Cannonballs

Image Copyright Tony Payne 2019Hundreds of years ago it was necessary to keep a good supply of cannonballs near the cannon on old war ships, so that they would be ready for action when needed.

But the big problem the Royal Navy faced was how to prevent the cannonballs from rolling about the deck.

The best storage method that they could come up with was to stack the cannonballs as a square based pyramid, with one ball on top. This rested on four more cannonballs, which in turn rested on nine further cannonballs, which then rested on sixteen cannonballs.

In this way, a supply of 30 cannonballs could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon.

There was however, one problem, namely how to prevent the bottom layer of cannonballs from sliding and rolling from under all the others, causing the pyramid to collapse.

The solution that the Royal Navy came up with was to place a metal plate under the cannonballs. This was called a “Monkey” and had 16 round indentations in it that the bottom layer of cannonballs rested on.

However, if this plate was made of iron, the iron cannonballs would quickly rust and stick to it, which would never do, and if you have ever seen footage of old sailing ships wallowing around in a storm, you can imagine just how often sea water would end up sloshing around the deck.

Well, true to form, the Royal Navy found a solution to their rusting cannonball problem, which was to make the Monkeys out of Brass.

But there was another problem, and that was that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled.

As a result, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey.

Thus, it was quite literally, cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

And all this time, you thought that was a vulgar expression, didn’t you?

Well now you know, and I bet you never thought you would learn anything useful from a jokes website! Maybe you should keep reading, we just might have some more gems for you.

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