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."
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