Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Last year Mythbusters did a pirate episode. One of the myths they explored was "Do the splinters caused by a cannon ball kill more pirates than the cannon ball itself?" They decided that this was a myth. I disagree.

First, I will grant that a cannon ball striking you is more likely to cause death than a splinter - even a juge splinter. That's assuming that it hits you. A cannon ball is pretty small - a few inches across. Unless you are unlucky enough to be standing in the path of a cannon ball you are not going to be hit.

On the other hand, if a cannon ball strikes the hull or a mast near you then splinters are going to fly everywhere.

My other point of disagreement - they heard the myth wrong. More people were injured by splinters than cannon balls. If they had phrased it that way then there would be no doubt.

Do not underestimate splinters. I just read an account in Under the Black Flag which describes someone being hit in the foot with a splinter. It pierced his foot and tore off part of his heel bone. That's a pretty good splinter.

Plus, once a dirty piece of wood has stabbed you, you might die a lingering death anyway. Many pirate ships did not have a doctor.

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