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Stephanie Smith, Human Cannonball at the Royal Melbourne Show, 2005

The human cannonball is a performance in which a person (the "cannonball") is ejected from a specially designed cannon. The impetus is provided not by gunpowder, but by either a spring or jet of compressed air.[1] In a circus performance, gunpowder may be used to provide visual and auditory effects, but this is unrelated to the launching mechanism.

The human cannonball lands on a horizontal net or inflated bag, the placement of which is determined by classical mechanics. Outdoor performances may also aim at a body of water.

The first human cannonball, in 1877 at the Royal Aquarium in London, was a girl called "Zazel" (Rossa Matilda Richter, then only 14). She was launched by a spring-style cannon invented by Canadian William Leonard Hunt ("The Great Farini"). She later toured with the P.T. Barnum Circus.


World record

The current world record for the farthest human cannonball flight is 185 ft 10 in (56.64 m), by David "Cannonball" Smith Sr.[2] This feat occurred on May 29, 1998, at Kennywood Park, West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, USA. It is estimated David was traveling at over 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) during the flight.

See also


  1. ^ Cecil Adams (1991-06-21). "The Straight Dope: How do "human cannonballs" survive?". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2007-06-16.  
  2. ^ Elliot Spagat (2005-08-29). "One flew over the Mexican border... in the name of art". Independent News and Media Limited. Retrieved 2007-06-16.  


  • Shane Peacock, The Great Farini: The High-Wire Life of William Hunt (1995), ISBN 0-14-024360-7.

External links


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