Could a cannon ball from an 18th-century ship sink a modern ship?

22nd October 2009
Could a cannon ball from an 18th-century ship sink a modern ship? (iStock)

Asked by: Anon

As far as I know nobody has tried, but one clue comes from an intriguing study reported by Israeli researchers earlier this year. They were trying to establish what sunk a ship in the port of Acre (now in Israel) during the siege of 1799. The vessel had an unusually thick oak hull, casting doubt on whether it could possibly have been breached by a cannon ball.

So, the researchers constructed a scale model half the size of the original and fired steel cannon balls of varying velocities at it. Sure enough, the projectiles pierced the hull. While a testament to the firepower of 18th-century cannons, it would still be quite a leap to assume that they could sink today’s modern vessels with thick steel hulls. Somehow I doubt they could.