulp Iranian oil at Khark Island, a deepwater loading terminal 25 miles offshore in the shallow Persian Gulf. With oil piped from the mainland, Khark can service a new generation of mammoth super-tankers (right). Whale among minnows, the Uni verse Ireland-one of the world's biggest ships-dwarfs specklike fishing craft in Bantry Bay, Ireland. The Japanese-built behemoth rides high in the water after discharging 21/2 million barrels of crude oil at the Gulf Oil Corporation's giant storage complex in Bantry. Every 60 days the Ireland and five sis terships make the 25,000-mile round trip to the oil-rich sheikdom of Kuwait, which like Iran has built loading facilities far out in the Persian Gulf to handle such deep-draft tankers. Today both Europe and Japan plan vessels that will hold4,000,000 barrels, and marine architects dream of vessels twice that size. But conservationists shudder at the threat of superwrecks and su perfloods of seashore-polluting oil.