Historians have turned to violence to recreate the last moments of a 210-year-old warship that sank outside Acre in northern Israel. Archaeologists long believed it was a British vessel sunk during Napoleon’s siege of the port in 1799, but wondered whether cannonballs found among the wreckage could have penetrated the ship’s unusually thick oak hull. To solve the mystery, researchers from the University of Haifa this year built five 50 per cent scale models of the hull, then pelted them with steel balls at speeds as slow as 300 km/h and as fast as 1 600 km/h – a range of velocities similar to that of the cannon fi re of the era. The mock cannonballs penetrated the hulls at every speed. Surprisingly, the lowest speeds were found to pose the highest risk for sailors, because the wood absorbed more energy, which created deadly, splintery shrapnel.