End of Project
Later that year Habbakuk began to lose priority. Mountbatten listed several reasons:
- The great demand for steel.
- Permission had been received from Portugal to use airfields in the Azores which facilitated the hunting of U-boats in the Atlantic
- The introduction of long-range fuel tanks that allowed British-based aircraft extra patrol time over the Atlantic
- Increased numbers of escort carriers
In addition, Mountbatten himself had withdrawn from the project. The final Habbakuk Board meeting took place in December 1943 and it was announced that "The large Habbakuk II made of Pykrete has been found to be impractical because of the enormous production resources required and technical difficulties involved".
The use of ice had actually been falling out of favour before that, with other ideas for "floating islands" being considered, such as welding Liberty Ships or landing craft together (Project TENTACLE). It took three hot summers to completely melt the prototype constructed in Canada.
Perutz, in his account, writes that he sojourned in Washington D.C. while U.S. Navy engineers evaluated the viability of Habbakuk. He concludes: "The U.S. Navy finally decided that Habakkuk was a false prophet. One reason was the enormous amount of steel needed for the refrigeration plant that was to freeze the pykrete was greater than that needed to build the entire carrier of steel, but the crucial argument was that the rapidly increasing range of land-based aircraft rendered floating islands unnecessary."
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