Prime Time
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Prime Time

Prime Time

Prime Time

Virtually everything in our world, virtually everything that we surround ourselves with, owes something to the definitive, universal formalization of longitude. And to the man who dedicated his life to doing it.

The Prime Meridian, 0 degrees Longitude, running through the Royal Greenwich Observatory demarking what is East and what is West is testament to that discovery. It is also a throwback to the Age of Empire when Britannia ruled the waves and speaks directly to the great explorers and cartographers who seized upon Longitude to map the world.

What you might not know is that there were many Prime Meridians before the one we now use. Portugal, Spain, Holland, France, and of course Britain all arbitrarily choose some place from which to differentiate East from West. It was the stuff of state secrets, encoded maps and subterfuge. But as nation succumbed to nation, and navies to navies, it came to crisis when Great Britain boasted the world’s most powerful navy and the greatest mapmaker of them all, Capt James Cook.

The solution to the problem of how far East or West you are of any given point on the earth was a stupendous technological achievement accomplished by a self-taught genius working alone for decades. His name was Harrison and he was a clockmaker. Some of his self-lubricating wooden clocks are still running today, some 250 years after they were built, and keep better time than the 21 jewel, self-winding watch I use for navigating.

Harrison invented and perfected the chronometer and there isn’t a watch or clock that doesn’t have some of Harrison’s original genius in it. While everyone, including some of the greatest minds in history, where looking to the heavens to solve the problem of Longitude, Harrison looked to his timepieces. Knowing the time accurately enables you to calculate the difference in time between two places and that, and that alone is all you need. As simple as that sounds, 250 years ago keeping accurate time using a mechanical device was considered an absolute impossibility.

To give you some idea of how desperate the problem had become, the English Parliament authorized a prize of 20,000£ to be awarded to the person or persons who solved it. A Board of Longitude was convened and given the task of overseeing the process of identifying a solution and ultimately awarding the 20,000£.

Eventually, Harrison got the money but not without the King’s intervention and some 20 years after his chronometers sailed with, and were heartily endorsed by Cook himself.

If you ever get to the Royal Observatory, encased in glass is H4, one of Harrison’s masterpieces. Although not wound, it is capable of keeping time to within 1 second per month at sea.

At approximately 1630 UTC today I crossed from West to East. I know that definitively thanks to to the watch I wear on my wrist which, among dozens of other marvels, has a bimetal spiral wound spring that Harrison invented to compensate for temperature and pressure changes.

Thanks be to those solitary, out-of-the-box thinking geniuses who are driven to achieve the impossible against all odds and prejudices.

Follow my tracks in real-time:
https://bit.ly/svseaburban

 

16 Comments
  • BT
    Posted at 10:41h, 02 July Reply

    Bert, you are amazing! Following you progress and posts with great admiration for you courage and wishing / willing you success. You are on the downhill run now. All the best from an Aussie follower BT ( 2 degrees of separation from your Uncle Joe).

  • Sandi Lyon
    Posted at 03:20h, 06 July Reply

    That looks about right. When it’s hot out in the ocean, its foggy and wet on the Wet Coast. That means you’re on the right track, heading the right direction. Finally. Woohoo.

  • Anita Kuntz
    Posted at 00:10h, 08 July Reply

    Following you journey and am truly amazed.

  • Suzan Persons
    Posted at 15:43h, 09 July Reply

    What an amazing journey!!

  • Karin Hill
    Posted at 15:27h, 13 July Reply

    Been following you for a couple of months now. What an amazing journey! Your blog is insightful and humorous. Almost home. Safe travels!

  • MountainJack
    Posted at 19:52h, 14 July Reply

    Has to be an amazing feeling to be so near home, Bert.

    Have spent months at sea “steaming”, not sailing, gaining my sea legs with the constant motion just became second nature. Getting back to a stable platform at dockside or over on the beach left me wobbly for a day or two. Cannot imagine how you’ll feel after a year of hardly ever being stable. There is that other thing having been on your own for that long; the familiarity of constant aloneness , the feeling of approach avoidance, being forced back into humanity. Might feel as though you could just extend a little bit more and savor the experience just a little longer…naw, probably not.

    Welcome back home, Bert. You’ve completed one heck of a feat.

  • Arthur Oliver
    Posted at 04:33h, 15 July Reply

    Getting oh so close. What’s the ETA?

  • estelle C whiddon
    Posted at 02:58h, 16 July Reply

    Bert, your homecoming Saturday will be a joyous occasion! I have followed the voyage daily and hope your arrival home brings much joy.

  • Peter Jungschaffer
    Posted at 07:19h, 18 July Reply

    This has been so great. Thank you!!!

  • BT
    Posted at 09:50h, 18 July Reply

    Hi Bert, you are just a few hours away from home. We are cheering for your most successful journey. We are especially amazed at the sailing conditions below Australia and New Zealand, as we can have some very big polar blasts hit us at this time of the year. Cannot imagine what it was like to sail through that type of weather. Can only take of hats off to you I amazement. Hope that you make it to Oz for a visit. What a wonderful achievement you have accomplished. /bt

  • Antonio Corbelletta
    Posted at 16:15h, 18 July Reply

    Congratulations! What an adventure! Well done. I have enjoyed tracking your voyage everyday just wish I would have know about it earlier, from the beginning.

  • Suzan
    Posted at 18:13h, 18 July Reply

    Yeahhhhhhhhh Bert!!! You have done it!!!
    Happy Homecoming – And stay safe!!!
    It isn’t the same world that you left!!
    I’m going to miss reading your travels and your adventures!! But thrilled that you’re home (almost) safe and sound!!
    Next trip around the world, hope that you’ll stop along the way and post your photos of the locals and the ports!!

  • Raegan Elford
    Posted at 19:23h, 18 July Reply

    Soldier who has logged more sea time than this Navy sailor.
    What an incredible accomplishment (the journey vice logging more sea time than I)
    BZ

  • Marianne Scott
    Posted at 18:25h, 19 July Reply

    Congratulations on your accomplishment! I guess we will have to put up a plaque commemorating your voyage on the Victoria Harbour wall.

    Hope to see you this week.

    Marianne Scott

  • Tom Cory
    Posted at 07:40h, 23 July Reply

    Congradulations Bert from Annapolis MD. A Great Adventure.

  • Mark
    Posted at 12:24h, 29 July Reply

    I don’t think that anyone that attended Estevan Junior High could have imagined that this was in the future for one of it’s students. I checked in at different legs of the journey and was fascinated every time. Congrats!

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