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Weird Science: Floating Aircraft Carriers


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SF Fig. 2.4. A U.S. Navy Nimitz-class aircraft carrier floating at sea.

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Image courtesy of U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy Nimitz-class aircraft carriers are among the largest ships in the world (SF Fig. 2.4). Each ship is over 75 meters (m) at its widest point and is over 325 m long. A Nimitz-class carrier turned up on its stern, or back end, would be taller than the Eiffel Tower! These ships are so large, they contain shopping malls for the crewmembers living aboard. Even more impressive, a Nimitz-class carrier weighs about 99,000,000 kilograms (99,000 metric tons), but is able to float on water!


The aircraft carrier is able to float on water because the bottom of the ship, the hull, is designed to displace a large amount of water. The volume of water that the ship displaces weighs more than the weight of the entire ship. The buoyant force of the water is greater than the gravitational force of the aircraft carrier.

Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.