WPSU

Friday, November 12, 2010

What IS It?

What's in those yellow wrappers?
Welcome to "What IS It?, the occasional quiz feature of the SlowBoat blog.  Today's challenge involves one of the big barges we've been seeing all along the inland waterways.  


We spotted the barge pictured above near Demopolis, Alabama.  Most of the barges we've seen so far have carried raw materials: Heaps of coal, sand, or gravel. Tanks of diesel fuel or benzene. Or big covered bins full of corn or soybeans.

This barge was carrying something different.  The four cylinders were all tightly shrink-wrapped in bright yellow plastic. And signs on the shrink-wrap announced that the items were vaccuum-packed in nitrogen.
So, What IS It?

If you know the answer (or if you DON'T know the answer but would like to make a snarky guess), use the comment function, or send an email to slowboat@emailias.com.  Winner gets a tacky postcard and the extreme thrill of seeing their name prominently featured on this blog.

13 comments:

  1. A delivery of super-size fire hydrants for Clifford?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cindy M says:
    My best guess: The tops to Oscar Meyer Weinermobiles!

    ReplyDelete
  3. They are rather large shell and tube heat exchangers; looks like they may be the double-pass type. At that size, they may be headed for a refinery. If the tow was headed downriver, it could be going anywhere, but if upriver there are only a couple possibilities.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Vacuum-packed in nitrogen is a bit of a puzzlement, because if it's under vacuum, there wouldn't be any nitrogen, or anything else, inside! Seriously though, the purpose of the nitrogen would be to prevent any oxidation on the inside surfaces, which could react with or catalyze an unplanned reaction with materials flowing through.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Not a clue this time so I'm gonna go with the snarky guess. Giant Mylar balloons. They use nitrogen to keep them from deflating so fast while they're going down the river. That way if they hit something and the barge sinks, the balloons will save it.

    Either that or they're giant capacitors... for big iPods...

    ReplyDelete
  6. I may have misspoken when I said vacuum packed. Whatever these are, they are packed in nitrogen. (Keeping Clifford's treats fresh?) And they were headed upriver.

    Any more guesses?

    ReplyDelete
  7. They look like either vertical turbine pumps, or perhaps lo-head hydro electrical generators. Not sure why Clifford would need those.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Industrial sized pepper grinders?

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'll see if I can add that function!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Lyall Perry writes: Steam Generators for TVA at least that is what I read on another blog where the tow captain was asked what they were. I really enjoy reading your travels

    ReplyDelete