How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 30

How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 30

          “I’m not sure how our sudden acquisition of so many galleons is going to affect that decision,” he continued. “On the one hand, we’ve already revealed the existence of the shell-firing smoothbores, and I’m sure that bastard Clyntahn is going to provide dispensations right and left while the Church works on duplicating them. I still don’t see the additional theoretical range being all that valuable in a sea fight, what with the ships’ relative motion, but I’m beginning to think that if Ehdwyrd has the capacity available it might not be a bad idea to begin manufacturing and stockpiling the rifled pieces. That way they’d be available quickly if and when, as you say, we decide to shift over to them.”

          “I’ll look into that, Sir,” Seamount said, chalk clacking as he turned to make a note to himself on the waiting slate. “It’ll probably mean he needs to further increase his wire-drawing capacity, as well, so the additional leadtime would almost certainly be a good thing.”

          Rock Point nodded, and Seamount nodded back.

          “Second,” he continued, “at that same meeting you suggested Commander Mahndrayn give some thought to the best way to protect a ship from shellfire. He’s done that, and discussed it with Sir Dustyn Olyvyr, as well. We don’t have anything like a finished plan yet, but a few things have become evident to us.”

          “Such as?” Rock Point prompted, and Seamount gestured for Mahndrayn to take over.

          “Well,” the commander said in the soft, surprisingly melodious tenor which always sounded just a bit odd to Rock Point coming out of someone who seemed so intense, “the first thing we realized was that wooden armor simply won’t work, Sir. We can make the ships’ scantlings thicker, but even if they’re too thick for a shell to actually smash through them, we can’t make them thick enough to guarantee it won’t penetrate into them before it detonates. If that happens, it would be almost as bad as no ‘armor’ at all. It could even be worse, given the fire hazard and how much worse the splinters would be. Another objection to wood is its weight. It’s a lot more massive for the same strength than iron, and the more we looked at it, the more obvious it became that iron armor that prevented shells from penetrating at all or actually broke them up on impact was the only practical answer.”

          “Practical?” Rock Point asked with a faint smile, and Mahndrayn chuckled sourly.

          “Within limits, Sir. Within limits.” The commander shrugged. “Actually, Master Howsmyn seems to feel that with his new smelting processes and the heavier hammer and rolling mills those ‘accumulators’ of his make possible he probably can provide iron plate to us in useful thicknesses and dimensions within the next six months to a year. He’s not sure about quantities yet, but my observation’s been that every one of his estimates for increased productivity has erred on the side of conservatism. And one thing’s certain — we haven’t seen any evidence that anyone on the other side would be in a position to match his production for years to come.”

          “That’s true enough,” Rock Point conceded. In fact, it was even truer than Mahndrayn realized, although that didn’t mean enough small foundries couldn’t produce at least some useful quantities of armor, even using old-fashioned muscle power to hammer out the plates.

          “Assuming Master Howsmyn can manufacture the plate, and that we can come up with a satisfactory way of securing it to the hull, there are still going to be weight considerations,” Mahndrayn continued. “Iron gives better protection than wood, but building in enough protection out of anything to stop shellfire is going to drive up displacements. That’s one of the problems I’ve been discussing with Sir Dustyn.

          “I understand Doctor Mahklyn at the College is also working with Sir Dustyn on mathematical ways to predict displacements and sail power and stability. I’m afraid I’m not too well informed on that, and neither is Sir Dustyn, for that matter. He’s a practical designer of the old school, but he’s at least willing to give Doctor Mahklyn’s formulas a try once they’re finished. In the meantime, though, it’s obvious hull strength is already becoming an issue in our current designs. There’s simply an upper limit on the practical dimensions and weights which can be constructed out of a material like wood, and we’re approaching them rapidly. Sir Dustyn’s been working on several ways to reinforce the hull’s longitudinal strength, including diagonal planking and angled trusses between frames, but the most effective one he’s come up with uses iron. Basically, he’s boring holes in the ships’ frames, then using long iron bolts between adjacent frames to stiffen the hull. Obviously, he hasn’t had very long to observe the approach’s success at sea, but so far he says it looks very promising.

          “When I approached him about the notion of hanging iron armor on the outside of the ship, however, he told me immediately that he didn’t think a wooden hull was going to be very practical. I’d already expected that response, so I asked him what he thought about going to a ship that was wooden-planked but iron-framed. Frankly, I expected him to think the notion was preposterous, but it turns out he’d already been thinking in that direction, himself. In fact, his suggestion was that we should think about building the entire ship out of iron.”

          Rock Point’s eyes widened, and this time his surprise was genuine. Not at the notion of iron or steel-hulled vessels, but at the discovery that Sir Dustyn Olyvyr was already thinking in that direction.

          “I can see where that would offer some advantages,” he said after a moment. “But I can see a few drawbacks, too. For example, you can repair a wooden hull almost anywhere. A shattered iron frame member would be just a bit more difficult for the carpenters to fix! And then there’s the question of whether or not even Master Howsmyn could produce iron in quantities like that.”

          “Oh, I agree entirely, Sir. I was impressed by the audacity of the suggestion, though, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I have to say I believe the advantages would vastly outweigh the drawbacks — assuming, as you say, Master Howsmyn could produce the iron we needed. That’s for the future, however. For the immediate future, the best we’re going to be able to do is go to composite building techniques, with iron frames and wooden planking. And the truth is that that’ll still give us significant advantages over all-wooden construction.”

          “I can see that. At the same time, I’d be very reluctant to simply scrap all the ships we’ve already built — not to mention the ones we’ve just captured — and start over with an entirely new construction technique.”

          “Yes, Sir. As an intermediate step, we’ve been looking at the possibility of cutting an existing galleon down by a full deck. We’d sacrifice the spar deck armament and completely remove the forecastle and quarterdeck. That should save us enough weight to allow the construction of an iron casemate to protect the broadside guns. We’d only have a single armed deck, but the guns would be much better protected. And we’ve also been considering that with shell-firing weapons we could reduce the number of broadside guns and actually increase the destructiveness of the armament. Our present thinking is that we might completely remove the current krakens and all the carronades from a ship like Destroyer, say, and replace them with half as many weapons with an eight or nine-inch bore. The smaller gun would fire a solid rifled shot somewhere around a hundred and eighty to two hundred pounds. The shell would probably be about half that, allowing for the bursting charge. In an emergency, it could fire a sixty-eight-pound round shot, which would still be more destructive than just about anything else currently at sea.”

          “Rate of fire would drop significantly with that many fewer guns,” Rock Point pointed out, and Mahndrayn nodded.

This entry was posted in Snippets, WeberSnippet. Bookmark the permalink.
Skip to top


60 Responses to How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 30

  1. tootall says:

    Here’s a bit on shell weights-granted it concerns 1940s weights of British naval shells- interseting none the less.

    Weight of shell weight of gun in tons
    4.7 in—50-60 lb 3.2
    5.25 in–80 lb 4.3
    6. in —100-112 lb 9
    8 in—–256 lb 17.2
    14 in— 1590 lb 79
    16 in — 2000- 2400 lb 108- 119

  2. tootall says:

    Well, that didn’t come out as I wrote it- here’s another try.
    Weight of guns
    4.7in –3.2 tons–
    5.25in– 4.3 tons,
    6in 9 tons
    8in 17 tons
    14 in– 79 tons,
    16in 108-118 tons

  3. Paul Breed says:

    I agree that snark can’t read minds, but the last book said Hasinree had a snark personally assigned to him.
    You think that OWL would know if someone bad has a personally assigned snark it would let us know if they
    showed up someplace sensitive.

  4. Drak Bibliophile says:

    This may be an “Oops” on David Weber’s part.

    Yes, Hasinree had a snark assigned to him *and* was a wanted man because of his involvement with Father Aidryan Wayman.

    The Regency Council should have gotten a note (from the mysterious seijin spies) concerning his new identity and location.

    Now, it’s possible that the snark was only assigned to his residence/work place but IMO that’s unlikely.

    So that’s why I suspect it’s an “Oops” by David Weber.

  5. robert says:

    Speaking of frigates, did some or all of you see kinzel’s (Steve Miller’s) post on the Bar about HMS Portland’s new captain, Lt. Cdr. Sarah West? See
    And be sure to look at the photos.

  6. Sigh says:

    “Wyrm, there is very little difference (morally or otherwise) between sending out an assassin and giving out “disinformation” that would lead to murder or execution.”
    With all my being I disagree with this statement. It would be morally wrong not to take advantage of such a staggering weakness. Divide and Conquer my friends!

  7. Paul Breed says:

    There is an early access copy for sale on E-bay.

  8. Drak Bibliophile says:

    The following was posted by David Weber (runsforcelery) over on concerning Paitryk Hainree.

    Begin Weber Post

    There seems to be some question about why Paitryk Hainree was able to get so close to whoever his target may be (as he apparently does in the teaser snippet I posted), since he’s being followed around by his own personal SNARC bug.

    First, I wish the readers would disabuse themselves of the belief that Merlin’s technology is infallible. It isn’t, and it’s entirely possible for someone to “get away” from one of Owl’s “personal bugs.” For example, if the bug is planted on an article of clothing which the changes and leaves home, or if it is planted in his personal quarters to keep an eye on him and he isn’t there, or any number of other possibilities. Normally the person being followed will be reacquired when he comes back home, there’s time for the bug to be moved from one item of clothing to another, he drops in on one of his fellow conspirators who’s also being watched, or whatever; that doesn’t always happen, and Merlin and Owl do not have complete, total penetration to keep track unfailingly on every single individual of interest’s every conversation, every piece of correspondence, etc.

    My point here is (without going into any additional details from the book) that I have never given Merlin and his friends 100% intelligence; there have always been gaps and there always will be gaps in their coverage. When they know that it’s absolutely essential to have total coverage on a given individual — like, for example, Earl Thirsk, or Princess Irys and Prince Daivyn — then they’ll go all out and probably dedicate an entire SNARC, and not simply individual bugs, to the task of keeping tabs on that individual or small group of individuals. Otherwise, even with Owl, there has to be a level at which they simply say “we cannot keep track of every grasshopper crawling around down in the weeds of our opposition.”

    In short, once Paitryk Hainree avoided the initial dragnet when Koryn Gahrvai swept up the vast majority of the “resistance leaders” upon whom Merlin gave him targeting data, it was entirely possible for Hainree to “drop off the grid” with sufficient totality to make it impossible or, at the very least, extremely difficult for even Merlin’s resources to find him again. The most probable way for them to have reestablished coverage on him would, of course, have been for him to become active in another organized “resistance movement” in Corisande. For some reason [tum-te-tum-te-tum] that would appear not to have happened in this case, however.

  9. Mike S says:

    Keep in mind the difference in shot and shell weights we’re dealing with here. The standard British long gun for a 38 gun frigate was an 18pdr, while the lower deck of a 74, 80, 90/98, 100, 110 or 120 carried 32pdrs. The size and the weight of the shot and the gunpowder, carried in flannel bags was easily handled. The limitation on rate of fire was the weight of the gun itself. A 32pdr gun and carriage would weight over three tons. The gun had to be man-handled, both while aiming and returning the gun to battery after it recoiled.

    Now compare this to a IX inch Dahlgren (US naval histroians use a convention where shot only guns are identified with the weight of their shot in English pounds, shell guns are identified by the diameter of their bore in Arabic numerals and Dahlgren shot/shell guns by their bore in Roman numerals). A Dahlgren IX inch gun weighed over 4.5 tons just for the barrel. It fired a 90lb shot and a 73lb shell. It was usually mounted on a Marseilly carriage not much improved over that used by 32pdr guns at Trafalgar. All this weight had to be man-handled. So while the weight of a broadside increased, the sustained rate of fire dropped. And so did the number of guns carried. A sloop like the USS Hartford (20 IX inch Dahlgrens) carried basically the same number of guns as the USS Constellation (20 8in shell guns, 2 32pdr long guns) of the 1850s and the USS Lexington (24 24pdr mediums) of the 1820s. Both were rated as ship-sloops, but the USS Lexington was 127′ on the deck, the USS Constellation was 181′ on the main deck and the USS Hartford was 225′ on the deck, yet all were rated in their time as 20 gun ship-sloops.

    While I can buy into converting 16th/17th century galleons or their immediate successors to 18th century armament, substituting iron long guns and carronades for the sakers and so-on, and even firing shells (the British did this from 24pdr and 32pdr guns in the defense of Gibralter in 1778), as the weights and sizes were not significantly greater given the more efficient use of weight by 18th century artillery compare to that from the 16/17th century, the use of large shell guns (Paixhains or Dahlgrens) from such ships is just to much. Notice above how much larger a ship had to get to carry the same number of guns going from 24pdrs to 8in shell guns to IX inch Dahlgrens.

    PS. The USN called its large destroyers built from the late 1950s (starting with the “Farragut” class) frigates in lieu of destroyer leader until the 1970s, when they were reclassified as cruisers for political reasons. They then transfered the name to the new large destroyer escorts of the “Knox” and later classes.

  10. JeffM says:

    @45 Putting together your two statements, however, it wouldn’t be a moral leap to use said “disinformation” to cause the other three member of the Go4 to finally do something about Clyntahn. The OP just had it backwards. ;)

    As far as the obsolescence or irrelevance of Frigates, in an interesting twist, Wiki says that the Oliver Hazard Perry class was actually built to replace WWII destroyers. Further, I found this page interesting reading completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.