A few days ago I received an email from James Knochel at SendTheEnterprise.org. I had never heard of the group before. Their goal is to save the USS Enterprise from the scrapyard by converting it into a dedicated disaster response ship:
The Navy is planning to send the Enterprise on two 6-month cruises before throwing it away. They’ll have to cut it up to extract the nuclear reactors, so there’s no prospect for turning it into a museum. The Enterprise’s replacement, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is specifically designed to reduce operating costs. The Enterprise is just too expensive for the Navy to keep as an active warship.
Instead of throwing away a perfectly functional ship, we propose that the Enterprise be dedicated to disaster response.
This is a horrible idea. Enterprise is too big, too deep, too costly, and too old to be a viable dedicated humanitarian and disaster relief ship. The fundamental problem with Knochel’s idea is that it seems primarily interesting in finding a mission for the ship, rather than finding the right ship for the mission. In other words, it is about saving Enterprise, not saving people. If you are really interested in providing effective humanitarian relief, loading disaster response modules onto many ships would be a better choice.
However, given that it is clearly an original idea, I thought I would throw it out there to readers and see what your thoughts are.
Update: Here is a response from Knochel
“The genesis for my “Send the Enterprise” idea was in thinking about
ways to mitigate the environmental impact of BP’s Deepwater Horizon
Oil seeps into the world’s oceans every day. Bacteria in the ocean
waters use oxygen to eat this oil. But due to the massive amounts of
oil and natural gas that were being released from the blowout, all
available oxygen in the waters around the Macondo Prospect site was
My idea called for using “bubble fences” to get extra oxygen into the
water, thereby feeding the oil-consuming bacteria. This would require
a lot of energy, and I thought the U.S. Navy’s “portable” nuclear
reactors would be the ideal way to power this sort of infrastructure.
One of my early readers suggested that it’d be easier to pump warm,
oxygenated water to the depths required than air, which I eventually
realized was a good insight.
It’s not enough to have a good idea, they have to be properly marketed
too. In hindsight, Kevin Costner’s centrifuge was rather mediocre at
actually collecting oil, but his celebrity status got him attention
and million-dollar contracts.
I have neither celebrity nor attention, and good ideas don’t sell
themselves. To help with marketing, I titled my piece to piggyback on
to the mystique and legend of the Navy’s oldest nuclear powered ship:
Save the Gulf, Send the Enterprise.
In the process of researching that article, I learned about many of
the disasters that the Navy has responded to in recent years. After
BP’s well was finally plugged, my thoughts shifted towards future
disasters: the possibility of another offshore blowout, and the
certainty of future volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis
anywhere in the world.
“When Disaster Strikes, Send the Enterprise” gets a lot more attention
than “wouldn’t it be cool if the U.S. Navy had some ships that were
dedicated to disaster response?”
Perhaps you all are correct that amphibious ships are more appropriate
for HA/DR than retired aircraft carriers. Whatever the case, I’m
hoping that the Congress will appropriate some money to fully study
the prospect of dedicating ships to these purposes.
If this idea takes off, and you see the media talking about “sending
the Enterprise”, please remember it’s more a marketing strategy than
an effort to “save” a specific ship.
Thanks for all the feedback & ideas.
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