BALLAST (O. Swed. barlast, perhaps from bar, bare or mere, and last, load), heavy material, such as gravel, stone or metal, placed in the hold of a ship in order to immerse her sufficiently to give adequate stability. In botany "ballast-plants" are so-called because they have been introduced into countries in which they are not indigenous through their seeds being carried in such ballast. A ship "in ballast" is one which carries no paying cargo. In modern vessels the place of ballast is taken by water-tanks which are filled more or less as required to trim the ship. The term is also applied to materials like gravel, broken slag, burnt clay, etc., used to form the bed in which the sleepers or ties of a railway track are laid, and also to the sand which a balloonist takes up with him, in order that, by throwing portions of it out of the car from time to time, he may lighten his balloon when he desires to rise to a higher level.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)