A model basin is a structure designed for the testing of scale model vessels. The tanks in a model basin can be used to test a scale model of the design of anything that is impacted by the principles of hydrodynamics before that object is built in full scale. Because of the Law of Similitude introduced by William Froude in the late 1880’s, we know that a model of a ship form can be tested under a variety of conditions and the results of those tests will accurately predict the performance of a full sized vessel of the same design. This testing allows the design to be perfected before construction of a full sized vessel is undertaken. Wait! There’s more!
I’m tremendously interested in the ways technology evolved in the 20th century. There are so many things we use today that simply didn’t exist at the end of the 1800’s. And yet here we are, taking ocean voyages on vessels with gyroscopes to stabilize them, watching planes take off from the deck of carriers, lighting our world with bulbs instead of flames. For me, one of the most fascinating innovations of that time is the use of model basins for the testing of scale-models of ships before the ships were built –- a practice still in widespread use today.
At the start of the twentieth century, the US Navy needed to design ships of metal, with propellers and engines, to replace their fleet of wooden sailing vessels. Until that time the norm had been to build a ship and then see how it performed. This time, the Navy decided to follow the example of the navies of Europe and test scale-models first. But before they could test the models, they needed a place to test them. Wait! There’s more!