Popular Science article, April 1965

When a freighter carrying 5,000 sheep capsized at the docks in Kuwait harbor in the Persian Gulf and threatened to contaminate a water-purification plant, an idea from a Walt Disney Donald Duck cartoon helped to raise it. Karl Kroeyer, a Danish engineer called in, remembered the cartoon in a Copenhagen newspaper.

In it Donald pumped tennis-balls into the hold of a sunken ship to displace the water and give the ship enough buoyancy to float. Instead of tennis-balls, Kroeyer used polystyrene foam. The plastic is in crystals that heating expands to air-filled bubbles occupying 40 times the volume.

The freighter's keel was weighted and the bubbles pumped first between the two highest decks, then into lower holds. It took 150 tons of foam and three months to raise the ship and tow it savely away.

(Besides four photo's, two panels of the story are reprinted in the article. They were re-translated from Danish back to English, which accounts for the tennis-balls being mentioned in the article (instead of ping-pong balls).)


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