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 Time Balls 
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Having seen the time ball on the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and the one on Nelson's Monument on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, I've been interested in their history. A British naval officer, Robert Wauchope, was the one who came up with the idea.

Here is a webpage about time balls in general.

Another article from the New York Times website.

More later.

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susan


Tue Aug 16, 2005 7:13 am
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From an article in The Scotsman dated 12 January 1848.

"Since our return from Edinburgh we have examined the time-ball at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, and have had the advantage of an explanation of its machinery by the astronomer royal, and Mr Main, the chief assistant. This ball is 5 feet in diameter, and falls 10 feet, and seems to have answered its purpose remarkably well, and to have been dropped with great accuracy, its mean errors not exceeding three-tenths of a second, or less error than that likely to be made by the observer who is on the look-out for its fall. Owing to the ball at Greenwich being attached to the Observatory, it was necessary to prevent the concussion caused by its fall as much as possible, which has been accomplished by means of the compression of the air obtained by a piston working in a cylinder. This precaution will be less necessary at Edinburgh, not does it seem requisite that the ball should fall through a space greater than its own diameter, which should not be less than 6 feet."

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Tue Aug 16, 2005 7:48 am
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Very interesting Susan. I was only aware of a gun being fired in harbor to announce the time. Has any author ever used the time-ball in a novel?
Don


Tue Aug 16, 2005 8:19 am
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I note in The Times of June 18, 1847 in a column headed BRITISH ASOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE and under sub-heading Section A - Mathematics and Physics, there is an entry "Professor Chevallier described a graphical method of computing occultations with a new arrangement of a time ball."

I used the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography to find details of Professor Chevallier - Temple Chevallier, 1794-1873, who was a C of E clergyman and university professor, with an interest in astonomy.

Also using the ODNB, I found four others mentioned, i.e. Sir John Bennett, 1814-1897, watchmaker, associated with a time ball "operated electrically from Greenwich."; Astonomer Sir David Gill, 1843-1914, associated with others in another device in Aberdeen; astonomer, Sir Thomas Maclear, 1794-1879, is mentioned in relation to a time ball in South Africa, and, and the Scottish, Astonomer Royal, Charles Piazza Smyth, 1819-1900.

-----

PS Would you believe on my one and only visit to Greenwich, sitting facing the Observatory, in the walkway between the Queen's House and the Museum itself, grabbing a sandwich, I forgot to look at the appropriate time and missed the drop of the ball. :roll:

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Tue Aug 16, 2005 1:25 pm
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timoneer wrote:
Very interesting Susan. I was only aware of a gun being fired in harbor to announce the time. Has any author ever used the time-ball in a novel?

In terms of the books I've read, I can't remember if anyone has.

The problem with relying on a gun, is the delay in terms of the time it takes for the sound to travel. On one website which had an article about the Edinburgh time ball and firing of the gun (which I can't seem to find at the moment), there was an image that has concentric rings indicating the delay in seconds superimposed on a map of the Edinburgh area.

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Tue Aug 16, 2005 2:33 pm
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Ah! Found the Edinburgh Time Gun Map.

There's a short clip featuring the Edinburgh time ball and gun here.

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Tue Aug 16, 2005 2:50 pm
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I never thought about the time that the sound of a gun takes to reach the ships in harbor as being much of a problem. However, it makes sense to need something like a time-ball as time keeping (post Harrison) became more accurate.

I have been interested in naval technology for some time and I guess that I have to add another interesting "device" to my list.

Don


Tue Aug 16, 2005 3:06 pm
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The time ball at Karachi.

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Tue Aug 30, 2005 4:11 pm
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Some details about U.S. time balls
Here's a page about the one in Deal
And from Australia

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Wed Aug 31, 2005 8:35 pm
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susan wrote:

Here's a page about the one in Deal




I just had a few days in Kent and made a point of taking a photograph of the ball.

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Fri Dec 09, 2005 10:11 pm
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Thanks for posting the link to your picture. Did you get to go inside the museum by any chance?

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Sun Dec 11, 2005 8:10 pm
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susan wrote:
Thanks for posting the link to your picture. Did you get to go inside the museum by any chance?




...unfortunately not; it is closed in December, along with, much to my chagrin, the Historic Dockyard at Chatham.

Still, I availed myself of plenty of other things that are "open" all the time, e.g. spotting the Goodwin Sands lightship from several different places including SeaFrance's newest ship, the SeaFrance Berlioz which does have a sailing navy connection if you scroll down the link; Berlioz' son was a sea captain!

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Mon Dec 12, 2005 6:36 am
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Mil Goose wrote:
susan wrote:
Thanks for posting the link to your picture. Did you get to go inside the museum by any chance?




...unfortunately not; it is closed in December, along with, much to my chagrin, the Historic Dockyard at Chatham.

Still, I availed myself of plenty of other things that are "open" all the time, e.g. spotting the Goodwin Sands lightship from several different places including SeaFrance's newest ship, the SeaFrance Berlioz which does have a sailing navy connection if you scroll down the link; Berlioz' son was a sea captain!



Berlioz' son a sea captain? Navy or Merchant? France or Britain?

I loved Chatham, especially the Ropery. Since I couldn't see all of it, it is on the revisit list.......good to know it is closed in the winter, though. I guess we just made it in under the wire.

Cheers


Tue Dec 13, 2005 3:47 am
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LizMc wrote:
I loved Chatham, especially the Ropery.


I have been trying to get more information on the Ropery there for some time. Do they sell a book, CD, DVD or the like? Did you watch a demonstration? Could you describe your impressions? Although, it might need to be posted some other place.

Thanks, Don


Tue Dec 13, 2005 8:21 am
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timoneer wrote:
LizMc wrote:
I loved Chatham, especially the Ropery.


I have been trying to get more information on the Ropery there for some time. Do they sell a book, CD, DVD or the like? Did you watch a demonstration? Could you describe your impressions? Although, it might need to be posted some other place.

Thanks, Don


Hi, Don. Here is the bit about the Ropery from their website: http://www.chdt.org/NetsiteCMS.php?pageid=172

Unfortunately, not much there, and there is no link to the shop. I didn't notice any publications specific to the Ropery and I only have the guide book, which doesn't have much. There was a tour, with a knowledgable guide (and a character), but I know I missed a lot because the crowd was quite large. There was a demonstration (and the kids who helped were given pieces of the rope they helped to make) and the displays were well marked. They still make rope commercially, so we saw the more modern operation, but they still have machinery from the AoS, through the Victorian era and into the 20th century. I managed a few pictures, which I will be posting to Horatians when I finally get myself sorted, including of the Double Ropehouse, which is 1,135 feet long. I was quite impressed (and brought to earth in ways, such as finding out the horses used before machines took over some functions had a life span of about a year after starting, due to a combination of toxic fumes and strain). If you want, PM me with an e-mail address and I'll scan the appropriate pages of the guide for you, although it may be providing information you already know. However, it has a lot of basic information.

Cheers


Wed Dec 14, 2005 2:08 am
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