U.S. CitiesCity-Data Forum Index
Go Back   City-Data Forum > U.S. Forums > Maine
Please register to participate in our discussions with 2 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
View detailed profile (Advanced) or search
site with Google Custom Search

Search Forums  (Advanced)
Reply Start New Thread
Old 01-06-2008, 05:38 PM
2,519 posts, read 4,930,862 times
Reputation: 4251



I always wondered about this as well! Thanks for the link!

I hope that you had a wonderful Holiday Season!



Originally Posted by quiet walker View Post
A little obscure information for the group. I hope its' not too OT as it is based in Yankee injenuity. I used to travel to Groton CT frequently for work. And I always thought the nearby places like the Mystic Seaport Museum were nothing but tourist traps. But I actually went to the Groton Mystic area for a vacation once, and thought to visit the Museum, thinking I wouldn't be there long.

WRONG... This is one of the most interesting and fascinating places ever. I spent all day there. There is a display there about the construction of wooden ships. In modern terms, they are a system. There is the keel, the heart of the structure and load bearing. Upon which are set the masts, which bear both great weight and also the sails' driving force upon the ship. And then there are hull frames. I used to think that these were only to provide the ship hull shape, but they are actually designed to distribute the structure loads and strengths throughout the hull. And then there is more, most fascinating to this navy engineer. But I digress...

The museum is laid out as a maritime town with all the services one might have found in a wooden ship fishing/whaling era. There is a sailmaker shop, a cooperage (for whaler's oil) and so on, and much more. I wandered into the instrument shop and found an answer to a very old question that I had since I was a kid.

Don't know why, but when I was a little kid, I wondered why a ball droping down a pole for New Years?! It seemed stupid. But during the two hours I spent in the shop I learned a story... In Boston Harbor there was a gun fired every day at noon so that all the ships there could syncrhonize their time pieces. But as Boston Harbor grew and the time dependant navigation became more precise, the cannon boom became less reliable. Those ships farther away from the cannon could hear the sound almost two seconds later than it had been fired, and this became a problem for modern navigation based on precise timing. Someone came up with the idea to have a large red ball on a pole, on top of the tallest building on the tallest point of land on the harbor. The ball could move up and down the pole and as a visual signal it was dropped every day at noon instead of the cannon boom. The red ball dropping could be seen throughout the harbor, and seen by everyone at the speed of light, must faster than the speed of sound like the cannon. The ball dropping became the standard.

Now I don't know what they did on foggy days, but clearly, they must have worked something out. And I think that perhaps the ball dropping may have been the inspiration for the New Years Eve tradition in Times Square. And also was the answer for this question that bugged me since I was a little kid.

Happy New Years and Happy 2008 Everyone!

Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea™ : Home
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message

Old 01-06-2008, 11:32 PM
52 posts, read 146,087 times
Reputation: 40
It appears you are correct about the origin.

"The actual notion of a ball "dropping" to signal the passage of time dates back long before New Year's Eve was ever celebrated in Times Square. The first "time-ball" was installed atop England's Royal Observatory at Greenwich in 1833. This ball would drop at one o'clock every afternoon, allowing the captains of nearby ships to precisely set their chronometers (a vital navigational instrument).
Around 150 public time-balls are believed to have been installed around the world after the success at Greenwich, though few survive and still work. The tradition is carried on today in places like the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, DC, where a time-ball descends from a flagpole at noon each day - and of course, once a year in Times Square, where it marks the stroke of midnight not for a few ships' captains, but for over one billion people watching worldwide."

Times Square Alliance - New Year's Eve - About The Ball (http://www.timessquarenyc.org/nye/nye_ball.html - broken link)
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 01-06-2008, 11:52 PM
Location: Maryland not Murlin
8,185 posts, read 21,745,007 times
Reputation: 6116
Originally Posted by forest beekeeper View Post
Dick Clark was there, he sounded terrible but he was there.
So the guy keeps going, huh. This was the first year in what seems like many that I was actually awake for the occasion. Of course I had other things to do besides watch the telly.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $68,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.

Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.

Please update this thread with any new information or opinions. This open thread is still read by thousands of people, so we encourage all additional points of view.

Quick Reply

Over $104,000 in prizes was already given out to active posters on our forum and additional giveaways are planned!

Go Back   City-Data Forum > U.S. Forums > Maine
Similar Threads
View detailed profiles of:
Follow City-Data.com founder on our Forum or

All times are GMT -6.

© 2005-2018, Advameg, Inc.

City-Data.com - Archive 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 - Top