Montage of ships being launched

If you were never quite sure what happened after the pretty lady broke a bottle of champagne against the hull, you might find this amusing. Apparently, after all the pomp and circumstance, boats are just kind of unceremoniously dropped into the drink.

Video Link

Via Alan Simon



  1. I know it makes me a bad person, but I kind of wanted the last one to roll all the way over and sink immediately.

    1. Well it would be a waste of money… Not to mention, we do need weather prediction, for say tsunamis, not to mention science, which also is how these behemoths manage to float.

  2. I have to ask: does anyone know if the captain, builder, etc., gets to ride on the ship while it’s being launched? I would volunteer for that experience, let me tell you!

  3. I found myself stunned that that’s how they do it. It seems like if one or two of the sleds got stuck, they could roll the whole boat. Perhaps there’s just too much mass for that to happen.

    What happened to going in tail-first? Does it take up too much room?

    1. “What happened to going in tail-first? Does it take up too much room?”
      Pretty much yes. This looks like Papenberg, home of Meyer Werft and when they started building ships there a hundred-so years ago they never foresaw the immense post-Panamax ships that we use today. However, it’s the best ship building facility in the world and therefore gets just about all the business.

      On days they launch a really big ship not only do they need the tide to bring water up the canal they need the local winds to blow another few feet up the canal too. Here’s a shot from a few years back of how they’ve pretty much maxed out how much boat can fit through the local system:

      1. Neat! Thanks.

        I’m sure they probably dug the harbor bed deep, but the flat lie of the banks makes the water look so shallow that the giant ship seems to be skimming over the surface.

        My guess is the ships are empty when launched from drydock. A crew would just be needing to be rescued if it capsizes or grounds. They probably load it with fuel and supplies after they tug out into deeper waters. Modern boats maybe have some instruments that can be read from shore to check balance and so forth, but it’s not like there’s a lot someone on board could do if the launch goes foul. That would be my guess, anyway.

    2. “What happened to going in tail-first? Does it take up too much room?”

      Basically, yes. to launch a ship that’s longer than the river is wide, you need to launch it at a bend in the river. This is what made Sunderland in the UK such a major shipbuilding centre, the River Wear makes several bends in the final mile or so before the mouth.

  4. It looks violent – but honestly, the first weather the ship hits it’s going to undergo at least that much stress.

    Sure looks funny to this viewer of inland origins, though.

    1. oh my, some internet advice gold on that site of LCTs “This animation is about 500K in size and takes about six minutes to load on a 28.8K modem.”

  5. I don’t think it’s un-ceremonious at all, which is one reason the tradition is quite old. It takes much more work to properly launch the ship – think of all the stresses included in moving hundreds or thousands of tons of newly built and un-tested ship across a ramp and off a steep drop – as opposed to just floating a ship out of a dry dock. one is dramatic and fraught, the other is truly boring.

  6. It is kind of odd that they don’t build them in a dry dock and then float them out. I suppose launching them the way they do is cost effective. Still…sign me up to the list that wants to see one capsize on launch. The bigger the better.

    1. Dry docks aren’t large enough these days for major cruise ships. What’s insane is that ships are built to be extended later on with additional modules when canal technologies or the owners decide to add another few hundred staterooms. They just cut them apart at a vertical seam, pull it apart, slide the additional new module in and reweld/rewire/refit as needed.

  7. I got to witness the launch of the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1958 or 1959. Not quite as dramatic as its ending (certainly no songs were written about the launch…) but it was thrilling and had elements of disaster. I was 7 or 8 yearsa old, so memory is a little unreliable, but! I rememeber the lady having trouble smashing the champagne; 2 or 3 bottles just bounced off the hull. Then the skids jammed and we waited what seemed like forever. My dad, a science teacher, suggested that there were too many people way too close to the water (we were somewhere high above the action). When she finally slid sideways (just like these MUCH smaller vessels) a small tsunami washed at least a block, over the heads of the quay-side visitors. People were floating all over the place. The channel into which the ship dropped was very narrow (and the boat huge); it smashed into the opposite side causing great damage to the pier and some to the hull. All in all, a typical visit to River Rouge, my dad’s home town. And surely a little foreshadowing, no?

  8. That first video, especially, with that giant mass of water spilling over the street, is an excellent way of visually explaining the concept of displacement.

    Showed this to my kids and they were like “whoa”.

  9. Lot’s of dry docks where I’m from, but I’ve never seen the ships go sideways out. Probably because they’re located in straits, not rivers.

  10. I’m reminded of those shots of various large boats stranded aground after the tsunami in Japan. Getting a boat in the water from a purpose-made slide is spectacular and all, but it’s fairly simple. How are the Japanese getting those stranded boats back in the water?

  11. There’s a shipyard in Portland, Ore. that launches barges the size of large city blocks nose-first into the Willamette. It’s not a very wide river, so a pair of tug boats has to haul the barges around at the brief moment between clearing dry dock and ramming into the opposite bank. To my knowledge they’ve never screwed up.

  12. I just learned yesterday, on a harbor cruise, that the Volkswerft Stralsund us using some kind of elevator system to launch their ships … allegedly the biggest in Europe (? not sure) … so .. not fun / spectacular videos from them … but nice to know that it does not always have to look like that.

  13. Doesn’t this basically serve as a stress test for capsizing?

    Looks pretty functionally useful to me, probably not an accident.

  14. Actually, watching that first boat go in and the waves crashing across the road is pretty instructive as to how water displacement causes tsunami. In this case it was a top-down event while earthquakes are usually the reverse.

  15. As I watched the video, I saw a Google ad that said “date pretty Chinese girls”. After re-reading Maggie’s post, I assume it was due to her mention of “the pretty lady [who] broke a bottle of champagne against the hull”.

    Stay classy, Google.

  16. I’m reminded of an old Tiny Toons line… Buster trying to make small talk with Babs’ father.. “gee sir, you must displace a great deal of water when submerged..”

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