he cannons of the British warship H.M.S. Hussar were last fired more than 230 years ago. But on Friday, the NYPD discovered that one such cannon on display in Central Park was actually loaded and could have theoretically gone off at any moment. While examining the cannon for cleaning, park workers removed its concrete capping, only to discover a cannonball the size of a melon and one pound and 12 ounces of gunpowder wrapped in wool inside the barrel. "In theory you could have fired that cannon, because the powder was still working," the NYPD's chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, told The New York Times.
Thankfully, no one was hurt, and workers safely removed the ammunition from the cannon. Still, "it's hard to believe a loaded cannon was on display in Central Park for over 100 years without anyone knowing," says Glen Tickle at Geekosystem.
How did that happen? Probably because people have long assumed things about the cannon that just weren't true. Because the cannon was capped with concrete, workers and park visitors likely figured the artifact didn't have the capability to fire. After all, says CBS New York, the weapon was already more than 90 years old when it was donated to the park in the 19th century.
The NYPD, at least, had something of a sense of humor about it, releasing a statement about the averted crisis that was slathered in patriotism: "We silenced British cannon fire in 1776, and we don't want to hear it again in Central Park."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Who are the real gay marriage bigots?
- Why is American internet so slow?
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- Don't worry: World War III will almost certainly never happen
- How to take the perfect profile picture for online dating, according to science
- The new bride who had a horrifying allergic reaction to her husband's sperm
- Watch The Daily Show mock Fox News' confused man-crush on Vladimir Putin
- The one simple thing that can make you much more impressive
- Religious liberty should be a liberal value, too
Subscribe to the Week