Is it possible to have through magic to alter the chemical components of a part of sea water to melt boats?

This is science based since I only need to know what components would melt the wood of boats that attempt to cross the line.

Is it possible? If not possible, what component could melt wood if at all?

The rules of magic in my world are the following:

  • Magic can only exist if something can exist. For instance if a tornado of fire can exist then you can devise a sorcery to conjure one up.
  • Magic can make new components as long as the composing elements exist and the final component also exists. For instance gunpowder or steel. You can try to create new things by mixing components but it is dangerous since magic is unpredictable when experimenting.

To clarify, I know that magic and science-based can be at odds. What I mean is that in this world all magic has to have a scientific foundation. In this case the component has to have the capacity to exist. ie. you cannot create something that cannot exist composed of existing elements.

So basically for this sorcery to exist it must have been made in a controlled environment by genius chemists, after the magicians will mix the elements magically in the right proportions to get the final product.

  • $\begingroup$ The magic and science-based tags are completely at odds. You seem to be looking for science, as your magic will simply replicate a science approach? $\endgroup$
    – Theik
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 13:07
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Since we're talking magic: Yes, it's possible. Please note that the magic tag asks you to define the limits on your magic. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ I clarified a bit more. If it's still not clear I can try to clarify further. $\endgroup$
    – Jose Luis
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 13:10
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If you change "melt" to "dissolve", which is kind of similar in it's effect, although chemically completely different, then there's lots of things that do this already. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 15:51
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    $\begingroup$ Theik, SCIENCE AND MAGIC ARE NOT AT ODDS. It's annoying to say so. What he's asking is, if there is some way to dissolve the bottom of a wooden boat by magically changing the water they sail in, what would the science behind it be? Could it be explained in scientific terms, or do we resort to Buffy Speak and cries of "Magic!"? $\endgroup$
    – Nefer007
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 17:05

4 Answers 4


White liquor will dissolve the wood.

It breaks the bonds between lignin and cellulose in the wood. It's used in the first step of papermaking; pulping the wood. White liquor is made from Lye ($NaOH$) and sodium sulfide ($Na_2S$). It can be made from seawater, all the components are present. The hydrogen ($H$) and oxygen ($O$) from the water ($H_2O$), sodium ($Na$) is the second most abundant mineral in seawater, and sulfur is the fourth most abundant.

You can create both and combine them with some magic.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Why the downvote? Have a problem with chemistry? $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 20:54
  • $\begingroup$ No idea about the downvote, but doesn't this require significant time at relatively high temperature? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ Although, a zone of boiling sea probably would stop ships... $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ @VilleNiemi Delignification by white liquor does not require > 100°C, though the process is obviously much faster with higher temperatures. $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 21:54
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    $\begingroup$ There are 3 answers with downvotes; all the oldest ones, so someone downvoted all answers at that time?. Someone is not understanding the purpose, or is being mean. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 22:25

Wood doesn't melt. It burns, acid can eat it away, and it rots and becomes mushy.

So I would recommend turning it into acid to eat holes in the boat, or to cause the rot to take root and spread quickly, making the wood too 'soft' to hold its shape and keep the water out.

  • $\begingroup$ Yep, this. Melt and wood don't work together. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ How about enzymes? $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah what about biological compounds? $\endgroup$
    – Jose Luis
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ligninase $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Joze plenty of biological compounds that 'digest' wood $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 15:37

How does a wooden ship rot away normally? It soulds like your magic concept would naturally mimic that process on an accelerated basis.

So don't speak of melting the wood, but denaturing or digesting it. In particular, eaten away by fugus hyphae, which can unravel the particular "wood" fiber materials (cellulose, lignin). See lignin, biodegredation for a short answer: manganese peroxidase and lignin peroxidase. "Lignin peroxidase... from white-rot fungus Phanerochaete chrysosporium with a variety of lignin-degrading reactions"

  • $\begingroup$ Why the downvote with no explanation? If this is not a proper answer, please leave a comment so we may learn and edit. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 22:21

You would need an agent capable of specifically melting/liquefying the cell-wall/apoplast of the wood in question.

Assuming magic, you could theoretically target the apoplast explicitly, say, with a well-placed Transmute spell. (But at that point, why not just cast Liquefy?)

Assuming science, you'd probably need a technological agent; a Nanomachine of some sort, built and coded to target and deconstruct the cell walls specifically...


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