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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
In the final voice over, Dava Sobel talks about charting our three dimensional world. However, one of the major points of this movie is that, as far as navigation is concerned, only two dimensions, latitude and longitude, are required to chart it. See more »
Mr. Harrison! Summer and winter... how is it done? How is it done, the compensation?
I use a pendulum of different metals that work against each other.
Impossible. Doesn't work. I've tried it.
It is possible. It does work. I've built it.
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I ran into this at late night on A&E a couple of years ago. Although I missed about 30 minutes of the beginning part, I immediately got 'glued' to TV by the casts' great performance, great story line, and its historical-correct setting.
As a side note, Sir Isaac Newton (1642--1727) was in the same era as in the time setting of the story. I wonder if Sir Isaac Newton had ever involved with this 'board of longitude' ;)
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