What the king didn’t know …
When Swedish king, Gustav II Adolf ordered the royal warship Wasa, he clearly knew nothing about the importance of center of gravity. He ordered an extra cannon deck built – and the Wasa capsized instantly on her maiden voyage in 1628. Not exactly a proud moment in history of Swedish shipbuilding …
The center of gravity is a critical parameter when designing ships. Simply put, it’s the single point of an object around which its weight is distributed equally. If the point of gravity is moved upwards, the object will become unstable and it won’t take more than a little push to one side to make it heel (tilt) over and, ultimately, capsize. Obviously not a good thing for a ship, as you can see in the film:
So there you have it.
The higher the center of gravity is placed, the less force is needed to make the ship capsize.
This effect can be offset, however, by widening the base of the object.
Modern ships are designed with this in mind: a wide hull with a low center of gravity. The result is greater stability.
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