[Loch-Ruadh] Historical trivia

Tim Cantley yukon505 at hotmail.com
Tue Feb 19 19:13:07 PST 2002

I don't know how true this is but I read this in a Primitive Archer magazine
I subscribe to.

     Back in the days when every sailing ship had to have a cannon for
protection, cannons of the times required round iron cannonballs.  The
Captain or Master wanted to store the cannonballs such that they could be of
instant use when needed, yet not roll around on the gun deck.
     The solution was to stack them up in a square-based pyramid next to the
cannon.  The top level of the stack had one ball, the next level down had
four, the next had nine, the next had sixteen, and so on.  Four levels would
provide a stack of 30 cannonballs.  The only real problem was how to keep
the bottom level from sliding out from under the weight of the higher
levels.  To do this, they devised a small brass plate called a "brass
monkey" with one rounded indentation for each cannonball in the bottom
layer.  Brass was used because the cannonballs wouldn't rust to the "brass
monkey", but would rust and stick to an iron one.
     When the temperature falls, brass contracts in size faster than iron.
As it got cold on the gun decks, the indentations in the "brass monkey"
would get smaller than the iron cannonballs they were holding.  If the
temperature got cold enough, the bottom layer would pop out of the now
smaller indentations spilling the entire pyramid over the deck.  Thus, it
was quite literally, "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey".
     A little military trivia that you always thought meant something else


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