What I Did on My Winter Vacation

Control projects show up in the darndest places. I know because I've been away for 10 days, visiting England. Took a tour of the southeastern part of the country, with stop-offs at Stonehenge (speaking of engineering feats), Salisbury, Jane Austin's house, Canturbury, Dover, Deal, and Portsmouth. I won't bore you with all the pictures and tales, like driving down a skinny road on a steep incline with a switchback in the middle to get to the cool pub at the bottom of the Dover cliffs. (My daughter is a better woman than I am. I might have tackled that road in the States where people drive on the right as God intended, but in a manual-transmission, rented car in a country where they drive on the left--no thanks. )

But back to the control systems. What I will share is one exhibit we saw in Portsmouth.  In the historic dockyard district, right next to HMS Victory and HMS Warrior, is the wreck of the Mary Rose. Rescued out of the mud in the Solent just outside the Plymouth inner harbor, her raising and dry-docking are an engineering marvel in themselves, but what is really interesting for our purposes is the preservation project going on now.

The details are at the link above, but the short version is that the remains of the hull are in a sealed container kept in low light and controlled temperature and under a constant spray of polyethelene glycol preservative. The idea is to preserve the timbers, keep them from shrinking and rotting further and eventually allowing them to dry out so they can be permanently displayed. At regular intervals, lasers check the state of the preservation effort to see how much of the PEG has been absorbed. You can go in now and see the operation. The guide, unfortunately, knows much more about Elizabethan naval affairs than the control systems, so I can't really describe the most interesting bits, but it's an amazing sight.

On the donor plaque at the end of the tour, the name Honeywell appears, so I'm betting some of the control systems come from them, although I don't know that. Anybody from Honeywell out there who can weigh in, please let me know.

Once I overcome my jet lag and get through the elebenty-twelve messages in my email box, I'll see if I can scope out more of the control details. Meanwhile, troll around on the Mary Rose web site. Some other interesting engineering going on there.