Jul 26

Model Basins

Tuesday, July 26, 2016 12:01 AM

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In an era of computers, it is hard to imagine research of any kind without them? How did the Navy develop new ships before computer simulation? The answer: the experiments done at a model basin. These facilities allow scientists to build ships and airplanes and then put them through real-life conditions to determine how well the crafts will survive.

The Navy’s first model basin was the Experimental Model Basin (EMB), built on the Washington Navy Yard in 1899 under the command of David Watson Taylor. The basin was 14 feet deep, 42 feet wide, and 470 feet long, with a million gallons of water. Much to the Navy’s chagrin, Taylor insisted on wooden models, which costed $80, versus the paraffin, which only costed 50 cents.

With the advent of aviation, the EMB branched out and began experimenting on aircraft as well. As the Navy grew, the need for more model basins grew. The EMB became the David Taylor Model Basin in 1939 and in 1967 was reorganized again as the Naval Ship Research and Development Center. Today the model basin facilities are united under the Naval Surface Warfare Center, which is part of the Naval Sea Systems Command.

Below is a small collection of photos from the Naval Institute Photo Archive featuring model basins from the Navy and the private sector.

The original staff of the Experimental Model Basin in 1898. David Taylor is in the front row, first on the left.

The original staff of the Experimental Model Basin in 1898. David Taylor is in the front row, first on the left.

 

A workshop for the manufacture of wooden ship models.

A workshop for the manufacture of wooden ship models.

 

A workshop for the manufacture of paraffin-wax ship models. In the foreground is the clay pit with an almost completed mould of a ship model. In the background, left, the wooden core for the mould is manufactured.

A workshop for the manufacture of paraffin-wax ship models. In the foreground is the clay pit with an almost completed mould of a ship model. In the background, left, the wooden core for the mould is manufactured.

 

Interior of the David Taylor Model Basin showing the two principal towing tanks. The electric carriage in the center is one of four tubular steel carriages used for towing models, 1943.

Interior of the David Taylor Model Basin showing the two principal towing tanks. The electric carriage in the center is one of four tubular steel carriages used for towing models, 1943.

 

Air Cushion Landing Gear on A-4 Model, 4 January 1973. The Navy A-4 model is shown in a wind tunnel with air cushion landing system.

Air Cushion Landing Gear on A-4 Model, 4 January 1973.
The Navy A-4 model is shown in a wind tunnel with air cushion landing system.

 

A 39-foot yacht rig model undergoes testing in the wind tunnel at M.I.T. The model is at 1/15 scale.

A 39-foot yacht rig model undergoes testing in the wind tunnel at M.I.T. The model is at 1/15 scale.

 

A model running downwind in the basin at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

A model running downwind in the basin at the Stevens Institute of Technology.