News AND Events

Preserving Maritime History with Borates

:: Tuesday, January 12, 2016

In Baltimore’s Inner Harbor sits the U.S.S. Constellation, a more than 150-year-old wooden ship that served the United States Navy for nearly a century. Its age, however, is just a number. The historic vessel is channeling its youth through the use of borates.

Launched in 1854, the Constellation was the last all-sail ship designed and built for the U.S. Navy. Its missions were many, including freeing would-be slaves from Africa, relieving famine in Ireland, transporting art across the Atlantic, and providing a training base for U.S. sailors.

Through ongoing applications of Tim-bor, a highly water-soluble borate product created by Rio Tinto Borates (U.S. Borax), its maritime history won’t soon be forgotten.

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The environmentally friendly wood preservative, also called spray dry, protects against wood-rotting organisms such as fungi, beetles and termites — all while remaining nontoxic to humans and other mammals. That means a truly safe experience for the ship’s 100,000 visitors annually.

“People are excited about this,” said Lead Shipwright Tim Fowler, a Baltimore native, of the preservation efforts. Fowler has worked on the Constellation since 1997 and began using Tim-bor in 1999, after receiving donated product from U.S. Borax.

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He and Joan Murphy, also a shipwright, spray a Tim-bor solution on the ship’s 200-foot by 50-foot spar deck three days per week using a barrel, pump and garden hose. The repeated exposure ensures saturation.

“Any place I think I need it, I use it,” said Fowler, who added he also sprinkles Tim-bor powder into cavities on the ship, and uses it in a semi-liquid form, as slurry, to leech into areas of rotted wood. “It gives me peace of mind that I’m doing something proactive in stopping the rot.”

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Others in the business of preserving historical ships have also relied on Tim-bor. U.S. Borax has sent product to crews committed to the preservation of the Wapama, an historic steam schooner launched in 1915, and the U.S.S. Cairo, a 153-year-old Civil War city-class gunboat.

“We’ve built a lot of long-term relationships,” said Mark Manning, the RTM’s director of market development, biocides and
agriculture. “It’s nice to help with the communities and keep historic artifacts around for another 100 years.”

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U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 500 customers with more than 1,700 delivery locations globally. We supply 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto

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