Ships, Clocks and Stars: the Quest for Longitude

Museums, History
Early nautical time keeper
Photograph: Australian National Maritime Museum

Plan a voyage down to Darling Harbour to discover the tumultuous history of maritime navigation

The Maritime Museum’s latest exhibition is a treasure trove of rare objects that tell the story of the race to improve navigation at sea. Developed by Royal Museums Greenwich, the exhibition was commissioned to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Longitude Act of 1714, the catalyst for many scientists to attempt to solve the problem of longitude. Before that point, there was no way for sailors to navigate from east to west around the globe. The drive to win the race, which involved creating a reliable clock to keep Greenwich Mean Time, was a prize of 20,000 GBP.

Curated by maritime archeologist Dr James Hunter, the exhibition  showcases many of the items relating to an early European presence in Australian waters. Some of the most interesting items include a jug, mug and coins from Vergulde Draeckthe Dutch merchant vessel shipwrecked off the coast of Western Australia in 1656.

More objects of note include the original first-known portrait of Galileo Galilei; the maritime timepiece used by Captain Cook on the Endeavour; and working replicas of John Harrison’s early nautical timekeepers. Another highlight is a timepiece used by Captain William Bligh on the Bounty – who survived a 47-day, 6,701km open-boat voyage after being cast adrift by mutineers.

Interactive discovery stations to take you on a journey from the most rudimentary navigation equipment through to tools that were being used up until the 1960s.

By: Ellen Parsons

Event phone: 02 9298 3777
Event website:
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