Survey: USGS Chronometer

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by Jerry Freedman, Apr 23, 2011.

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  1. Jerry Freedman

    Jerry Freedman Registered User
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    Sep 16, 2000
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    This chronometer started life in Greenock, Scotland and ended up in the U.S. as property of the USGS. THe maker is John Heron. The shipping container and the brass bowl have the mark USGS T222173. Our Museum Director has determined that the serial number is correct for a USGS instrument. The USGS indicated that records for the use of the chronometer were sent to the Smithsonian. However, the Smithsonian can't seem to find any records. I would like to think the chronometer was used in surveys of the U.S.

    Does anyone have any ideas how to further this research?
     

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  2. Don Dahlberg

    Don Dahlberg Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Aug 31, 2000
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    You can write research@nawcc.org, the NAWCC Library and Research Center. Normally we only do research for our members, but we make an exception for our sister libraries and museums.

    We have a few books on chronometer makers of the world.

    Check out item 195 at http://www.bonhams.com/cgi-bin/public.sh/pubweb/publicSite.r?screen=WholeCatalogue&iSaleNo=13978 and hallmarks at http://www.silvercollection.it/SCOTTISHSILVERSMITHSGREENOCK.html

    Sounds like he was a jeweler in about 1790-1840.

    Don Dahlberg
    NAWCC library volunteer
     
  3. Jerry Freedman

    Jerry Freedman Registered User
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    Sep 16, 2000
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    Don: I know what Mercer has to say about Heron, and the curator of horology at Greenwich (Betts) has given me more information about him. Heron submitted a number of chronometers to the Greenwich Observatory for testing. He sent in numbers 159,160,171, 180, 184 and 195. He was obviously into more than jewelry. My chronometer is #124, the earliest known.

    Don, I don't know what to ask the library research team to do. Noel has tried with the USGS and the Smithsonian. I was hoping that some of our members might have some ideas how to find out when and where the instrument was used.

    Thanks for the reply!
    Jerry Freedman
     
  4. Jerry Treiman

    Jerry Treiman Registered User
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    Aug 25, 2000
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    Geologist - California Geological Survey
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    The U.S. Geological Survey was founded in 1879 and proceeded to oversee a number of surveys of the western territories, including John Wesley Powell's historic exploration of the Colorado River. There were also extensive surveys of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Any of these surveys would have had need for a chronometer for mapping purposes.
     
  5. Don Dahlberg

    Don Dahlberg Registered User
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    Aug 31, 2000
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    We have the same problem with ship's chronometers used during WWII. We know there were chronometer books that recorded ships, dates, time corrections, port of calls and other factors that might affect timing such as firing large guns. We know they must be out there somewhere, but we do not know where.

    Some people may not know how celestial navigation was done on land. On the sea the sextant was used to measure the angle between the horizon and the celestial object (bright stars, planets, sun or moon). On land, you cannot see the real horizon, so they used a pan of mercury, which was protected from wind by a glass tent. They would measure angle between the celestial object and the reflection of the object. They would then divide the angle by two. The second important thing is was to know the time of the observation to the second. An error of just 4 seconds of time results in an error of up to a nautical mile, depending on how far you are from the equator. After numerous corrections for altitude, bending of light and so on, referring to numerous charts, you can calculate your position.

    If you want to know how it is done, check out http://www.celestialnavigation.net/practice.html


    Don
     
  6. Jerry Freedman

    Jerry Freedman Registered User
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    Sep 16, 2000
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    In a further attempt to learn more about this chronometer, I e-mailed the USGS and did get a reply. The T in the serial number T222173 stands for "topo". They estimate from the number that the chronometer was purchased in 1962. The Curator at the Greenwich Observatory estimates that the chronometer was made in 1828. Where was it for 132 years? The USGS will let me know if anything else turns up.
     
  7. MartyR

    MartyR Moderator
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    What would astonish me is that the UDGS would buy a 130 year old chronometer :eek: In 1962 it cannot have been the most accurate timepiece available, and probably not even the cheapest.

    Surely 1962 is a typo for 1862?
     
  8. Don Dahlberg

    Don Dahlberg Registered User
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    Yes, in 1962 they could pick up the time by radio and use it to set a good watch daily. Something like a 4992B would serve them with daily radio contact. A comparing watch would serve with frequent radio contact. You could pick up the NBS in Colorado on short wave in those days.

    Don
     
  9. Jerry Freedman

    Jerry Freedman Registered User
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    Sep 16, 2000
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    The USGS has serial numbers before and after mine, quite close actually and say the surveying instruments the numbers refer to were purchased in 1961 and 1963! The instruments purchased were a 3 prism housing (T215613) and a Wild-2 theodolite(T227166). That is how they arrived at 1962.
     

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