Re-creating Harrison’s timekeepers…in Australia

H4 replica by Norm Banham showing the aluminium case. Image: Martin Foster.

H4 replica by Norm Banham showing the aluminium case. Image: Martin Foster.

It is said that longevity is improved markedly by keeping your mind challenged and active and keeping hand–eye coordination intact. If that’s the case Norm Banham might last forever. And he has the clocks that will last with him and keep time accurately – an exquisite replica set he made of John Harrison’s four intricate and ground breaking marine timekeepers. Harrison’s work commenced in 1730 and was completed in 1759.

Harrison’s timekeepers are central to the story about longitude brought to life in the exhibition Ships, Clocks & Stars – The Quest for Longitude and as its tenure at the Australian National Maritime Museum draws to a close at the end of October, an Australian connection that deserves more attention has come to light.

Continue reading

Look to the horizon: Why latitude was easier to find than longitude

'Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude' traces the history of finding reliable methods for determining your longitude at sea. Image: ANMM.

‘Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude’ traces the history of finding reliable methods for determining your longitude at sea. Image: ANMM.

Ships, Clocks and Stars: the Quest for Longitude tells the amazing story of how the problem of determining longitude at sea was solved. The exhibition explains the rival methods and shows the incredible craftsmanship and ingenuity of clockmaker John Harrison, whose timepieces finally gave sailors a practical means to calculate their longitude in a simple manner.

Why was it so hard to sort out a means of finding longitude, when it seems finding latitude had been a relatively simple process?

Continue reading

How to make a mini planetarium

Star light, star bright, first constellation I see tonight...

Star light, star bright, first constellation I see tonight…

There’s almost no end to the fun that can be had when kids have torches in their hands. Shadow play, bedroom projections, reading under the covers after lights out, spooky face stories, or… a handheld miniature planetarium.

This month we’ve been inspired by current exhibitions Ships Clocks and Stars, as well as our upcoming school holiday program, to make a nifty little star gazer out of some everyday items for our kids craft spot. This mini-planetarium is perfect for projecting under the covers, onto bedroom walls or with evening story time. More than just a toy, it’s also a great way to learn to identify constellations in the night sky.

Continue reading

Time in motion: capturing the clockmaker’s art

How many people does it take to assemble a clock?

For the replica of John Harrison’s H3, currently on display as part of Ships, Clocks & Stars: the Quest for Longitude, the answer is two master clockmakers. David Higgon and Sean Martin, from Charles Frodsham & Co, London, spent four days reassembling a thousand pieces to create the working model.

Continue reading

Where on earth are you? A beginners guide to longitude

'Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude' traces the history of finding reliable methods for determining your longitude at sea. Image: ANMM.

‘Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude’ traces the history of finding reliable methods for determining your longitude at sea. Image: ANMM.

For as long as humans have been exploring, we have sought reliable methods to navigate our way across the Earth. Until the invention of an accurate sea clock by carpenter and clockmaker John Harrison in the 18th century, there was no dependable technique to measure a ship’s longitude – its east or west position at sea – especially when the ship’s navigator could not sight landmarks or celestial markers due to the weather.

Continue reading

Songlines: The art of navigating the Indigenous world

‘Zugubal’ 2006. Travellers paddle a gul (canoe), which is a key symbol of connectivity in Zenadh Kes (Torres Strait) cosmology, navigating all the cycles of land, sea, sky and spiritual life. ANMM Collection 00054665. Reproduced courtesy Alick Tipoti and Australian Art Network.

‘Zugubal’ 2006. Travellers paddle a gul (canoe), which is a key symbol of connectivity in Zenadh Kes (Torres Strait) cosmology, navigating all the cycles of land, sea, sky and spiritual life. ANMM Collection 00054665. Reproduced courtesy Alick Tipoti and Australian Art Network.

For thousands upon thousands of years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have navigated their way across the lands and seas of Australia using paths called songlines or dreaming tracks. A songline is based around the creator beings and their formation of the lands and waters during the Dreaming (creation of earth). It explains the landmarks, rock formations, watering holes, rivers, trees, sky and seas.

Continue reading

Ships, Clocks and Stars FREE teacher preview this June

Teacher preview of ANMM exhibitions 'Ships, Clocks & Stars' and Endeavour tour.

Teacher preview of ANMM exhibitions ‘Ships, Clocks & Stars’ and Endeavour tour.

Join us for a private viewing of this fascinating and beautiful exhibition on Thursday 16 June 5.00pm – 7.00pm. Hear about our exciting new school programs and board HMB Endeavour to experience what life was really like on an 18th-century vessel. Afterwards, see the museum’s Vivid display – a spectacular rooftop projection viewed from our special vantage point.

Continue reading

Lost at Sea: Finding Longitude with Ships, Clocks & Stars

Ships, Clocks and Stars.

Ships, Clocks and Stars.

The problem of longitude – how to determine your location in an east-west direction at sea – plagued sea travel for centuries. The lack of reliable methods to determine it led to dangerous, long and costly voyages. The loss of cargo, ships and lives was high and demanded an immediate solution.

Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude commemorates the 300th anniversary of the Longitude Act of 1714. The Act lead to the greatest scientific breakthrough in maritime history: the ability to determine a ship’s position at sea. This discovery brought together two solutions to calculate longitude: developing accurate timekeepers for seafaring and tracking the movement of celestial bodies.

Continue reading