Brass Monkey Business

By Ed Toner

 

> Every sailing ship had to have cannon for protection.
> Cannon of the times required round iron cannonballs.
> The master wanted to store the cannonballs such that
> they could be of instant use when needed, yet not roll
> around 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 ("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 to an iron one.
> When 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 indentations spilling the entire
> pyramid over the deck. Thus it was, quite literally,
> COLD ENOUGH TO FREEEZE THE BALLS OFF A BRASS MONKEY!
>
> Ed Toner

Birdman comment: I have heard that this is not true; but it is interesting.

 

 

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