Marine Surveys by Acker Marine Survey Co., Dewey Acker SAMS® AMS®, Marathon, Florida, USA Acker Marine Survey Co.
Thirty Years Of Integrity
Marathon Florida
Serving The Florida Keys
From Key West to Key Largo

Anthony Acker, SAMS® SA
ABYC Standards Certified Technician

Principal Marine Surveyor.
Dewey Acker, SAMS® AMS® - RET,
Senior Marine Consultant

Nautical Humor - Brass Monkey

Where Common Sayings come from...

Back in the days of sailing ships and regular shipping between the continents, every sailing ship had to have cannon for protection. The cannon of the times required round iron cannonballs. The master of the vessel wanted to store the cannonballs so they could be of instant use when needed, yet not roll around the gun deck. The solution was to stack them up in a square-based pyramid next to the cannon. The top level of the stack had one ball, the next level down had four, the next had nine, the next had 16. Four levels would provide a stack of 30 cannonballs.

brass monkey The only real problem was how to keep the bottom level from sliding out from under the weight of the higher levels. To do this they devised a small brass plate (brass monkey) with one rounded indentation for each cannonball in the bottom layer. Brass was used because cannonballs wouldn't rust to the "brass monkey" but would rust to an iron one. When temperatures fall, brass contracts in size faster than iron. As it got cold on the gun decks, the indentations in the brass monkey would get smaller than the iron cannonballs they were holding. If the temperature got cold enough, the bottom layer would pop out of the indentation spilling the entire pyramid over the deck. Thus it was, quite literally "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey."

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Installed December 10, 2005, Last Revised June 14, 2018 - Hosted and maintained by Don Robertson