Sunday, May 24, 2009


Superferry may be safer as a ferry than as a combat ship

by Larry Geller

I was reading about Israel’s use of white phosphorus in Gaza, a war crime because it was used in civilian areas. That stuff burns and there is nothing to be done about it. It may also have been used recently in Afghanistan by one side or the other.

And then, there has been some speculation that the ferry formerly known as Hawaii Superferry may, once its new ramp is attached, see service around Guam/Saipan/Tinian, where troops are soon to be sent from Okinawa.

As long as it remains a “ferry,” perhaps it will find a niche. But suppose one of these lightweight aluminum bubbles is used in a war zone, where it might be hit by some of that white phosphorus?

This is a photo of the USS Alabama hit by white phosphorus in 1921. Good thing it wasn’t made out of aluminum.  Here is a picture of a white phosphorus shell and launcher. One guy can shoot it. I’m not sure how that compares with what was dropped on the Alabama.

So I asked researcher Brad Parsons. He discovered the above pic, but also some info on the burning point of aluminum and white phosphorus. Brad posted his findings on his blog.

The white phosphorus burns at a temperature way higher than the melting point of aluminum. And aluminum itself can burn.

Anyway, this is just idle curiosity. The ferry is not in Hawaii any longer. I hope its flammability remains untested.


Duh, it IS a ferry, not a warship... Of course every airliner is made of aluminum and you don't ask about that when you get on eh?

Not worried about getting on a Superferry. The question is whether the aluminum hull might burn if hit with a white phosphorus bomb as a warship.

Airplane skins are made of an alloy which includes magnesium, manganese, copper and other things, though the alloy is mostly aluminum, I understand. I'm not knowledgeable about that, just googled to check my recollection. I am not sure how airplane skins relate to the question of flammability of aluminum hulled ships if hit by white phosphorus.

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