Port Holes 

Chrome Port HoleChrome Port Hole

The term port holes are a weather proof windows found on  ships, submarines, airplanes, spaceships and in homes. Occasionally, the design is used in automobiles. People use them for decorating and some are  collectors. So, there are many reasons that you might want to learn more about them. You can do that here.

They serve three purposes on the hulls of ships: to let in air, to let in light and to allow those who are inside to see what’s going on outside. Any window could serve that function, but these are  also designed to be water-tight and shatter resistant or shatterproof. 

Inserted into a ship’s hull (and sometimes on one that has been built into the design of a home) has a hinge that allows it to be opened from the inside. The below-deck quarters of a ship are dark and sometimes damp. Being able to open the side scuttle (another word for port hole) may reduce the dampness and often the risk of mold. 

In addition to being called side scuttles or sidescuttles (no space between the e and second s), port- holes are sometimes simply called side holes. 

Official Term For Port Holes

Decorative Port HoleDecorative Port Hole

The official term used by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea is port-hole; no space between the t and the h. A side scuttle can refer to any hole on the side of a ship, whether the hole is covered or not. So, it is a less specific term.

Often left open when the weather is good and the seas are relatively calm. They are closed when the weather is bad and the seas are rough. On sailing vessels, storms may force the crew below deck. It’s helpful to be able to look outside to get an idea of what the weather is doing. 

Of course, they were more important to sailing ships and crews of the distant past. A porthole may have an additional storm cover. These metal covers can be pulled in and closed from the inside using a device commonly called a “dog”. 

In addition to providing protection for the glass when the weather is very bad, the storm covers are also closed to provide protection during a battle. On Navy ships, for example, the storm covers serve that purpose.


Antique Port holes

Decorative Gold Finish Porthole MirrorDecorative Gold Finish Porthole Mirror

Antique collectors can get an idea of the age by looking at the thickness of the “collar”, the metal portion that surrounds the glass. Older port holes will have thicker collars to accommodate the thickness of a wooden hull. Modern ship hulls are usually thinner, being composed of fiberglass or other materials. Dealers will sometimes try to “pass” relatively new ones as antiques.

Just as they are used in various vehicles, they come in various sizes. They can be as small as a few inches or as large as several feet in diameter. Large ones can weigh over 100 pounds, which is a point to consider when you are buying, due to shipping charges.

The material used to make the collar affects the weight as well. Other metal components are also heavy. They may be composed of bronze, brass, steel, iron or aluminum. Aluminum is the lightest in weight. Steel and iron are the heaviest. Bronze and brass are used more often than other metals, because they are more resistant to saltwater corrosion.

The material, construction and even the shape combine to make a window that is as resistant to the pressure of strong waves and high winds as it can possibly be. 

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