What is it about?

Metallurgical analyses and chemical characterizations were carried out on historical cannonballs from the Fortress of San Juan de Ulúa, Veracruz, México. Cannonballs dating from the 18th and 19th centuries share metallurgical characteristics similar to those of material coming from a shipment of ammunition found in the wreck of a sunken French ship from the battle of Trafalgar.

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Why is it important?

The analyses show that the base material is grey cast iron with a carbon equivalent of 4.94 and a ferritic–perlitic matrix, in which the high phosphorus content has led to the formation of iron phosphide compounds in conjunction with a homogeneous distribution of carbon graphite flakes of Type C.


In addition, corrosion products from samples revealed the presence of various crystalline iron compounds (X‐ray diffraction), mostly highly chlorinated iron compounds identified as akaganeite. X‐ray fluorescence identified various characteristics of the corrosion products as a function of the sampling depth. FT–IR spectroscopy revealed that the main difference between the corrosion products (internal and external) is determined by the number of organic species. Differential scanning calorimetry corroborated that these corrosion products are thermally stable compounds at elevated temperatures.

Dr. Marco Hernández-Escampa
Universidad Autonoma Benito Juarez de Oaxaca

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This page is a summary of: Characterization of a Historical Cannonball from the Fortress of San Juan De Ulúa Exposed to a Marine Environment, Archaeometry, July 2015, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1111/arcm.12194.
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