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Ianatlarge

Time Balls — a new category ?

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Time Balls—during the 19th century, at the height of their popularity, Time Balls were used as a time signal service. At high points near nautical ports (usually), these highly visible balls were raised and lowered to indicate midday. Ships in harbour could see and use these time references before embarking on a new journey across the wine dark sea.

 

In the modern world there are approximately 60 of these devices extant. They are no longer in use as a time service, but have been preserved as historical sites. They are found around the world, wherever men took to the sea in ships.

 

I came across one of these Balls in Singapore, which prompted me to search for a category, finding none, and after a discussion on another thread, I decided to investigate the creation of a new category. I also suggest that non-extant Time Balls be included, where adequate documentation exists. This would increase the number to potentially several hundred.

 

I believe that due to their unique nature and history, as well as their cultural importance, Time Balls would make a suitable and worthwhile Waymarking category.

 

Any thoughts?

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The Master Mariner suggested that time cannons be included in this group. Not a bad idea. Balls and Cannons served a similar purpose and were often associated. Also the number of potential waymarks would more or less double. Comments?

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I think it's a good idea to add the cannons. Were there other types of clock synchronizing machines to include as well?

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Canons are winning me over. The two were often physically associated for time keeping. I do recall that in the city of Perth, prior to 1965, so I was told, there was both a time ball and a time canon service run by the Perth Observatory, which prior to that date, was situated in a park overlooking the city. Also, the one club I came across dealing with Time Balls also includes canons.

 

I don't think there would be anything else that would fall into the category. Canons and Balls were used to mark the hour, nothing else.

 

I would also like to include historical Balls and Canons. If there is a plaque or sign indicating that such and such a site once held a canon or ball, then this site can be waymarked.

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Ok, here we go. How does this sound?

 

--------------------------------------------------

 

Signs of Time

 

The purpose and goal of this category is to discover, document, and preserve the memory of "Time Balls" and "Time Cannons". These now obsolete devices were once used as public time markers.

 

Time Balls

A Time Ball is a distinctive sphere located at highly visible site in a city, usually a hill or other prominent location. At a fixed time every day the Ball was dropped to indicate the correct time for all to see. At Greenwhich the following procedure was followed—this was most likely followed within the Empire. Each day at five minutes before 13.00, the ball was half raised, at two minutes to the hour fully raised, and then on the hour, dropped. This multi-state procedure gave warning of the approaching hour. In the USA the Ball was dropped at 12.00 (noon).

 

The 13.00 time was chosen as the designated hour at Greenwhich in 1833. This time was chosen as it allowed the astronomers to measure the transit of the sun at midday, and then drop the ball.

 

The initial and always principal use for a Time Ball was maritime navigation. In centuries past, sailors, braving the heady distances of the Pacific and Atlantic, or a difficult journey through treacherous waters, where an error in longitude might mean shipwreck and death, looked to Time Balls to set their chronometers before leaving port.

 

The Time Ball concept was developed by Captain Wauchope (1788–1862) of the Royal Navy. The first Ball was installed at Portsmith in 1829. Time Balls quickly became popular and spread along the trades routes of the British Empire, and the civilised world (even to the USA). They continued in use until the first half of the 20th century, though their true utility was challenged by radio time signals which entered service following World War One.

 

In the modern world of instant communication (often too much so) there are at least sixty of these devices extant. Some are still in operation as tourist attractions. A list of the known Balls is included below.

 

Historical Time Balls

In order to preserve the memory of Time Balls, we will accept non-extant Balls, where there is adequate documentation. If you find a location where a Time Ball once existed, record it here!

 

Time Cannons/Guns

Time guns served a similar purpose to Time Balls. A Time Gun was fired at a known hour every day to signal the correct time. There is less information available as to the history of Cannons, as opposed to Balls, but they seem to have come into common use at about the same time.

 

A significant disadvantage of cannons was the time delay due to the lethargic speed of sound—three seconds per kilometre. This meant that ships at a distance from the cannon could not use the cannon fire as an accurate time marker. Cannons seem to have been more used as a time marker for their town or city.

 

There are at least thirty cannons still in existence, most likely more.

 

Historical Time Cannons

As with Time Balls, we wish to preserve the memory of Cannons. If you find a site where a Time Cannon once existed, and there is adequate documentation, please include it here.

 

Website of the Time Ball Association: http://www.1oclockgun.org.uk

A few interesting links:

http://www.redicecreations.com/article.php?id=18085

 

Partial List of Time Balls

Deal, Kent

The Old Windmill, Brisbane, Australia

Fremantle, Australia

Gdańsk, Poland

Greenwich Observatory, England

Clock Tower, Brighton

Nelson's Monument on Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Point Gellibrand, Victoria, Australia

Sydney Observatory, Australia

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town

United States Naval Observatory, USA

Titanic Memorial, New York

Citadelle of Quebec, Quebec City

Semaphore, South Australia, Australia

Fort Canning, Singapore

 

Partial List of Time Guns

Cape Town, South Africa

Sevastopol, Russia

Rome, Italy

Nanaimo Bastion

Halifax, Canada

Sydney, Australia

Aldershot, UK

Edinburgh, UK

Birkenhead, UK

Ottawa, Canada

Dundee, UK

Warrnambool, Australia

Hong Kong

St. Petersburg, Russia

Montreal, Canada

Guernsey, UK

Jersey, UK

Fremantle, Australia

Whitehaven, UK

Kabul, Afghanistan

Zagreb Noon Day Gun, Croatia

Vladivostock, Russia

Santiago, Chile

 

Honorary member of this group: Captain Robert Wauchope, inventor of the Time Ball.

 

 

Instructions for Posting a Time Ball/Time Cannon Waymark:

Name. Include the word "Time Ball" or "Time Cannon", and the city and country in which it resides. it may be that there is an individual designation for a particular ball. If so please use this in the name. Work to make the name distinctive and informative.

 

"Time Ball, Fort Canning Park—Singapore"

"One O'Clock Gun, Edinburg Castle, UK"

 

Include several photos of the Ball or Cannon and its supporting structure, plus any associated buildings. Also photos of what ever plaques, pamphlets, and signs are available. More information is good. Still in use? The size and height of the Ball. When was it established, when was it decommissioned. Current state of the Ball. What time was it dropped. Famous incidents, stories, anecdotes.

 

You don't need to go overboard here, but make an effort to put together the basics of the Ball.

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Not very prevalent, and I personally have no hope to ever come across one of them in the areas I usually move.

 

But I like them and I fully support this category. It is a very distinct, special piece of history.

 

This genial idea to use distant time synchronization methods as a navigation aid was just the beginning. Other smart guys adapted the idea, tried to make it more reliable, accessible and convenient.

 

In the end we have a couple of dozen time balls in the orbit that do not drop off once a day but a billion times a second and call it GPS. But the base principle has not changed that much. Captain Robert Wauchope is the real father of GPS, and as a consequence of Geocaching and Waymarking. He deserves to be honorary member of any group.

 

Go for it!

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"Captain Robert Wauchope is the real father of GPS"

 

D_mm good point. I will include that in the category description.

I will leave things a few more days and then edit the draft, and then, maybe, maybe, submit for approval.

Edited by Ianatlarge
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Yes, I also think this sounds well.

 

We still need some visting requirements. But they should not be very restrictive. Something like 'Take a picture of the ball/canon. Write something about your visit.'

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I have done some more work on the category draft, and came up with a few name ideas, for the group and category and for the officers. Thoughts, suggestions?

 

The Time Keepers — group name

Time balls and cannons — category name

 

Officer names:

Time bandits

Time masters

Master of Time

The Big Ball

Blasters

Keepers of Time

The Big Gun

Bangs

 

---------

 

The purpose and goal of this category is to discover, document, and preserve the memory of "Time Balls" and "Time Cannons". These now obsolete devices were once used as public time markers.

 

Time Balls

A time ball is a distinctive sphere located at highly visible site in a city, usually a hill or other prominent location. At a fixed time every day the ball was dropped to indicate the correct time for all to see. At Greenwhich the following procedure was in use, and this was most likely followed within the Empire. Each day at five minutes before 13.00, the ball was half raised, at two minutes to the hour fully raised, and then on the hour, dropped. This multi-stage procedure gave notice of the approaching time marker. In the USA the ball was dropped at 12.00 (noon).

 

The 13.00 time was chosen as the designated hour at Greenwhich in 1833. This allowed the astronomers to measure the transit of the sun at midday, and then drop the ball an hour later.

 

The initial and always principal use for a Time Ball was maritime navigation. In centuries past, sailors, braving the heady distances of the Pacific and Atlantic, or a difficult journey through treacherous waters, where an error in longitude might mean shipwreck and death, looked to time balls to set their chronometers true before leaving port.

 

The time ball concept was developed by Admiral Wauchope (1788–1862) of the Royal Navy. The first ball was installed at Portsmith in 1829. Time Balls quickly proved their usefulness and spread along the trades routes of the British Empire, and where ever else men put to sea in ships. Time balls continued in use until the first half of the 20th century, though their true utility was challenged by radio time signals which first entered service in the 1920s.

 

In the modern world there are at least sixty of these devices extant. Some are still in operation as tourist attractions. A list of the known Balls is included below.

 

Historical Time Balls

In order to preserve the memory of time balls, we will accept non-extant balls, where there is adequate documentation. If you find a location where a Time Ball once existed, record it here!

 

Time balls are now obsolete, but they were the first successful method by which an accurate time mark could be publicly disseminated. This service has continued with ever improving technologies and increasing accuracy over the past two centuries until today, where the heavens are filled with dozens of GPS satellites telling the time to an accuracy undreamed of in the past. The first step in this ongoing journey was taken by Admiral Wauchope.

 

Honorary Member: In recognition of the importance of time balls in the history of timekeeping Admiral Robert Wauchope RN, the inventor of the Time Ball, is a Honorary life member of this category.

 

Further information:

Ian R. Bartky and Steven J. Dick, "The First Time Balls", Journal of the History of Astronomy, 12, 155-164, (1981).

William R. O'Byrne, "A Naval Biographical Dictionary", (1849).

Robert Wauchope, "Time Signals for Chronometers", 'Nautical Magazine', (1836), 460-464.

Robert Wauchope, "A short narrative of God's merciful dealings towards me", (1862).

William Laird Clowes, "The Royal Navy, a History", 5-6, (1900-1).

Derek Howse, "Greenwich Time and the Longitude", (1997).

Ian R. Bartky, "The Bygone Era of Time Balls", 'Sky and Telescope' (Jan. 1987), 32-35.

David Aubin, eds. "The Heavens on Earth: Observatories and Astronomy in Nineteenth-Century Science and Culture", (2010).

Ian R. Bartky and Steven J. Dick, "The First North American Time Ball", 'Journal for the History of Astronomy', 13, (1982), 50-54.

Ian R. Bartky, "Naval Observatory Time Dissemination Before the Wireless," in 'Sky with Ocean Joined', Steven J. Dick and LeRoy Doggett, eds. (Washington, 1983), 1-28.

Website of the Time Ball Association: http://www.1oclockgun.org.uk

 

Time Cannons/Guns

Time guns served a similar purpose to Time Balls. A Time Gun was fired at a known hour every day to signal the correct time. There is less information available as to the history of Cannons, as opposed to Balls, but they seem to have come into common use at about the same time.

 

A critical disadvantage of cannons was the time delay due to the lethargic speed of sound, approximately three seconds per kilometre. This meant that ships at a distance from the cannon could not rely on the cannon fire as an accurate time marker. Cannons seem to have been more used as a time marker for their town or city.

 

There are at least thirty cannons still in existence, most likely more.

 

Historical Time Cannons

As with Time Balls, we wish to preserve the memory of Cannons. If you find a site where a Time Cannon once existed, and there is adequate documentation, please include it here.

 

Partial List of Time Balls

Deal, Kent, UK

The Old Windmill, Brisbane, Australia

Fremantle, Australia

Gdańsk, Poland

Greenwich Observatory, England

Clock Tower, Brighton, UK

Nelson's Monument on Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Point Gellibrand, Victoria, Australia

Sydney Observatory, Australia

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town

United States Naval Observatory, USA

Titanic Memorial, New York, USA

Citadelle of Quebec, Quebec City, Canada

Semaphore, South Australia, Australia

Fort Canning, Singapore

 

Partial List of Time Cannons

Cape Town, South Africa

Sevastopol, Russia

Rome, Italy

Nanaimo Bastion

Halifax, Canada

Sydney, Australia

Aldershot, UK

Edinburgh, UK

Birkenhead, UK

Ottawa, Canada

Dundee, UK

Warrnambool, Australia

Hong Kong

St. Petersburg, Russia

Montreal, Canada

Guernsey, UK

Jersey, UK

Fremantle, Australia

Whitehaven, UK

Kabul, Afghanistan

Zagreb Noon Day Gun, Croatia

Vladivostock, Russia

Santiago, Chile

 

Chronology of Time Balls

1819 Robert Wauchope first proposes the idea of a time ball.

1829 First experimental time ball installed at Portsmith.

1833 Time ball installed at Royal Observatory Greenwich.

1845 First USA time ball drop, U.S. Naval Observatory, Washington.

mid 19th century — Time balls are in use in every major port.

1936 Cessation of the ball drop at the U.S. Naval Observatory, Washington.

2000 U.S. Naval Observatory drops its time ball to mark the millennium.

 

Acknowledgements: Time Ball/Gun Association, Wikipedia, Greenwich Observatory, US Naval Observatory, Google books.

 

Instructions for Posting a Time Ball/Time Cannon Waymark

Name. Include the word "Time Ball" or "Time Cannon", and the city and country in which it resides. It may be that there is an individual designation for a particular ball or cannon. If so please use this in the name. Aim to make the name distinctive and informative.

 

"Time Ball, Fort Canning Park—Singapore"

"One O'Clock Gun, Edinburg Castle, UK"

 

Include several photos of the Ball or Cannon and its supporting structure, plus any associated buildings. Also photos of what ever plaques, pamphlets, and signs are available. More information is good. Still in use? The size and height of the Ball. When was it established, when was it decommissioned. Current state of the Ball. What time was it dropped. Famous incidents, stories, anecdotes.

 

Bonus if you see the Ball lowered, or the cannon fired.

 

You don't need to go overboard here, but make an effort to put together the basics of the site.

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Visiting instructions?

 

At the bottom: Instructions for Posting a Time Ball/Time Cannon Waymark

Called it posting, not visiting. I will change that.

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whoops, had a blonde moment there. Here we go.

 

 

Instructions for Visiting a Waymark in this Category

You must, of course, physically visit the ball or cannon. Posting a photo of your visit is good, but try and take a photograph of the site distinct from an existing photo—a different angle, or something overlooked by previous visitors. Include a short description of your visit: was the ball or cannon in use, a popular tourist destination, anything new added, anything changed? Work towards keeping the waymark current.

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The description sounds good.

 

We will need some variables at the category:

  • Time Ball or Time Cannon (required): drop down
  • year (or time periode) of creation (required): small text
  • year of demolition (optional): small text
  • still in use (required): yes/no/I don't know
  • physical adress (required): adress
  • weblink (optional): URL

 

Some more variables needed?? I don't know. Any ideas??

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Sounds good. 1 suggestion.

 

Time Ball or Time Cannon (required): drop down

year (or time period) of creation (required): small text ------ I would make this optional, the info might not be available.

year of demolition (optional): small text

still in use (required): yes/no/I don't know

physical adress (required): address

weblink (optional): URL

 

Also:

size of cannon (optional)

time of firing, if in use (required)

 

Separate field for any anecdotes about the ball/cannon?

Now that my mind is thinking about this I recall several funny stories I was told about the time ball and cannon that prior to 1965 were in use in the city of Perth.

 

The story I was told. ~1900. A ship was docked at the Perth jetty. The captain told a young officer to go to the bow and report when the ball dropped. The officer was supposed to shout, but he went, looked, saw the ball drop, then turned around, walked back and up to the bridge, snapped a salute, and reported to the captain that the ball had dropped. The capt was not happy, haha.

 

I was also told that the cannon firing prompted women to deliver their babies. Ummm.

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Looks good!

 

Just one thing:

 

physical adress (required): address

 

The address type variable is not going well with how addresses look in many countries. I usually prefer the text box for addresses.

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time of firing, if in use (required)

 

Better:

time of firing/ball drop (required): small text

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Looks very good and with the help of other members its going to look better for a peer review later on.

I can't find one on Google in The Netherlands sofar.

I know for sure that i find a hidden one here when we are on the road for a nice day of Waymarking.

Can not choose for the Officers name :lostsignal: , they all look good and sofar i can see they are all free on WM.

Grtz John.

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I have had many flaps about time, but I had never even heard of a time flap until now! Learn something every day. Thanks fi67. That list includes Singapore, which I had not seen listed elsewhere (though the article confuses longitude with latitude. I mention that at the risk of being pedantic). I will try and find more info on time flaps and include them in the category—it is getting big.

 

Question. With the list in the website supplied by fi67 there will be 200+ known ball and cannons. Should this list be included in the category? I ask as with this list, the category description will be BIG.

 

Dreamhummie—with the long nautical history of the Dutch, there must be a ball somewhere! I suspect several, but most likely they were dismantled in the early 20th. Your mission is to find these, and hopefully there is a plaque or historical record somewhere nearby.

 

Concur:

Better: time of firing/ball drop (required): small text

 

Address:

A text box is easier. Many different addresses around the world.

 

When it comes time to submit to peer review I will write a "covering letter" to the good people here, explaining what a great idea this is: interesting, global, experienced officers, historical importance, and what ever else I can think of. Try and answer all objections.

 

Time for beddy bies.

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