Pirate School: Things You Can Shoot from a Cannon

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Pirate School: Things You Can Shoot from a Cannon

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

For centuries, heavy metal cannons were the epitome of military weaponry. Massive cannons were stationed at forts across the world, while smaller and more portable guns accompanied troops and naval (and pirate) vessels. While the simple iron cannonball was the most common fodder for these tools of destruction, a number of other terrifying projectiles were also used.

Epitome: a typical or ideal example: an example that represents or expresses something very well. Example: the golden rule is often cited as the epitome of moral conduct: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’
Synonyms: classic, exemplar, ideal, apotheosis, acme, ultimate, quintessence, representation.

Portable: capable of being carried or moved about
Examples: Portable devices such as MP3 players are becoming increasingly popular.
Synonyms: easily carried, compact, convenient, handy, lightweight, movable, cartable, conveyable
Antonyms: big, inconvenient, unhandy, cumbersome

Fodder : food given to horses, cows; material that is used for a particular purpose.
Example: his antics always make good fodder for the gossip columnists. 
Synonyms : diet, fare, feed, food, grub, nourishment, nutriment, regimen, sustenance, forage. 

Hot shot
As if the traditional cannonball weren’t scary enough, the iron balls were sometimes heated until they were red-hot to serve as incendiary devices against wooden ships. Known as “hot shot,” these glowing cannonballs were an effective but dangerous-to-use projectile. Many coastal forts were equipped with special hot shot furnaces, and great care was required when loading the balls so as not to ignite the cannon’s gunpowder prematurely. Hot shot typically reached between 800 and 900 °C (1,470 and 1,650 °F), and overheated shot could warp the inside of the cannon and block the bore, causing the entire thing to explode. Hot shot cannons were commonly loaded with less gunpowder so that the projectile would splinter the ship and hopefully ignite it rather than pass through forcefully. Given the risk of fire and explosion, the use of hot shot was banned on many naval ships, though the USS Constitution was famously outfitted with a hot shot furnace. Hot shot became obsolete with the advent and proliferation of ironclad ships in the mid-1800s.

Incendiary: a person who deliberately sets fire to buildings or other property; a person who incites quarrels or an agitator.
Example: The fire was started by an incendiary bomb. Recklessly made incendiary remarks during a period of heightened racial tensions. 
Synonyms : arsonist, torch, inflammatory, agitator, rebel. 
Antonyms : conciliatory

Splinter: a small, thin, sharp piece of wood, bone, or the like, split or broken off from the main body.
Example: I got a splinter in my finger.
Synonyms: flake, sliver, splint, chip, fragment, bit. 
Antonyms: chunk, slab, lump, hunk.

Obsolete: no longer in use; fallen into disuse; replaced by something new.
Example:  I was told my old printer is obsolete and I cannot get replacement parts. 
Synonyms: antiquated, archaic, out of date, demoded, old-fashioned. 
Antonyms: contemporary, modern, new, current, up to date.

Advent: a coming into place, view, or being; arrival.n
Example: Then came the horrors of World War I, with the advent of tanks and airplanes and poison gas.
Synonyms: onset, approach, entrance, occurrence, appearance.
Antonyms: departure, leaving, end.

Proliferation: to increase in number or amount quickly.
Example: rumors about the incident proliferated on the internet. 
Synonyms: propagation, multiplying, generation, reproduction, spread, expand, enlarge.
Antonyms: contract, decrease, diminish, recede, wane, dwindle, lessen.


Grapeshot was largely an antipersonnel projectile that consisted of a simple iron cage or canvas bag filled with iron or lead balls. The cage or bag would break apart upon firing, releasing the balls much like a modern shotgun. On land, grapeshot could devastate massed troops at close range and was used in a number of wars in the 18th and 19th centuries. At sea, it was an effective tool against crews on deck and had the added benefit of disabling sails and rigging. Bartholomew Roberts (Black Barty), the infamous Welsh pirate, was felled by grapeshot from a British warship in 1722.

Disabling: to make ineffective or inoperative; to deprive of legal right, qualification, or capacity.
Example: disabled the controls for unauthorized users. 
Synonyms: cripple, maim, incapacitate, mutilate, wreck, ruin, handicap. 
Antonyms:  aid, help, mobilize, assist, fix, improve, mend, enable, heal.

infamous: well known for being bad or evil; known for evil acts or crimes.
Example: He committed an infamous crime.
Synonyms: disgraceful, egregious, hateful, heinous, ignominious, monstrous, notorious, outrageous. 
Antonyms: decent, ethical, good, honest, just, moral, upright, upstanding, honorable, reputable, respectable, pleasant.

Chain shot

Another demoralizing weapon of sailing ships was chain shot, which was designed specifically to damage. Fired from close range, the chain shot featured two sub-caliber iron balls (or half-balls) joined by a chain, sometimes as long as 1.8 meters (6 feet). A similar weapon, bar shot, consisted of two balls joined by a metal bar. Although highly inaccurate in aim, these projectiles could sweep across a ship’s deck to wreak havoc on anything in their path, including human limbs. Chain shot and bar shot lost their utility as ships became steam-powered.

Demoralize: to cause (someone) to lose hope, courage or confidence; to weaken the morale of (a person or group)
Example: the mere sight of the forbidden cliffs demoralized the climbers.
Synonyms: dampen, discourage, dishearten, dispirit, unsettle, upset.
Antonyms: comfort, encourage, soothe, moralize, uplift, boost, strengthen.

Havoc: great destruction or devastation; ruinous damage.
Example: computer network problems created havoc throughout the office.
Synonyms: chaos, confusion, disarrangement, disarray, dishevelment, disorder, disorganization, jumble, mess.
Antonyms: method, pattern, plan, system, order, harmony, organization.

Canister shot

Canister shot was a type of antipersonnel ballistic that worked similarly to grapeshot. As its name suggests, canister shots consisted of a thin-walled canister filled with small metal balls, nails, barbed wire, or other dangerous bits of metal. Upon firing, the canister would break apart to release its deadly contents across enemy lines. These sinister projectiles were widely used in the American Civil War and the Napoleonic Warsand could be simultaneously fired with a traditional cannonball for efficient use of gunpowder. Although not especially effective against the wooden hulls of ships, canister shot was inexpensive to make, and canisters filled with spikes, glass, and metal shot have been recovered from the sunken cannons of Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Sinister: having an evil appearance; looking likely to cause something bad, harmful, or dangerous to happen.
Example: the movie relies too much on sinister background music to create suspense. 
Synonyms: dire, doomy, inauspicious, ominous, threatening, apocalyptic, evil, malevolent.
Antonyms: auspicious, lucky, kind, benevolent, good, happy.

Sinister: having an evil appearance; looking likely to cause something bad, harmful, or dangerous to happen.
Example: the movie relies too much on sinister background music to create suspense. 
Synonyms: dire, doomy, inauspicious, ominous, threatening, apocalyptic, evil, malevolent.
Antonyms: auspicious, lucky, kind, benevolent, good, happy.

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