Jose Joaquim Reis de Carvalho, Daniel Vera-Cruz


Until the beginning of the second quarter of the present century, characteristics of rubble-mound breakwaters were determined by entirely empirical methods, although harbour engineers had been deal ing with this problem for man;> centuries. As a rule, designers merely compared the case under study with existing structures, prescribing sturdier breakwaters when those located in shores with a similar exposure had not withstood the most violent storms acting on them. The first empirical formula for breakwater design did not appear before 1933, but this and other similar formulas did not go beyond ordering and reducing the use of arbitrary methods in the choice of the elements making up the breakwater slopes more directly subjected to wave action; no sensible progress resulting there? From for the design methods of these structures.lt can even be stated that, due to the use of Iribarren's formula - the most widely used in Europe - which leads to the utilization of too heavy blocks placed in steep slopes (about ^/3)» a tendency began to be observed in designers, towards a considerable reduction of these slopes. Such a situation which, bearing in mind the knowledge available until about 10 years ago, was perfectly admissible, has been subjected to considerable changes thanks to: 1) the enormous advances achieved in the theoretical field, which placed our knowledge on the majority of Maritime Hydraulics subjects on a satisfactory level; 2) the invaluable help of small scale model tests, and3) our improved knowledge on natural phenomena which makes possible a comparatively satisfactory estimate of the characteristics of the waves to be anticipated at any point of the coast*We have merely to persevere along the route followed in the latter years in order to determine more accurate values fir the coefficients of the available formulas, representing the results obtained by means of graphs and tables, resorting for that purpose both to model tests and to a careful observation of the behaviour of completed structures throughout the world, above all those which underwent damages. On the other hand efforts should not be spared in concentrated attempts to discover new formulas as phenomena are, no doubt much too complex in the destruction of a breakwater to allow of a single satisfactory scheaetization. It should be borne in mind that, in spite of the laboratory tests recently carried out, our knowledges is limited to the area directly affected by the wave breaking and so a total knowledge of the stability of rubble-mound breakwaters lies still a long way ahead.


rubble mound breakwater; stability; Iribarren's formula

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