I don’t know if astronauts on the International Space Station have marveled over my camp bonfires, but the blazes have earned several salutes from giant freighters passing by!
My wife and I enjoy watching huge freighters glide by at 8-10 mph when we camp along the St. Clair River which flows from Lake Huron into Lake St. Clair between Michigan and Ontario. Especially on blustery, frigid nights, it’s cheering to hear that quick blast from the ship’s horn in a passing salute!
Below is a Great Lakes freighter, the American Spirit, as it passed our campsite on December 19, 2014. It was headed downriver to Zug Island at the mouth of the Rouge River to unload its cargo of taconite, an iron ore. It self-unloads at 10,000 cargo tons per hour.
The American Spirit is owned and operated by the American Steamship Company (ASC), founded in Buffalo, New York in 1907. ASC vessels range in length from 635 feet to 1,000 feet and primarily transport iron ore pellets, coal, or limestone aggregates. Gross tonnage capacities range from 24,000 to 81,000 tons. The freighters operate 24-7 and are self-unloading with no onshore unloading assistance needed.
How does the American Spirit stay afloat?
The Baie St. Paul is the most technologically advanced ship on the Great Lakes. Owned by Canada Steamship Lines, the ship set new standards in operational and environmental performance, energy efficiency, and reliability. The International Bulk Journal named it the “Bulk Ship of the Year 2012.”
Built in Jiangyin, China, the Baie St. Paul crossed the Pacific Ocean and arrived in Montreal on December 1, 2012, where workers removed the temporary reinforcing structures that made the ocean voyage possible.
Canada Steamship Lines President Louis Martel said, “We are extremely proud of and grateful to the talented officers and crew of the Baie St. Paul who successfully navigated a vessel built for the Lakes across the Pacific Ocean and through the Panama Canal.”
Why didn’t the Baie St. Paul fall to the bottom of the Pacific?
Sink or Float?
Why do huge ships weighing thousands of tons and carrying thousands of tons of cargo float instead of sink?
The American Spirit freighter pictured above weighs 15,936 tons. It has a cargo capacity of 62,400 tons and a fuel capacity of 580 tons for a total weight of 78,916 tons or 176,771,840 lbs. (A gross cargo ton is 2,240 lbs.)
I can personally testify that the American Spirit freighter floated downriver without sinking. How was it able to stay afloat weighing this much when a small rock picked up along the shore weighing only a few ounces will sink when tossed into the river? Yet if the rock is tossed onto the ship’s deck, this does not make the boat sink.
Noah’s descendant, the Greek mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse (c. 287 BC – c. 212 BC), explained why objects float or sink. Noah himself, a master shipbuilder and daring sea captain, surely understood the principle that Archimedes subsequently published over 2,000 years after the Great Flood.
In Archimedes’ treatise On Floating Bodies, he states what has come to be known as Archimedes’ Principle:
“Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object.”
Archimedes’ Principle says that the buoyant force on a ship is equal to the weight of the water displaced by the ship. If the weight of the ship is more than the weight of the water it displaces, then the ship will sink; otherwise it will float.
A U.S. gallon of water weighs about 8.34 pounds (at 62 °F (17 °C)). This means that when fully loaded the American Spirit freighter displaces at least
176,771,840 / 8.34 = 21,195,665 gallons of water.
Laker vs. Salty
Freighters designed to haul cargo on the Great Lakes (called Lakers) are longer than ocean freighters (Salties). The maximum length to width ratio for a Salty is about 7 to 1, while Lakers have a maximum ratio of about 10 to 1.
The longer design of Lakers compared with Salties is due to the difference between lake waves and ocean waves. Ocean waves are taller than waves on the Great Lakes, and they are closer together. The resulting stresses on the long hulls of Lakers are too great when riding over ocean swells. With an ocean wave lifting the bow and another the stern, nothing supports the middle of the laker and it breaks up. The longer design to carry more cargo is feasible on the Great Lakes with their smaller waves and greater interval between waves.
Noah’s Ark, the First Ocean Freighter
Noah’s Ark would have been comparable to today’s ocean freighters.
This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. (Genesis 6:15)
Noah’s Ark with a length of 300 cubits and a width (beam) of 50 cubits had a smaller length to width ratio of 6:1 than today’s Salties. This reduced ratio gave greater stability which was needed for the tremendous turbulence of Noah’s Flood.
How big was Noah’s Ark?
To answer this one needs to know the length of the cubit. A cubit was generally the distance between a man’s elbow and fingertips, but it varied somewhat throughout history as shown in this table:
|Common cubit||18.0 in|
|Hebrew (short)||17.5 in|
|Hebrew (long)||20.4 in|
|Egyptian (short)||17.6 in|
|Egyptian (long)||20.6 in|
Using the Hebrew long cubit of 20.4 inches or 1.7 feet (which was apparently what Solomon used for the Temple, 2 Chronicles 3:3), this means Noah’s Ark measured 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. Thus the Ark was a little bigger than most ocean freighters.
Noah designed and built a ship comparable to the ocean freighters in use today. And he captained that ship through the most tumultuous ocean storm ever (Genesis 7:11-24).
Noah’s “freighter” was built out of wood instead of iron like today’s freighters. This reduced its weight and facilitated flotation.
The Ark may well be the largest wooden ship ever built. It certainly carried the most valuable cargo of any freighter ever. It carried the “restart” for the world’s human and animal populations.
Click Freighters to learn more than you ever wanted to know about bulk cargo freighters from Wikipedia.
Questions to Ponder
Use Archimedes’ Principle to answer the following questions:
- A small boat is floating in a swimming pool. Which will raise the water level on the side of the pool higher: throwing a dollar coin into the boat or throwing the coin into the water?
- Next, imagine you are in the boat floating in the swimming pool. You drop a dollar coin into the water and it sinks to the bottom. Does the water level on the side of the pool rise or lower or stay the same?
- HINT: If it’s too hard to think through these questions using Archimedes’ Principle, you can do an experiment with a pan of water, a floating lid, and a marble to determine the answers.
Soli Deo Gloria.
See these related articles I’ve written on Noah, the Ark, and the Flood:
Noah’s Flood—Key to the Past
Noah’s Flood—A Global Event
Noah’s Ark Replicas
Noah’s Ark Found?
Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes, & Noah’s Flood
Rebuilding Noah’s Ark
Ark Encounter Park
Noah’s Ark Model in Holland
Noah’s Ark Found? (with video)
1. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Intro
2. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Kentucky Governor (with YouTube videos)
3. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – How Big?
4. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Ark Encounter video
5. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Ark Encounter Park
6. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Location (with maps)
7. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Funding
8. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Facing Opposition
9. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Ham Debates Lynn (with video)
10. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – What Would Noah Think?
11. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Tour the Dutch Ark (with video)
Dinosaurs on the Ark?
Tsunami Videos and Noah’s Flood
Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes, & Noah’s Flood
USA TODAY features Noah’s Ark
Marilyn Monroe and the Age of the Earth
Wallenda, Niagara, & Noah’s Flood (with video)
Mystery of Noah’s Flood (with videos)
Leftover from Noah’s Flood?
Noah, the Movie (with videos)
The Truth about Noah
Meet the Real Noah (with video)
Could Noah Fill the Earth?
How Many Died in Noah’s Flood?
Is 10 Trillion Flood Deaths Reasonable?
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Wednesday May 13, 2015 A.D.
In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. The rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark, they and every beast after its kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, all sorts of birds. So they went into the ark to Noah, by twos of all flesh in which was the breath of life. Those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him; and the Lord closed it behind him. Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth. The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark. The water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days. (Genesis 7:11-24)