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In the 18th century, the only way to navigate accurately at sea was to follow a coastline all the way, which would not get you from Europe to the West Indies or the Americas. Observing the sun or stars would give you the latitude, but not the longitude unless done in conjunction with a clock that would keep time accurately at sea, and no such clock existed. After one too many maritime disasters due to navigational errors, the British Parliament set up a substantial prize for a way to find the longitude at sea. The film's main story is that of craftsman John Harrison: he built a clock that would do the job, what we would now call a marine chronometer. But the Board of Longitude was biased against this approach and claiming the prize was no simple matter. Told in parallel is the 20th century story of Rupert Gould, for whom the restoration of Harrison's clocks to working order became first a hobby, then an obsession that threatened to wreck his life. Written by
At the outset of William's voyage home with Capt. Bourke, the command, "Raise upper topsails!" can be clearly heard. Split topsails did not come into use until 100 years later. See more »
I'm afraid you must excuse me, but I should go back on deck. The air in here is...
Poisonous? You'll get used to it. Most people don't notice it after the first couple of years.
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Despite its feared four-hour length (including commercials as shown on A&E), "Longitude" gets my top rating. Totally engrossing, with absolutely no false or phony notes. Acting, photography superlative.
(Available on home video without commercials and with additional footage.)
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