Saturday, July 13, 2013

Dazzle U

Spurred by the widespread use of digital footage in public areas and facial recognition software, a camouflage idea a hundred years old is seeing a renewal of interest.  "CV Dazzle" is the what this movement has been named.  Here's a link to a video showing it in action against Facebook's facial recognition program.
Image from
In 1914, John Graham Kerr had suggested a scheme using natural principles to make ships harder to spot.  The early 20th Century found the British and the Germans in a naval arms race, but the British stayed ahead.

SMS Kaiser from
Due to the might of the British navy, the German fleet returned to unrestricted submarine warfare around the British Isles in 1917.  (WW1 U-boat history can be found at Sharkhunters has detailed information about WWII U-boats, but unfortunately not WWI models).  Between February and April of that year, over 500 merchant vessels were sunken.   In 1917, Norman Wilkinson, a marine painter and British sailor, suggested using patterns painted on ships in a way that would confuse range-finding and targeting from U-boats.

After the war, Wilkinson went to court to claim the development of dazzle paint.  He was able to win the case and earn compensation based on his contention that Kerr's patterns were an attempt to hide the ships, while his dazzle paint was meant only to confuse U-boats stalking the ships.

A very interesting article about the development of dazzle paint can be found here.  Ohio State University has an entire section devoted to influential camouflage artists and theorists as part of The Camouflage Project

A gallery of dazzle camouflaged ships can be found here

USS West Mahomet (1918) from Wikimedia

Though dazzle paint was primarily used in WWI, and to a much lesser extend in WWII, here's a picture of a US prototype littoral warfare vessel with a modified dazzle paint scheme from 2006.

That's the story behind dazzle paint.  Created to make ships harder to hit by the enemy, it has now been adopted as a way to confuse our machine overlords and their human puppets.   If you want to use it on yourself, you can, or you can do what I do: I switch back and forth between a Guy Fawkes mask and an old-school Zorro black silk classic.  With a cape.  Recognize that, SkyNet