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Noise-cancelling boats for defeating seasickness


Back in the days when the old Robocop was a hit and Justin Bieber wasn’t born yet, I used to spend my summers with my parents’ little boat. Everything was great, except for the fact that I was constantly suffering from seasickness. For the son of a seawolf it can be a big issue, especially if my dad would run away to the closest port every time he saw my skin tone getting a little pale.

Then I discovered that having a full breakfast with milk coffee before getting on board on a rough sea day wasn’t a totally good idea, so I stopped having such a breakfast and from that moment on I quit on seasickness as well (let’s hope forever).

But what can you do to defeat seasickness if you are forced to stay on board of a big vessel with very high sea in the middle of the ocean? Simple: hug a bucket. But that was yesterday. Today you can contract a Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute to design a boat that doesn’t suffer from the movement of the waves. Better approach, uh?

So let’s think of all these poor guys who work in oil platforms, offshore wind farms, oceanographic research centers and even cargo containers. The day in such an unstable facility can turn in a living hell when the sea is high enough. But for centuries the ships have suffered for the movements of the waves, so how is it possible that now we are able to stop it?

The innovative technology behind this system is fascinating for its simplicity, and it reminds me a lot of noise-cancelling headphones. What noise-cancelling technology does, is catching the outside world noise (which is an acoustic wave), it reverses it and finally adds it to your Fleet Foxes favorite tune. The reverse acoustic wave acts like a mathematical equation: Music + Noise – Noise (the reverse wave) = just Music!

These Norwegian Viking descendants have done the same. A software calculates the frequency and highness of the sea wave (the mathematical wave) and the boat itself produces a counter-wave that stop the original one. The boat is provided with a U-shaped chamber filled with seawater. Air valves mechanically produce waves following the sequence described by the software. In addition to that, a GPS constantly measures the position of the boat and a couple of stationary engines correct the position from the blowing wind and sea currents. The experiments showed that the scaled version of the noise-cancelling boat remains still in the middle of the ocean without any unwanted movements.

What a wonderful way to convert a sea nightmare in a pleasant walkabout in a lake. And while writing this, I am thinking of a possible future scenario where not just big cargo ships will enjoy this technology. I wonder if some uncharted ocean routes will suddenly convert into touristic paradises. Nowadays the best places for sailing and cruising are the Mediterranean coasts and the Pacific islands with shallow waters. Atlantic routes have usually been avoided because of the tremendous and unpredictable waves, leaving South America and Africa coasts almost unexplored for touristic harbors. So see you in a few years, maybe sailing in the world most dangerous oceans.
Photo by Getty Images.

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  • Thats actually quite true about the noise cancelling technology. I am doing a research on the same and have created a site where I am documenting all of that.

    • Really interesting project Josh. I am going to have a closer look at your website because I have plenty of doubts about this amazing technology. Thanks for sharing!