My family is new to the cruise life but it didn’t take us very long to become wide-eyed to the many scientific marvels on board any given ship, let alone a very high-tech brand new one! Personally, I still cannot get over how a 100,000 ton vessel stays afloat, despite my two pre-tween daughters dismissively remarking that “it’s just water displacement, dad.”

Last week we disembarked from the sparkling new Carnival Vista in Athens, Greece after its 2nd ever sailing but before we bid adieu to that beautiful cruise ship, my kids and I got a fascinating tour of the Engine Control Room with the Vista’s Chief Engineer Cesare Boldrini.

Carnival Vista Chief Engineer Cesare Boldrini Desalination

What we learned about how efficient the Vista is, like the fact that the ship re-purposes its steam to heat the many hot tubs on board among countless other things needing to be boiled or warmed, could be spun into PBS Parents Adventures in Learning activities from now until the end of the summer but what was most exciting to my 8-year-old was the desalination of sea water that happens on board the Vista.

Desalination is a process that takes water you wouldn’t want to drink, like salty water from the extra salty Mediterranean Sea in this case, and makes it ‘potable’. On the ship, this hi-tech but very simple process provides water for swimming pools, showers and so much more meaning the ship doesn’t need to carry and store all that extra (and very heavy) water needed by 4000 passengers during the duration of a cruise. Fascinating and brilliant!

My little kid perked up at the desalination part of the engineer’s tour because her 3rd grade science fair experiment was all about this process of removing salt from water. And today, we’re going to share her experiment with you so that over the summer your kids can learn about how desalination can help provide drinking water where there isn’t any to be found!

PBS Parents Desalination Materials

What You’ll Need

  • Water
  • Sea salt
  • 10 ice cubes
  • Stock pot with a curved air-tight lid
  • Heat resistant glass container (like Pyrex)
  • Measuring spoon

How To Experience Desalination At Home

  • Fill stock pot with roughly 2 inches of water.
  • Add 2 tbsp of sea salt.
  • Have your child stick their finger in and lick to taste how salty the water is.
  • Bring to boil.
  • Turn off burner, remove from heat.
  • Quickly place heat resistant glass container down in the hot water in the center of stock pot.
  • Invert the stock pot lid and put on top.
  • Place ice cubes on the lid.
  • Wait…wait some more…[10 minutes or when the ice has melted whichever is shorter]
  • Remove lid carefully (it is covered in evaporated ice water after all)
  • Remove heat resistant glass container carefully and examine how much desalinated water you’ve collected simply by bringing salt water to a boil and creating (and capturing, of course) its condensation. The science here is when the water evaporates it leaves behind the salt, because the salt is too heavy to be carried by the water vapor.
  • Once cooled completely have your child stick their finger into the desalinated water to taste how salty the water isn’t! 🙂
PBS Parents Desalination Ice on Top
PBS Parents Desalination Ice Melting

Next Steps

I’ve been writing a lot lately here on PBS Parents about water and water conservation. This is because it’s a massive issue and as summer approaches we and our kids should be aware of wasted water and ways we might, just as the Carnival Vista does, make more efficient use of all the ‘waste’ we produce, from food scraps (compost!) to dirty kiddie pool water (the plants and flowers are probably thirsty and aren’t picky!).

Carnival Vista and Bogle Kids PBS Parents Desalination

More Adventures in Learning

About Jeff Bogle

Jeff Bogle

Jeff Bogle is an at-home dad who writes humorously about parenting and All Things Childhood on his site Out With The Kids. He is married to an adorable redheaded gal and has two lovely little ladies 12 and under who provide him with countless hours of humorous in-home entertainment, and who get to hear, see, and play with more cool stuff than you can possibly imagine.

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