389. Q.—What is the cause of the formation of scale in marine boilers?
A.—Scale is formed in all boilers which contain earthy or saline matters, just in the way in which a scaly deposit, or rock, as it is sometimes termed, is formed in a tea kettle. In sea water the chief ingredient is common salt, which exists in solution: the water admitted to the boiler is taken away in the shape of steam, and the saline matter which is not vaporizable accumulates in process of time in the boiler, until its amount is so great that the water is saturated, or unable to hold any more in solution; the salt is then precipitated and forms a deposit which hardens by heat. The formation of scale, therefore, is similar to the process of making salt from sea water by evaporation, the boiler being, in fact, a large salt pan.
390. Q.—But is the scale soluble in fresh water like the salt in a salt pan?
A.—No, it is not; or if soluble at all, is only so to a very limited extent. The several ingredients in sea water begin to be precipitated from solution at different degrees of concentration; and the sulphate and carbonate of lime, which begin to be precipitated when a certain state of concentration is reached, enter largely into the composition of scale, and give it its insoluble character. Pieces of waste or other similar objects left within a marine boiler appear, when taken out, as if they had been petrified; and the scale deposited upon the flues of a marine boiler resembles layers of stone.
391. Q/—Is much inconvenience experienced in marine boilers from these incrustations upon the flues?
A.—Incrustation in boilers at one time caused much more perplexity than it does at present, as it was supposed that in some seas it was impossible to prevent the boilers of a steamer from becoming salted up; but it has now been satisfactorily ascertained that there is very little difference in the saltness of different seas, and that however salt the water may be, the boiler will be preserved from any injurious amount of incrustation by blowing off, as it is called, very frequently, or by permitting a considerable portion of the supersalted water to escape at short intervals into the sea. If blowing off be sufficiently practised, the scale upon the flues will never be much thicker than a sheet of writing paper, and no excuse should be accepted from engineers for permitting a boiler to be damaged by the accumulation of calcareous deposit.