Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In a Lather!

Recently I watched a wonderful movie, To the Ends of the Earth, based on the trilogy of the same name by William Golding. Golding is best-known for the Lord of the Flies story.
The movie has a great cast of British stage and film actors, and the plot through three separate films, revolves around a young man, a British aristocrat named Edmund Talbot, traveling by ship to Australia to take up a post with its governor. As the title of the first installment suggests, it is a Rite of Passage for Talbot. The year is 1812, and Talbot learns more about real life and himself than he would otherwise have encountered back home in a comfortable drawing room filled with his elegant  peers.  He keeps a journal of his impressions, writing with ink and quill as the ships rolls on through storms, disparaging events, the antics of the different social classes, sickness, problems with the ship's sea-worthiness, etc. etc.

A bar of Soap
At one point, Edmund is plagued by a terrible skin condition, a hideous rash, exaserbated by wearing damp or wet clothing. An officer takes a look at him, and explains, "It's the salt water. Bathing and washing clothes in salt water is just not the thing. The officer asks Talbot if he used the soap provided in his cabin. Talbot thinks the soap is a brick, maybe something to act as a paperweight of sorts. Talbot even says the "brick" was not fragrant, and he is asked, "Do you think all soap is perfumed?" Talbot's answer, "Is it not?" 

It's nighttime, and it's raining, and the officer tells Talbot to go on deck with the soap and as many clothes as he can carry, and to wash. Edmund races out stitch-stark naked to do his laundry and to shower in the pouring rain.
And here comes the underlying question....At sea, does it rain salt water or fresh water? Because if it rains salt water, it's not going to do Edmund much good.  I looked this up, and found the following:

All the rain -- no matter where in the world it is -- is freshwater......(mostly).
"Why? It has to do with the evaporating process. When water evaporates from the ocean, only the pure H2O molecules are involved -- it's basically energy turning the water from liquid state to vapor state. The salt particles are left behind.Rain water isn't 100% clean. To form, a raindrop needs some sort of particle to cling to -- usually this can be a speck of dust or dirt or soot or whatever. (That's how you can get acid rain, if the drops cling to sulfur particles or other pollutants). But it can also be a particle of salt, so you could technically get a raindrop that has a tiny amount of salt in it, but it's negligible and is still considered fresh water."

So there you have it, an interesting question solved.

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