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Author Topic: FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility  (Read 24957 times)

JNev

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FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility
« on: March 28, 2012, 02:22:54 PM »

"200 miles out" could have included the off-set Gary speaks of.  He and I don't particularly agree on where we believe the flight terminated, but he certainly knows his navigation details very well and I respect his opinion.  Maybe he could speak to that better than I can, but I can see that 200 out might have included an offset - 200 miles of total flight, closer by the crow's flight (as FN and AE may have believed it to be).

As to the conditions - 3/10's coverage typically involves detached (broken) clouds - I don't get 'solid' like overcast over part of the sky - from these messages, but broken coverage to the WNW, and clearer conditions to east and south.  At least that's my sum take-away from it.  By that it seems hard to believe the flight ever got close, else someone aboard either the plane or on the island or Itasca would have seen or heard something.  Between smoke and land, and more open skies (apparently, as I read the report) in immediate vicinity, the flight should have been able to spot the island if in the open skies thereabouts.

It surely seems that something put FN and AE further from that place in reality than our logic today does, unless they really were incredibly close, and all concerned incredibly never heard or saw the right cues.  Whether it was an instrument error (damaged octant, etc.) or some other event like winds against hours of dead reckoning that led to that we'll never likely know.  But 'should be on you' as reported and what actually happened over the next minutes / hour(s) wound up being worlds apart. 

I can't explain that.  If FN had been able to shoot the sun and moon, and his octant was reasonably accurate, and he flew the box pattern Gary suggests, then I'm at a complete loss as to how they missed so badly.  Respectfully, it just does not add up for me that FN was able to accurately shoot moon and sun, for whatever reason.  If he had, we shouldn't be here.

LTM -
- Jeff Neville

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« Last Edit: March 28, 2012, 02:29:06 PM by Jeff Neville »
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FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2012, 06:45:10 PM »

Yep, that's it exactly. 

I think with more altitude it's a bit easier for me.  Did you notice the monochromatic color of the water because of the angle of refraction I think is the correct term; and of course the way the cloud shadows mimic a flat land mass.  When at greater altitude it is much easier to see the differing colors of water, lighter blue being shallower water.  Even though one must look "through the clouds" more, for me, the land also was easier to spot when viewed from a higher altitude.

I will never forget the deepest blue I ever saw, on the west side of Grand Cayman.  I haven't dived it, but I think there is a wall there that goes straight down several thousand feet under water... but I digress. :)

Howland was a near impossible target to hit.  They could easily have been within 20 miles or less and not been able to see it.  If the Itaska had blown smoke much earlier, in my opinion, we would be celebrating her wonderful achievement, rather than looking for their bones.

I guess in hind sight there are so many simple things that could have improved the odds for the flyers; station a second ship say 200-300 miles out like a stepping stone to Howland.  Or, at least building a great big bonfire on Howland a couple of hours before they were due and keeping it going for a while.  Some wood, some old tires, would have made spotting the island a breeze.  Guess they didn't consider radio problems as a possibility.  With the benefit of hindsight and 70+ years...  I do so hope the 10 is found if nothing else, they deserve it I think.  Some closure for all.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2012, 08:54:18 PM by Dr James Younghusband, D.C. »
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Gary LaPook

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Re: FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2012, 02:47:05 AM »

Howland was a near impossible target to hit.  They could easily have been within 20 miles or less and not been able to see it.  If the Itaska had blown smoke much earlier, in my opinion, we would be celebrating her wonderful achievement, rather than looking for their bones.


According to the deck log the Itasca starting making smoke at 1745 Z or very shortly after that. 1745 Z is also the time that Earhart radioed that she was 200 miles out so making smoke earlier would not have made a difference since there is no way that Earhart could have seen the smoke from 200 miles away.

gl
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Heath Smith

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« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2012, 04:07:51 AM »

Quote
According to the deck log the Itasca starting making smoke at 1745 Z or very shortly after that. 1745 Z is also the time that Earhart radioed that she was 200 miles out so making smoke earlier would not have made a difference since there is no way that Earhart could have seen the smoke from 200 miles away.

It could have made a difference if they were short of Howland making North / South passes after they thought they had arrived at Howland. Even if they passed to the North, not short of Howland but out of the visible range of Howland, they might have been able to spot the end of the smoke trail had it extended out and additional say 20SM. If they passed to the South, this may or may not have had any difference in the outcome.

With the winds at 8 to 13MPG (average of 10.5) they smoke trail would have extended out about 15SM at 19:12GMT. Had they started the smoke a couple hours earlier, it would have stretched out about 36SM (assuming it would not have dissipated). If they were in clear skies near the end of the smoke trail at 1000ft, they might have been able to spot it from an additional 28SM (reported visibility of 25NM that morning) or even up to 42SM (theoretical visibility range at 1000ft).

They might have been too far to the North or South for it to have made a difference, we can only speculate.

If they would have arrived prior to dawn, the lights both on the Itasca and on the Electra would have been much more effective at long distances.
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Gary LaPook

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Re: FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2012, 04:26:57 PM »

I like your idea Gary. I am going to Fiji next year on vacation. I should make sure you work with the airline to get me there safely.  :D

Arriving during night conditions with Itasca casting a beacon may in fact have been the best solution. Nice thinking out of the box.
And Earhart had been told that Itasca would be shining a searchlight at night and making smoke during the day. But they didn't plan a night time arrival on the planned flight from Hawaii so they apparently didn't think they need a searchlight for them to find Howland.

gl
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Anthony Allen Roach

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Re: FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2012, 03:09:29 PM »

I wanted to start a new thread discussing the black smoke making of the USCGC Itasca, at the invitation of Mr. Thomas.  I read several comments in the Celestial Choir section regarding the black smoke the Itasca made.  These comments were made in links regarding navigation and would be better in its own thread in my opinion.  For example: https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,383.msg5135/topicseen.html#msg5135

I would caution anyone reading Mr. LaPook's comments regarding the naval rank of the source that the rank does not make one an expert.  The fact that Mr. LaPook's source is an Admiral, while the other source is a Commander is not dispositive.  The Navy has a lot of specialties, and it is not uncommon for someone of flag rank to be a specialist in only one area, but be in charge of matters that encompass other specialties.  For example, the first commanding officer of our ship was a naval aviator, with experience flying the SH-3 Sea King.  He had experience and technical ability regarding flying and anti-submarine warfare, but he was no expert when it came to running the ship's engines.    I remember him coming down to the engine room on one occasion and remarking "These are dinosaur bones!"  The distinction should really be based on whether or not the officer quoted as a source has experience as an Engineering Office of the Watch (EOOW) on a steam plant.

I served as an EOOW onboard the USS Duluth (LPD 6.)  I was one of the few officers to qualify and actually stand watches.  Many officers concentrated on other matters, and avoided the engine room at all costs.

The Duluth was equipped with two (2) Babcock & Wilcox 600 lb boilers.  (The term 600 lb refers to the steam pressure, and not the weight of the boilers.)  These were water tube, D type, meaning that the feedwater to be boiled into steam was inside the tubes, and the tubes were shaped in a backward capital D.  There are other types of boilers, such as fire tube boilers, which means the fire is actually inside the tubes, and the water is outside in a drum.  (I think the older rail locomotives used these.)

We produced fire for the boiler by burning DFM, which stood for Distillate Fuel Marine.  Older fuel that had been phased out was called NSFO.  I recall that NSFO was used from about World War II until the Vietnam era.  Prior to World War II, the fuel was referred to as bunker oil.  It was thick nasty stuff.  One of my senior chiefs found an old publication that explained how to use the older fuel.  It had to be heated first, and then atomized.  When using DFM, we did not have to heat it, but we had to atomize it.  (My chief drove that point home one day by putting a cigarette out in a can of the stuff.)

Our DFM was atomized using compressed air at light off.  Once sufficient steam pressure was achieved, atomization was switched to steam, which atomized it and heated it.  Each boiler had a furnace front containing 4 burners.  The burner tubes were removable, and consisted of a tube within a tube.  The inner tube contained the atomization source (such as air or steam) and the outer tube carried the fuel.  The fuel and atomizer was sprayed through a burner tip which was inside the firebox, and sprayed it in a whirling pattern.  Fire was never sprayed against the tubes, but rather against the rear boiler refractory, surrounded by the tubes.  Exhaust gases were vented out a stack.

The boilers were equipped with periscopes for the boiler technicians (BT's) to observe the quality of the combustion gases.  Sometime in 1995, an electric stack gas analyzer was added while we were in the shipyard.  This operated similar to an oxygen sensor on an automobile today.  Obviously the Itasca did not have a stack gas analyzer.  As a back up, signalmen on the signal bridge (flag shack) were required to keep an eye on the type of smoke we were emitting.

Two types of smoke were of concern.  The first type was white smoke.  White smoke meant actual fuel was going up the stack and was an immediate emergency because it could explode in an atomized state and destroy the boiler and kill or injure personnel.  White smoke generally meant too much fuel, not enough air.  The signalmen had to be specially trained for this.  That was because boiler safety valves and auxiliary steam exhaust also vented up the stack.  It was not uncommon for a new signalmen to report in a panic that we were producing white smoke when it was just aux exhaust lazily venting to the sky.

Black smoke was the other concern.  Generally black smoke was a result of low air feeding the boiler from the forced draft blowers.  There were a variety of ways of producing black smoke (my guys could amaze me with their ability to get anything running in a weird way.)  The main way was to swing the vanes with a louver from the air box into the burner front.  (Like a set of venetian blinds.)

Black smoke was a concern for the following reasons:

1)  Damage:  Black smoke meant that unburned fuel was building up on the tube sheets.  While the BT's that worked for me did not like cleaning firesides, there was also a danger.  DFM and other fuels contain sulfur, and we were always told that unburned fuel has a way of rapidly creating sulfuric acid at that temperature, very quickly.  Sulfuric acid would rapidly corrode and eat at the tubes, which could lead to a loss of steam pressure, boiler damage, or even worse, a boiler explosion.

2)  Environmental:  Obviously, this was not a concern in 1937.  Today, however, the Navy is very uptight about the environmental damage it does, and there are laws governing what the Navy can and cannot do.  Bilge water and oil must never be pumped over the side while in port, or a commanding officer can expect to get relieved.  Sewage is never pumped over the side in port or immediately off the coast.  Garbage must be weighted and dumped outside certain limits and it must never contain plastic.  Air pollution is also a concern.  Black smoke is very visible when a ship is in port, such as San Diego, and the Navy gets complaints and must cooperate with local air controls.  I got some hell from our CO because my guys thought it would be cute to "smoke" the Golden Gate Bridge when leaving San Francisco.

3)  Economy:  Making black smoke means the ship is not being run economically, because hydrocarbons are going up the stack and are wasted.  More fuel has to be burned to make black smoke.  Again, this is more of a concern today through the Navy's energy usage policies, but I imagine in 1937, the Itasca would not want to be wasting too much fuel.

4)  Filth:  Black smoke is filthy.  When black smoke is being made, it tends to settle out over the ship, especially when the ship is not making way and generating apparent wind.  The ship's deck force has to clean this up, and I've seen fist fights erupt over smoke made from our stacks.  Looking at pictures of the Itasca, I see that it was white.  Black smoke falling on a white ship is a recipe for ugliness.

I must also point out that there is a difference between black smoke making and soot blowing.  Mr. LaPook refers to soot blowing in several of his references.  On board the Duluth, each boiler contained one soot blower assembly.  The soot blower was a long pipe in one of the tube  bundles, that could be cranked with a chain.  When soot blowing was done, a valve was opened that admitted steam to the pipe.  The pipe was rotated and steam sprayed from holes in the pipe to spray the boiler tubes.

Soot blowing was not done on every 4 hour watch.  Soot blowing was never done in port, and for a very good reason that may be relevant to the Itasca.  Soot blowing requires a certain load on the boilers to ensure that the fires are not extinguished by the steam, and the ship must be moving through the water at a sufficient speed in a direction that causes the relative winds to carry the soot particles off the ship.  Soot blowing always required permission from the Officer of the Deck, while underway, and was conducted once every 24 hours if operations permitted.  (You never did soot blowing if the ship was engaged in flight operations, unless you wanted to end your career early.)

As I see it, the Itasca was underway, but she was not making way.  That meant that she was drifting to the side of Howland Island, and as the Officer of the Deck would notice her drifting on the current, he would order an ahead on the ship's engine telegraph to put the ship back in the area of where she was supposed to wait.  Soot blowing would not have been permitted, or even used.  But I can agree that there would be a limit to black smoking, to prevent damage, for economy, and to prevent filth in that position.
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C.W. Herndon

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Re: FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2012, 03:32:00 PM »

Good explanation. Thanks Anthony.
Woody (former 3316R)
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Gary LaPook

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Re: FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2012, 02:37:48 AM »

I wanted to start a new thread discussing the black smoke making of the USCGC Itasca, at the invitation of Mr. Thomas.  I read several comments in the Celestial Choir section regarding the black smoke the Itasca made.  These comments were made in links regarding navigation and would be better in its own thread in my opinion.  For example: https://tighar.org/smf/index.php/topic,383.msg5135/topicseen.html#msg5135

I would caution anyone reading Mr. LaPook's comments regarding the naval rank of the source that the rank does not make one an expert.  The fact that Mr. LaPook's source is an Admiral, while the other source is a Commander is not dispositive.  The Navy has a lot of specialties, and it is not uncommon for someone of flag rank to be a specialist in only one area, but be in charge of matters that encompass other specialties.  For example, the first commanding officer of our ship was a naval aviator, with experience flying the SH-3 Sea King.  He had experience and technical ability regarding flying and anti-submarine warfare, but he was no expert when it came to running the ship's engines.    I remember him coming down to the engine room on one occasion and remarking "These are dinosaur bones!"  The distinction should really be based on whether or not the officer quoted as a source has experience as an Engineering Office of the Watch (EOOW) on a steam plant.

I served as an EOOW onboard the USS Duluth (LPD 6.)  I was one of the few officers to qualify and actually stand watches.  Many officers concentrated on other matters, and avoided the engine room at all costs.

The Duluth was equipped with two (2) Babcock & Wilcox 600 lb boilers.  (The term 600 lb refers to the steam pressure, and not the weight of the boilers.)  These were water tube, D type, meaning that the feedwater to be boiled into steam was inside the tubes, and the tubes were shaped in a backward capital D.  There are other types of boilers, such as fire tube boilers, which means the fire is actually inside the tubes, and the water is outside in a drum.  (I think the older rail locomotives used these.)

We produced fire for the boiler by burning DFM, which stood for Distillate Fuel Marine.  Older fuel that had been phased out was called NSFO.  I recall that NSFO was used from about World War II until the Vietnam era.  Prior to World War II, the fuel was referred to as bunker oil.  It was thick nasty stuff.  One of my senior chiefs found an old publication that explained how to use the older fuel.  It had to be heated first, and then atomized.  When using DFM, we did not have to heat it, but we had to atomize it.  (My chief drove that point home one day by putting a cigarette out in a can of the stuff.)

Our DFM was atomized using compressed air at light off.  Once sufficient steam pressure was achieved, atomization was switched to steam, which atomized it and heated it.  Each boiler had a furnace front containing 4 burners.  The burner tubes were removable, and consisted of a tube within a tube.  The inner tube contained the atomization source (such as air or steam) and the outer tube carried the fuel.  The fuel and atomizer was sprayed through a burner tip which was inside the firebox, and sprayed it in a whirling pattern.  Fire was never sprayed against the tubes, but rather against the rear boiler refractory, surrounded by the tubes.  Exhaust gases were vented out a stack.

The boilers were equipped with periscopes for the boiler technicians (BT's) to observe the quality of the combustion gases.  Sometime in 1995, an electric stack gas analyzer was added while we were in the shipyard.  This operated similar to an oxygen sensor on an automobile today.  Obviously the Itasca did not have a stack gas analyzer.  As a back up, signalmen on the signal bridge (flag shack) were required to keep an eye on the type of smoke we were emitting.

Two types of smoke were of concern.  The first type was white smoke.  White smoke meant actual fuel was going up the stack and was an immediate emergency because it could explode in an atomized state and destroy the boiler and kill or injure personnel.  White smoke generally meant too much fuel, not enough air.  The signalmen had to be specially trained for this.  That was because boiler safety valves and auxiliary steam exhaust also vented up the stack.  It was not uncommon for a new signalmen to report in a panic that we were producing white smoke when it was just aux exhaust lazily venting to the sky.

Black smoke was the other concern.  Generally black smoke was a result of low air feeding the boiler from the forced draft blowers.  There were a variety of ways of producing black smoke (my guys could amaze me with their ability to get anything running in a weird way.)  The main way was to swing the vanes with a louver from the air box into the burner front.  (Like a set of venetian blinds.)

Black smoke was a concern for the following reasons:

1)  Damage:  Black smoke meant that unburned fuel was building up on the tube sheets.  While the BT's that worked for me did not like cleaning firesides, there was also a danger.  DFM and other fuels contain sulfur, and we were always told that unburned fuel has a way of rapidly creating sulfuric acid at that temperature, very quickly.  Sulfuric acid would rapidly corrode and eat at the tubes, which could lead to a loss of steam pressure, boiler damage, or even worse, a boiler explosion.

2)  Environmental:  Obviously, this was not a concern in 1937.  Today, however, the Navy is very uptight about the environmental damage it does, and there are laws governing what the Navy can and cannot do.  Bilge water and oil must never be pumped over the side while in port, or a commanding officer can expect to get relieved.  Sewage is never pumped over the side in port or immediately off the coast.  Garbage must be weighted and dumped outside certain limits and it must never contain plastic.  Air pollution is also a concern.  Black smoke is very visible when a ship is in port, such as San Diego, and the Navy gets complaints and must cooperate with local air controls.  I got some hell from our CO because my guys thought it would be cute to "smoke" the Golden Gate Bridge when leaving San Francisco.

3)  Economy:  Making black smoke means the ship is not being run economically, because hydrocarbons are going up the stack and are wasted.  More fuel has to be burned to make black smoke.  Again, this is more of a concern today through the Navy's energy usage policies, but I imagine in 1937, the Itasca would not want to be wasting too much fuel.

4)  Filth:  Black smoke is filthy.  When black smoke is being made, it tends to settle out over the ship, especially when the ship is not making way and generating apparent wind.  The ship's deck force has to clean this up, and I've seen fist fights erupt over smoke made from our stacks.  Looking at pictures of the Itasca, I see that it was white.  Black smoke falling on a white ship is a recipe for ugliness.

I must also point out that there is a difference between black smoke making and soot blowing.  Mr. LaPook refers to soot blowing in several of his references.  On board the Duluth, each boiler contained one soot blower assembly.  The soot blower was a long pipe in one of the tube  bundles, that could be cranked with a chain.  When soot blowing was done, a valve was opened that admitted steam to the pipe.  The pipe was rotated and steam sprayed from holes in the pipe to spray the boiler tubes.

Soot blowing was not done on every 4 hour watch.  Soot blowing was never done in port, and for a very good reason that may be relevant to the Itasca.  Soot blowing requires a certain load on the boilers to ensure that the fires are not extinguished by the steam, and the ship must be moving through the water at a sufficient speed in a direction that causes the relative winds to carry the soot particles off the ship.  Soot blowing always required permission from the Officer of the Deck, while underway, and was conducted once every 24 hours if operations permitted.  (You never did soot blowing if the ship was engaged in flight operations, unless you wanted to end your career early.)

As I see it, the Itasca was underway, but she was not making way.  That meant that she was drifting to the side of Howland Island, and as the Officer of the Deck would notice her drifting on the current, he would order an ahead on the ship's engine telegraph to put the ship back in the area of where she was supposed to wait.  Soot blowing would not have been permitted, or even used.  But I can agree that there would be a limit to black smoking, to prevent damage, for economy, and to prevent filth in that position.
"Different ships, different long splices."

Thanks for your detailed explanation of your experience on the Duluth and it is obvious that you would normally want to avoid black smoke, but acting as a navigation aid for Earhart was not a normal operation. I doubt that Admiral Knight wrote every word in Knight's Modern Seamanship, 13 ed. (1960) that I quoted since he died in 1927. The first edition was published in 1901 and has been a standard reference work at Annapolis and King's Point for a century, I'm surprised that you never ran across it yourself. My edition was revised by a team of naval officers varying in rank from Lieutenant to Captain so hopefully, between them, they had more detailed knowledge of boiler operation. If you think they are too far removed from boiler operations to know about blowing soot then perhaps the boilermen have such hands on knowledge. I have attached an excerpt of the Navy Training Manual for Boilerman 3 &2 that also states that the soot should be blown at least every watch while underway. Maybe you didn't do that on your ship (and you weren't using bunker oil) but, as I said, "different ships, different long splices."

Please read my original post about this located here. and the excerpt of Knights Modern Seamanship


The question was whether Itasca was making smoke and Brandenburg claimed that they couldn't. But we don't have look at this in a theoretical way since there were too many independent witnesses there that stated that Itasca did make smoke for a protracted period. I wrote:

"But this is all a theoretical discussion and we do not have to even consider it since there are all the contemporary eye witness accounts and documents saying that the smoke screen was there for hours, it stretched more than ten miles down wind and would have been visible for 40 miles. Elgin Long even includes a photograph of the Itasca making smoke and you can see the quality of the smoke for yourself.  If you have Morrissey's book look at pages 257, 258, 260 and 291 for various descriptions of the smoke being made by Itasca. The quote on 257-258 is from the Commanding officer of the Lexington saying that the "Itasca was laying a heavy smoke screen which hung for hours." He also says as printed on page 260 that "the Itasca's smoke plume could have been seen 40 miles or more." Now the captain of the Lexington was not there at the time so he was relying on reports from others but the captain of the Lexington would know the capabilities and characteristics of smoke made by ships in 1937 better than Mr. Brandenburg so could evaluate these reports.


Safford publishes Itasca's log for July 2nd. It contains the entry: "0614 Vessel began laying down heavy smoke to assist Miss Earhart."  There was no log entry saying when they stopped making smoke so does this mean that they never stopped and they are still making smoke to this very day? Or does it mean that they only made smoke for 30 minutes (as Brandenburg would have us believe) or for more than two hours or until they started their search, and then stopped without making a log entry? which scenario makes the most sense? Safford also publishes the Itasca radio message sent to COMHAWSEC the  higher commander at 1402 on July 2nd, just 7 hours after AE failed to arrive stating in part  that Earhart passed the island and  "missed it in the glare of the rising sun though we were smoking heavily at that time period." Itasca was at that time searching northwest of Howland with every expectation of rescuing AE so Captain Thompson would not have been in CYA mode yet. In addition to the coast guard personnel on the ship there were two wire service reporters who had no reason to cover up anything, their butts did not need to be covered so they would have reported that no smoke was being made if, in fact, it wasn't. The Hawaiians on Howland also reported that smoke was being made, see James Kamakaiwi diary."

gl

« Last Edit: July 10, 2012, 02:53:33 AM by Gary LaPook »
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Anthony Allen Roach

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Re: FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2012, 10:41:38 AM »

Knight's Seamanship is a required text at the Naval Academy.  But it is only a introductory generalized text that is used Plebe year.  I can dig around, but I probably don't have mine anymore because it is too generalized.  The Naval Academy produces officers that enter specialties, such as aviation, submarines, Navy SEALS, supply corps, surface warfare, and even the Marine Corps.  The instruction in boilers at the Naval Academy was limited to boiler water feed water chemistry as a lab to the course on Chemistry, and basic layout of boilers in Naval Science courses.

Once you graduate and are commissioned you head to surface warfare, you go to a specialized school called Surface Warfare Officers Division Officer's Course (SWOSDOC).  SWOSDOC contains more in depth training and towards the end of the schooling, the particular officers go through engineering training that is tailored to the type of propulsion plants for their first command.  I was put in the steam pipeline and the system we were first trained on was the 1200 lb steam plant for the Knox class frigate.  The work becomes more technical, and the students are introduced to Naval Ship's Technical Manuals (NSTM).  By this point in my career, Knight's Seamanship was a charming generalized text that could serve as a paper weight, a nice conversational piece on the coffee table or tucked in a box in the attic somewhere.

Running a boiler in a black smoke condition is a very dangerous condition.  http://books.google.com/books?id=hzhj3fGmCDkC&pg=PA88&lpg=PA88&dq=U.S.+navy+boiler+white+smoke+black+smoke&source=bl&ots=VGOlIRJqH2&sig=UktmX03mjfSEY6ebhGl68eg-5ys&hl=en&sa=X&ei=SFf8T6PhG-OC2AXo1OmVCg&ved=0CFkQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=U.S.%20navy%20boiler%20white%20smoke%20black%20smoke&f=false

The fact that black smoke/ white smoke is a danger is reflected today.  Page 2-2-15 of this reference: http://dcfpnavymil.org/Library/sftm/3540.3A%20EDORM.pdf

There's a big difference between soot and black smoke making.  The soot blowing in your reference assumes normal build up of carbon particles on the boiler tubes through normal operation.  Normal operation means not making black smoke.  When you make black smoke for prolonged periods of time, you are not just putting carbon on the tubes, but other products from the fuel, including sulfur.  That contributes to sulfuric acid production which will eat at the tubes.  The carbon buildup is much more rapid with prolonged black smoke making, which contributes to uneven heating and cooling of the boiler tubes.  I actually laughed when I read one of the references that said you could soot blow tubes while in port.  There's no way that would be allowed in the fleet, either then or now.

I'm not surprised the deck log of the Itasca had a start time for black smoke making, but no end time.  It is not uncommon for engineering events to not be recorded in the deck log.  The friction between black gang and topside is reflected very well in "The Sand Pebbles."  To truly know how long and when the Itasca was making black smoke, I would want to look at the engineering logs.
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Martin X. Moleski, SJ

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Re: FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2012, 11:04:37 AM »

To truly know how long and when the Itasca was making black smoke, I would want to look at the engineering logs.

Any chance of those surviving somewhere?
LTM,

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Anthony Allen Roach

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Re: FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2012, 11:20:08 AM »

That's a really good question that I don't have the answer to off hand.  I know our engineering logs would be reviewed by the Chief Engineer on a daily basis.  They would be kept in the log room, and over time older logs would be sent off ship for storage.

I'm not sure what the procedure was for the Coast Guard, but wouldn't be surprised if it was similar.  Those records may be archived somewhere, if they weren't destroyed.
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Anthony Allen Roach

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Re: FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2012, 02:40:42 PM »

Interestingly, Wikipedia (for what its worth) lists the propulsion equipment on board the Itasca as two (2) oil fueled Babcock & Wilcox boilers.  Those apparently produced steam for a Curtis turbine generator.  The cutter had one screw and one shaft, that was not directly powered by steam, but rather an electric motor that received electrical power from the generator.
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Gary LaPook

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Re: FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2012, 03:03:08 PM »

Knight's Seamanship is a required text at the Naval Academy.  But it is only a introductory generalized text that is used Plebe year.  I can dig around, but I probably don't have mine anymore because it is too generalized.  The Naval Academy produces officers that enter specialties, such as aviation, submarines, Navy SEALS, supply corps, surface warfare, and even the Marine Corps.  The instruction in boilers at the Naval Academy was limited to boiler water feed water chemistry as a lab to the course on Chemistry, and basic layout of boilers in Naval Science courses.

Once you graduate and are commissioned you head to surface warfare, you go to a specialized school called Surface Warfare Officers Division Officer's Course (SWOSDOC).  SWOSDOC contains more in depth training and towards the end of the schooling, the particular officers go through engineering training that is tailored to the type of propulsion plants for their first command.  I was put in the steam pipeline and the system we were first trained on was the 1200 lb steam plant for the Knox class frigate.  The work becomes more technical, and the students are introduced to Naval Ship's Technical Manuals (NSTM).  By this point in my career, Knight's Seamanship was a charming generalized text that could serve as a paper weight, a nice conversational piece on the coffee table or tucked in a box in the attic somewhere.

Running a boiler in a black smoke condition is a very dangerous condition.  http://books.google.com/books?id=hzhj3fGmCDkC&pg=PA88&lpg=PA88&dq=U.S.+navy+boiler+white+smoke+black+smoke&source=bl&ots=VGOlIRJqH2&sig=UktmX03mjfSEY6ebhGl68eg-5ys&hl=en&sa=X&ei=SFf8T6PhG-OC2AXo1OmVCg&ved=0CFkQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=U.S.%20navy%20boiler%20white%20smoke%20black%20smoke&f=false


Thanks for that link, the book makes interesting reading. Scroll up to page 76~78 where it discusses blowing the tubes, it states that they should be blown once a week which apparently conforms to your experience. It also states that the tubes need to be blown "any time the ship makes heavy black smoke." Page 85 states that they have used DFM since 1975 so you do not have experience with the procedures used when the fuel was bunker oil. Boilerman 3 & 2 (1956) agrees with Knight that the tubes should be blown at least every watch so it makes a lot of sense that the soot needed to be removed much more frequently with that much dirtier fuel.
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The fact that black smoke/ white smoke is a danger is reflected today.  Page 2-2-15 of this reference: http://dcfpnavymil.org/Library/sftm/3540.3A%20EDORM.pdf

There's a big difference between soot and black smoke making.  The soot blowing in your reference assumes normal build up of carbon particles on the boiler tubes through normal operation.  Normal operation means not making black smoke.  When you make black smoke for prolonged periods of time, you are not just putting carbon on the tubes, but other products from the fuel, including sulfur.  That contributes to sulfuric acid production which will eat at the tubes.  The carbon buildup is much more rapid with prolonged black smoke making, which contributes to uneven heating and cooling of the boiler tubes.  I actually laughed when I read one of the references that said you could soot blow tubes while in port.  There's no way that would be allowed in the fleet, either then or now.
Not allowed under normal operations but this was a far from normal operation. Itasca was sent out there by the former Secretary of the Navy who was the then President of the United States to support the operations of Amelia Earhart, the flight instructor and personal friend of his wife Eleanor Roosevelt and who had spent much time at the White House.  Itasca sent a radiogram informing Earhart that smoke would be made during the day and spot lights at night. Under these circumstances I'll bet the captain told his black gang that they were to make smoke and do whatever was necessary to make it possible such as blowing the tubes as frequently as necessary. (You did notice that the government built a whole airport on Howland just for her.) Do you claim that one couldn't blow the tubes more frequently than once a week, your experience, or more than once a watch, Knight and Boilerman 3 &2 says at least once a watch? Is it your position that once you have made black smoke the boilers are ruined forever and the the deleterious effect of the black smoke can't be ameliorated by blowing the tubes at frequent intervals?
What do you mean by "prolonged," five minutes, 30 minutes, two hours, 24 hours?
As to blowing tubes in port here is a link to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that confirms what you said.
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I'm not surprised the deck log of the Itasca had a start time for black smoke making, but no end time.  It is not uncommon for engineering events to not be recorded in the deck log.  The friction between black gang and topside is reflected very well in "The Sand Pebbles."  To truly know how long and when the Itasca was making black smoke, I would want to look at the engineering logs.
Of course this is just a theoretical discussion of boiler operations because there were too many witnessed to the fact that Itasca was making smoke at the time, it was even published in the newspapers before she went missing that Itasca was supposed to make smoke. Not making smoke with all of this emphasis would be like trying to sneak a sunrise past a rooster.

gl
« Last Edit: July 10, 2012, 03:46:09 PM by Gary LaPook »
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Anthony Allen Roach

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Re: FAQ: Itasca smoke signal--possibility, duration, visibility
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2012, 03:12:47 PM »

Actually I also have experience burning both DFM and JP-5.  Thanks to my relationship with the air department on board, I always welcomed it when the aviators had to get rid of JP-5 that no longer met the quality requirements.  It would be "struck down" and transferred to our fuel tanks.  It ran much cleaner than DFM, and would help burn off carbon buildup on the tubes.  My BT's were always happiest when I did that, because it reduced the work they had to do when cleaning firesides.

I never burned NSFO or bunker oil in our boilers.  But I was trained to use it if the need arose.  We had technical information on board for it.  I've taken fuel from weird places in my time.  NSFO would be thicker and even nastier.  Bunker oil would be the worst, as far as boiler tubes are concerned.  So I'm not surprised that older publications indicated more frequent soot blowing was required.  But it also means the tube carbon and sulfur buildup would be much faster.  I can actually visualize the pit snipes on the Itasca getting nervous.
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