General Question

forestGeek's avatar

What is a Nautical Clock?

Asked by forestGeek (8555 points ) November 19th, 2008

Besides the obvious, that they are used on boats, what makes a nautical clock different from a normal clock? Just a stupid random thing I’ve wondered about for years.

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15 Answers

aidje's avatar

Is that the name for those clocks with a barometer and thermometer on them as well?

gailcalled's avatar

For stupid random issues, try Google.

forestGeek's avatar

@gailcalled – Um yeah, some of us actually do that! Gave plenty of places to buy them, but no definition. Thanks for nothing!

Les's avatar

I think it just has to do with the fact that sailors or mariners travel through multiple time zones. From what I can gather based on a Google search, and the Wiki entry on “nautical time”, this is nothing other than using a 24 hour clock (Zulu, or UTC time). When mariners are out to sea, they specify the “region” they are in, and their time (ship time). But once they reach land, they adopt that place’s time. Similar for air travel.

Harp's avatar

Marine clocks used to be mechanical timepieces made to the highest standards of accuracy. Before the advent of GPS, accurate timekeeping was essential to navigation because longitude could only be calculated based on the position of the sun relative to the exact time. Making a mechanical timepiece accurate enough to maintain this level of precision over a long sea voyage and through the pitching and rolling of the ship was one of the greatest engineering feats of the 18th century.

Satellite-based time synchronization systems and GPS have rendered mechanical chronometers obsolete, and today the term “marine clock” refers to a design style evoking other marine fixtures (typically featuring brass, wood, and multiple dials) rather than to a level of precision.

trumi's avatar

Oooh, gailcalled is crafting a response! You’re in for it now, noob!

gailcalled's avatar

@trumi: Life is too short, remember?

For a wonderful book about the nautical clock and the accurate determination of Longitude, read: : The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time.
by Dava Sobel

“The thorniest scientific problem of the eighteenth century was how to determine longitude. Many thousands of lives had been lost at sea over the centuries due to the inability to determine an east-west position. This is the engrossing story of the clockmaker, John “Longitude” Harrison, who solved the problem that Newton and Galileo had failed to conquer, yet claimed only half the promised rich reward.”

From Publishers Weekly
“This look at the scientific quest to find a way for ships at sea to determine their longitude was a PW bestseller for eight weeks.”

trumi's avatar

@gail: I know, I know. I just get excited.

gailcalled's avatar

@trumi: I am pleased that I still have that effect on some people.

forestGeek's avatar

Cool thanks you all, this helps me understand. Looks like many of the clocks sold online have that nautical design.

@trumi – I’m definitely not afraid of you high lurve number people!!! To me it just means you spend too much time online! :)

trumi's avatar

@geek: It’s not the amount of lurve, it’s the person behind the name. Eh?
@gail: I am still training, sensei. Be patient with me.

forestGeek's avatar

@trumi – great article, thanks!! Guess I did get off easy.

I’ve also never been known as a brown-noser!! :)

gailcalled's avatar

@forestGeek; Did anyone here accuse you of being a b-noser? Or am I missing an inference?

forestGeek's avatar

@gailcalled – No, it just a friendly sarcastic poke at myself for not being nice earlier!

gailcalled's avatar

That’s a relief. I believe also that we are allowed to insult ourselves but no one else.

The book I mentioned, LONGITUDE, is a fascinating piece of history and very-well written. Even though one knows the outcome, Sobel writes it as a mystery.

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