razzle dazzle


I've recently fallen back in love with 99% Invisible, a podcast devoted to "design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world." Each story is about the length of time I can stay in a really hot bubble bath, which is a convenience Roman Mars couldn't have anticipated.

Recently they did a story called Razzle Dazzle. If you think military camouflage is all about brown and green splotches, you're greatly mistaken. Brown and green isn't going to cut it when you're trying to hide a naval vessel on the high seas. In fact, camouflaging ships is terribly tricky -- the color of the water is rarely consistent for more than a few minutes, what with constant motion, changes in lighting, etc. To solve this, camofleurs (I swear they're a thing) developed "dazzle" boats painted with chaotic and disorienting patterns designed to distort an enemy's perception of how fast a ship was moving or in what direction.

Torpedoes in the Great War could only be fired line-of-sight, so instead of firing at where they saw the ship was at that moment, torpedo gunners would have to chart out where the ship would be by the time the torpedo got there.  They had to determine the target ship’s speed and direction with just a brief look through the periscope. The torpedo gunner’s margin of error for hitting a ship was quite low.  Dazzle painting could throw off an experienced submariner by as much as 55 degrees.

I really just live to discover such juicy tidbits of information. These designs are like nothing you've ever seen (the argyle ship is obviously my favorite). As Roman Mars says, you'll be talking about Razzle Dazzle boats for the rest of the week.