Chronometers – timekeeping, longitude & latitude

John Harrison’s Marine Chronometers ,

The invention of a marine clock (chronometer) which could be used to accurately measure longitude was arguably the most significant development in maritime navigation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Before their invention ships had great difficulty finding their way from one port to another. Fog, bad weather, and inaccurate charts made navigation, when no land was in sight, both dangerous and time consuming.

Latitude and longitude can be thought of in the same way as the index of a city street map with the latitude being north/south and the longitude being east/west co-ordinates. Once both are known a position can be accurately pinpointed.

While latitude could be found by observing the position of stars longitude proved far more difficult to find. In fact an accurate means of finding an east/west position baffled navigators until 1759 when the clocks made by the Englishman John Harrison were finally acknowledged as being accurate enough to keep time at sea. Continue reading “Chronometers – timekeeping, longitude & latitude”


Australian Photogrpahy – Freeman Brothers Sydney

Unidentified man, from collodion negative, Freeman Brothers Studio, 1871-1880, Powerhouse Museum, H8504-22

Over the last couple of months I have been working on a previously uncatalogued collection of large format, 50.8 cm x 44.5 cm, glass plate negatives donated to thePowerhouse Museum in 1969. The 28 collodion portraits were found in a chest in our stores at Castle Hill and have been identified as all being originally taken by the Freeman Borthers Studio here in Sydney. We are currently conserving and cataloguing the photographs but hope to be posting them onto flickr commons by the end of the year for researchers to use.

The Freeman Brother Studio lays claim to being the longest running studio in Australia. It was established as the ‘Freeman Brothers and Wheeler’ by William Freeman and his brother James in George Street in 1854; it was still running nearly 150 years later. James was the more experienced of the two having worked in Richard Beard’s gallery in Bath before coming to Australia and was certainly instrumental in the success with which they plied their trade in Sydney.[1] Continue reading “Australian Photogrpahy – Freeman Brothers Sydney”

19th Century Photography – The Samoan War 1899

U.S. Marines with naval gun, Upolu, Samoa, 1899, published by Kerry and Co

Tradition in Samoa dictated that leadership of the islands was to be invested in a hereditary chief, but in the 1880s these claims to power were anything but certain. Robert Louis Stevenson, who lived in Samoa during this period of turmoil, commented that Europeans, used to a history of kings and queens, tended to leap to the conclusion that the office of high chief is absolute. In fact the office in Samoa was elective and held in many ways on condition of the holder’s behaviour and attendance to his many obligations. This confusion was to have ongoing ramifications in the late nineteenth century as European powers asserted their claims to land and political power across the three major islands of Samoa. Continue reading “19th Century Photography – The Samoan War 1899”