Geoffrey Pyke was an inventor, a scientist and a designer who worked for the Combined Operations Headquarters in World War II. Hired by Lord Mountbatten, Pyke worked on helping the British protect supply convoys in the North Atlantic from U-boat attacks. Pyke was an original put of the box thinker. His first brainstorm was to sculpt a carrier deck out of massive icebergs in the artic far North Atlantic. He thought one might create a cave like hangar in the ice floes that had a good chance of lasting through out the ear in the frigid climates around the British Isles. Winston Churchill liked the idea and encouraged it pursuit.
Inside the Royal Army and Royal Navy there were still firmly ensconced an effete cult like officer corps that laughed and ridiculed such projects. Even Nevil Shute, a Naval Officer at the time, objurgated anyone who even opened the envelope bearing the proposal.
Sometimes geniuses are immune to anomie. In World War II people were afraid for their lives and weapon systems were developed that pushed conventions, because conventions weren’t enough. Researched pressed forward. Pyke had the idea of mixing water and wood pulp and then freezing it into a substance that was much harder than concrete and could retain its rigidity much longer than normal ice. He called it Pykrete and it was rather amazing. The mixture was hard enough to resist a gunshot. In a meeting with British military in Quebec in 1943, Lord Mountbatten took a brick of Pykrete and a block of ice into a meeting. He withdrew his service revolver and fired into the ice block, which immediately shattered. Then he fired into the Pykrete. The round ricocheted off the brick, careened across the room, grazed the leg of Admiral Ernest King and firmly lodged into the wall. In a subsequent meeting another demonstration ricocheted a bullet into the shoulder of Chief of the Imperial Staff Sir Alan Brooke.
The decision was made to fund a 60m X 30m model in Jasper National Forest in Canada. The idea that originally caught fire was fed by a material shortage of metals, and the notion that for 1% of the energy it took to make a steel carrier, the Habbakuk could be launched. But reality sent the Habbakuk beneath the waves. Ice flows. Just slowly. So a covering of cork or metal would have to go over the surface of the massive Pykkreet sip. It would have to bring it’s own generators and kilometers of ducting to keep the ship refrigerated to below 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Then just as the project was about to take off, Portugal allowed Allies to launch anti submarine patrols from the Azores that effectively closed up a hole in the Atlantic defenses. Then scientists calculated the amount of resources that would be needed to actually build the Habbakuk was so vast that just the wood pulp would endanger the manufacture of paper. Then upgraded heavy bombers in the British arsenal carried enough fuel to make the artic carrier unnecessary.
There were other political problems as well. Pyke had made enemies of the Americans in the joint research team and was asked off of the business. Eventually the project was abandoned.
Source: Military Channel, Wikipedia