Thursday, July 16, 2009

This just in - Cannonballs can sink a ship!

A cannonball was found wedged into the keel of a ship that was sunk during the Napoleonic wars. The big question was if the cannonball could actually pierce the ship's extra thick oak hull? The University of Haifa in Israel answered that question using scale models. The answer is yes, even at low velocities a cannonball can pierce a thick oak hull.

This part is interesting:
The lower the velocity, the more energy was absorbed in causing damage to the hull, and the more the wood splintered, which would have caused more harm to the ship's personnel. The results of this experiment, Kahanov said, are of much significance to the study of the vessel and to the study of naval battles in this period.
Remember the Mythbusters Pirate Special (they just reran it last weekend)? One myth they investigated was the danger of splinters. They decided that splinters were not all that dangerous. This experiment shows the flaw in the Mythbusters' experiment. They used a real cannon but they had it at close range. The ball cleanly pierced the hull, doing even less damage than their air cannon. If they had moved the cannon back a few hundred yards they would have gotten a different result.

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