Mystic Seaport proudly presents “Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude,” on tour from England for a limited time only and opening at the maritime museum on Sept. 19.
The award-winning exhibition, produced by the National Maritime Museum in London and sponsored by United Technologies Corp., reveals the race to determine longitude at sea.
Spurred on by the promise of rich rewards, astronomers, philosophers, and artisans — including John Harrison and his innovative timekeepers — finally solved one of the greatest technical challenges of the 18th century.
For centuries, longitude (east-west position) was a matter of life and death at sea. Ships that went off course had no way to rediscover their longitude. With no known location, they might smash into underwater obstacles or be forever lost at sea. For a maritime nation such as Britain, growing investment in long distance trade, outposts and settlements overseas made the ability to accurately determine a ship’s longitude increasingly important.