Oil on the waters

I have come across several references to the practice of pouring oil on the water at sea as a way to prevent waves from breaking - typically during rescue operations involving oar-powered lifeboats on the open ocean. I’ve seen nothing about it working in the surf line.

I’m no expert, but it would seem to me that you’d need quite a lot of oil, and frankly, I can’t what the benefit would be. Still, several authors have implied it took very little oil and worked quite effectively.

Could anyone set me straight on this?

I’m sure most would say it was illegal today - but if it actually was a valid life-saving technique - why not get an exception?

Or, is there another way to do it now?

On open lifeboats the sea anchor was fitted with a “storm oil” canister. A small petcock allowed the oil to drip out slowly up wind. The oil on the water’s surface helped keep the waves from breaking and blowing spray into the boat. Obviously there is a limit to the seas that can be tamed but supposedly it was effective. Pouring oil directly into the sea from the boat would be ineffective as it would be blown downwind. I’m sure there are old lifeboats with them still but the newer boats are enclosed and therefore protect the occupants from spray by design.

The best oil to use is mineral oil. if you want to see the effect, look at the water on top of a school of Pogey’s. The oil from them when it floats to the surface has the same affect