Thursday, 25 March 2010



It was necessary to keep a good supply of cannon balls near the cannon

on old war ships. But how to prevent them from rolling about the deck

was the problem. The storage method devised was to stack them as a

square based pyramid, with one ball on top, resting on four, resting on

nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could

be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one

problem -- how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding/rolling=2 0from

under the others.


solution was a metal plate with 16 round indentations, called, for

reasons unknown, a Monkey. But if this plate were made of iron, the iron

balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was

to make them of brass - hence, Brass Monkeys. Few landlubbers realize

that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled.


when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would

shrink so much that the iron cannon balls 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, folks thought that was just a vulgar expression?

You must send this fabulous bit of historical knowledge to at least a few

intellectual friends.

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