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
Harrison describes his clock to George Graham, and the accuracy astounds him. In reality, Harrison invented the "gridiron pendulum" (which made such accuracy possible) in 1726. However, Graham had invented the even more accurate "mercury pendulum" in 1721, so he would not have stated such accuracy "can't be done", when first meeting Harrison in 1730. See more »
I may not be spared to complete another watch, but I've begun one. It will not, gentleman, be a copy, because I am mindful of the Act of Queen Anne, to which I've clung for over 50 years like a, like a shipwrecked sailor to a barrel -- "to be practical," and that's been my gospel and my creed. I have an idea that the heat compensation must be within the balance of the watch and not around it. And this morning I made this.
[He shows a heat-compensated balance wheel.]
I tried the idea in my first ...
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All great stories deal with conflict and overcoming difficulties. The vast majority of films that are produced thesedays feature heros who triumph based on who is a bigger bad ass or has got the biggest guns or bombs. Here is a film that has virtually no 'action' other than a few cannons fired and a lashing or two during the parts at sea, but is filled with the sort of tension and drama that keeps the viewer constantly involved.
If you enjoy intelligent movies, then you should definitely seek this film out. It sounds dreadfully boring if you read the plot summary, but it isn't. It is wonderfully written and produced and contains much light humor as well, making it truly entertaining.
One film that it reminded me of is "Master and Commander" because of the similar scenes of the British navy and the theme of the struggle of science and progress in the face of war and politics with intelligence and perseverance winning out in the end.
The interwoven story of Rupert Gould is just as interesting and provides an artistic counterpoint to the main story. Again, we have the story of a man who continues with his work in spite of numerous obstacles of the most serious magnitude because he knows that the world will be a better place as a result of that work.
The film is long and you should wait until you have enough time to sit down and watch it through to the end because once you begin you will have difficulty turning it off.
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