Saturday, May 5, 2012

American Ship Dazzle Plans

Above are three surviving cut-outs from World War I ship camouflage plans. Painted in watercolor on board and measuring 6" high x 29.25" wide, they were made by an unknown American camouflage artist(s) (c1917-18) and are now in the collection of the National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Bureau of Ships. My suspicion is that these painted silhouettes were made for testing purposes on the shore of Lake Ontario, under the direction of Eastman Kodak physicist Loyd A. Jones.

Below is a diagram of a visibility testing setup, designed by Jones. The cut-out ship silhouette was suspended from the crossbeam with piano wire and positioned at a height at which it appeared to rest in the water. It was then viewed through a telescopic instrument (devised by Jones) called a visibility meter, and measurements were made of its reflected light. It seems that all the other marine camouflage centers used three-dimensional plaster or wooden scale models of ships, not silhouettes, and substantially different testing methods. For detailed information on Jones' methodology, see Robert G. Skerrett, "Hoodwinking the Periscope" (originally published in 1919), reprinted in SHIP SHAPE: A Dazzle Camouflage Sourcebook (pp. 122-151).