Strange Science: Cargo Ships Sink Due to Liquefaction

Soil impacted by liquefactionLiquefaction is the term used when a solid, such as soil, behaves as a liquid. This is most often something that occurs during seismic activity, like an earthquake, but it can also happen any time that a sudden change in stress occurs.

What does this have to do with cargo ships sinking? Cargo ships that transport things like crushed ore or mineral sands, which act normally like solids, can liquefy when the water pressure rises. Once the solids have liquefied, they can shift around in the hold more freely, causing ships to list and, potentially, sink due to taking on too much water.

This is the cause of approximately 10 “solid bulk cargo” ships sinking or being lost per year. And while maritime authorities are aware of it, there is still much more information dissemination that needs to occur to help prevent this type of loss. You can read more about it here.

Photo by Martin Luff from Christchurch, New Zealand (IMG_1519.jpg) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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