An interesting research project is taking place in Sweden at the moment, as researchers have recreated a 17th century cannon and are test firing it at wooden constructions, modelled after period ships, in order to find out how cannons were used in sea battles: the distances used, how powerful they were and what kind of damage they caused.
In the test video below, taken at the Bofors Test Centre in Karlskoga, the cannon is tested against an oaken construction modelled after the famous Vasa warship that rests in the Vasa Museum in Stockholm. What I found surprising was how small a sound the cannon ball makes when it snaps through the thick oaken wall. It sounds as if it just ripped through a thin layer of paper, leaving behind an almost perfect circular hole. The perfection is also the reason for the relatively small amount of wood slivers that fill the "insides of the ship" - still dangerous, but far less so than the researchers expected.