A time ball or timeball is a time-signalling device. It consists of a large, painted wooden or metal ball that is dropped at a predetermined time, principally to enable navigators aboard ships offshore to verify the setting of their marine chronometers. Accurate timekeeping is essential to the determination of longitude at sea.
Although time balls have since been replaced by electronic time signals, some time balls have remained operational as historical tourist attractions.
The fall of a little ball was in antiquity a way to show to people the time. Ancient Greek clocks had this system in the main square of a city, as in the city of Gaza in the post-Alexander era, and as described by Procopius in his book on Edifices. Time ball stations set their clocks according to transit observations of the positions of the sun and stars. Originally they either had to be stationed at the observatory, or had to keep a very accurate clock at the station which was set manually to observatory time. Following the introduction of the electric telegraph around 1850, time balls could be located at a distance from their source of mean time and operated remotely.
The first time ball was erected at Portsmouth, England, in 1829 by its inventor Robert Wauchope, a captain in the Royal Navy.Others followed in the major ports of the United Kingdom (including Liverpool) and around the maritime world. One was installed in 1833 at the Greenwich Observatory in London by the Astronomer Royal, John Pond, originally to enable tall ships in the Thames to set their marine chronometers, and the time ball has dropped at 1 p.m. every day since then. Wauchope submitted his scheme to American and French ambassadors when they visited England. The United States Naval Observatory was established in Washington, D.C., and the first American time ball went into service in 1845.
Time balls were usually dropped at 1 p.m. (although in the United States they were dropped at noon). They were raised half way about 5 minutes earlier to alert the ships, then with 2–3 minutes to go they were raised the whole way. The time was recorded when the ball began descending, not when it reached the bottom.With the commencement of radio time signals (in Britain from 1924), time balls gradually became obsolete and many were demolished in the 1920s.
A contemporary version of the concept has been used since 31 December 1907 at New York City's Times Square as part of its New Year's Eve celebrations; at 11:59 p.m., a lit ball is lowered down a pole on the roof of One Times Square over the course of the sixty seconds ending at midnight. The spectacle was inspired by an organizer having seen the time ball on the Western Union Building in operation.
Over sixty time balls remain standing, though many are no longer operational. Existing time balls include:
Clearly seen from the river and aligned on the meridian for observation purposes, Building 20, also known as the Ball House, is the former observatory and time ball tower.
In March 1864 New Zealand's first time ball was established at Wellington. This was followed by Port Chalmers in June 1867, Wanganui in October 1874, Lyttelton in December 1876 and Timaru in 1888. Attempts were made by some people in Auckland to establish time balls there from 1864 onwards, but these were not recognized by the authorities until a permanent time ball was mounted on the Ferry Building in August 1901.
The Royal Observatory, Greenwich is an observatory situated on a hill in Greenwich Park in south east London, overlooking the River Thames to the north. It played a major role in the history of astronomy and navigation, and because the Prime Meridian passes through it, it gave its name to Greenwich Mean Time, the precursor to today's Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). The ROG has the IAU observatory code of 000, the first in the list. ROG, the National Maritime Museum, the Queen's House and the clipper ship Cutty Sark are collectively designated Royal Museums Greenwich.
A time signal is a visible, audible, mechanical, or electronic signal used as a reference to determine the time of day.
Standard time is the synchronization of clocks within a geographical region to a single time standard, rather than a local mean time standard. Generally, standard time agrees with the local mean time at some meridian that passes through the region, often near the centre of the region. Historically, standard time was established during the 19th century to aid weather forecasting and train travel. Applied globally in the 20th century, the geographical regions became time zones. The standard time in each time zone has come to be defined as an offset from Universal Time. A further offset is applied for part of the year in regions with daylight saving time.
Lyttelton is a port town on the north shore of Lyttelton Harbour / Whakaraupō, at the northwestern end of Banks Peninsula and close to Christchurch, on the eastern coast of the South Island of New Zealand.
William Henry Clayton was a Tasmanian-born colonial architect who practised initially in Tasmania and then in New Zealand. He was New Zealand's first Colonial Architect, serving in the position from 1869 up until his death. In this role, he and his office were responsible for the design of numerous government buildings.
The Deal Timeball is a Victorian maritime Greenwich Mean Time signal located on the roof of a waterfront four-storey tower in the coastal town of Deal, in Kent, England. It was established in 1855 by the Astronomer Royal George Biddell Airy in collaboration with Charles V. Walker, superintendent of telegraphs for the South Eastern Railway Company. It was built by the Lambeth firm of engineers Maudslay and Field. The time ball, which, like the Greenwich time ball, fell at 1 pm precisely, and was triggered by an electric signal directly from the Royal Observatory.
Lyttelton Harbour / Whakaraupō is a major inlet on the northwest side of Banks Peninsula, on the coast of Canterbury, New Zealand; the other major inlet is Akaroa Harbour, which enters from the southern side of the peninsula. Whakaraupō enters from the northern coast of the peninsula, heading in a predominantly westerly direction for approximately 15 km (9.3 mi) from its mouth to the aptly-named Head of the Bay near Teddington. The harbour sits in an eroded caldera of the ancient Banks Peninsula Volcano, the steep sides of which form the Port Hills on its northern shore.
The Williamstown Lighthouse more commonly known as the Williamstown Timeball Tower, is situated at Point Gellibrand, in the Melbourne suburb of Williamstown.
The Shepherd Gate Clock is mounted on the wall outside the gate of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich building in Greenwich, Greater London. The clock, an early example of an electrically connected clock system, was a sympathetic clock mechanism controlled by electric pulses transmitted by a motor clock inside the main building. The network of 'sympathetic clocks' was constructed and installed by Charles Shepherd in 1852. The clock by the gate was probably the first to display Greenwich Mean Time to the public, and is unusual in using the 24-hour analog dial. Also, it originally showed astronomical time which started at 12 noon, not midnight.
Robert Wauchope (1788–1862) was a British admiral in the Royal Navy, and the inventor of the time ball.
Upper Hutt railway station is a suburban railway station serving central Upper Hutt, New Zealand. The station is on the Wairarapa Line, 32.4 km (20.1 mi) north of Wellington, and is served by Transdev Wellington on behalf of the Greater Wellington Regional Council. The station is the northern terminus for the electrified Hutt Valley Line to and from Wellington. The diesel-hauled Wairarapa Connection stops at Upper Hutt on its route between Wellington and Masterton.
The Clock Tower is a free-standing clock tower in the centre of Brighton, part of the English city of Brighton and Hove. Built in 1888 in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the distinctive structure included innovative structural features and became a landmark in the popular and fashionable seaside resort. The city's residents "retain a nostalgic affection" for it, even though opinion is sharply divided as to the tower's architectural merit. English Heritage has listed the clock tower at Grade II for its architectural and historical importance.
A major earthquake occurred in Christchurch on Tuesday 22 February 2011 at 12:51 p.m. local time. The Mw6.2 earthquake struck the Canterbury region in the South Island, centred 6.7 kilometres (4.2 mi) south-east of the central business district. It caused widespread damage across Christchurch, killing 185 people, in New Zealand's fifth-deadliest disaster.
The Lyttelton Timeball Station is a heritage-registered time ball station and prominent local landmark in Lyttelton, New Zealand. The original station was significantly damaged by a series of earthquakes and aftershocks in 2010 and 2011, and finally collapsed on 13 June 2011 after a magnitude 6.4 aftershock. The tower was subsequently reconstructed, reopening in November 2018.
The Chief Post Office or Christchurch Central Post Office, originally known as the Government Buildings, is located in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, New Zealand. The building was initially a post office with Immigration, Customs and Public Works departments. The Government Buildings were later replaced by the new Government Buildings opened in 1913, and the Chief Post Office remained on-site. In 1881, New Zealand’s first telephone exchange was installed in the building. Post services were offered from the building until 2000 when it was re-purposed to house a Christchurch tourist information centre and a restaurant, café and offices. Following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake the building closed. In the early 2020s repairs and strengthening took place. The building is planned to reopen in 2023 in stages, and will eventually include a restaurant, shops, and a visitor information centre, under the name "The Grand". The structure is registered with Heritage New Zealand as a Category I heritage building.
UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards are given with as the strategic purpose of UNESCO with in the region Asia Pacific. The objective is to motivate the protection of Cultural Heritage sites, which are initiated by any individual organization under private sector or institutional organization.
Nottingham Exchange was built in the Market Place in Nottingham between 1724 and 1726 as the main offices of the Nottingham Corporation.
Stephen James Carkeek was a New Zealand civil servant, the colony's first Inspector of Customs, and the builder of the oldest-surviving observatory in the country.
The Port Chalmers time ball is a Victorian maritime Greenwich Mean Time signal located on Aurora Terrace on top of Observation Point in the port of Port Chalmers, New Zealand. It was established in 1867 by the Otago Provincial Council. The time ball fell precisely at 1 p.m. daily. Originally triggered by a grandfather clock, from 1882 onwards a telegraph signal from Wellington took over this function. It was removed in 1970, but a replacement was restored to service in 2020.
The ball is one of just a few nationally and is the only maritime timepiece on a municipal building. It dates back to 1918 and is the highest in the UK.