Clock Hunting in Bermuda

 

Bermuda is the only atoll in the North Atlantic and is 630 miles from the nearest land, which is the east coast of the United States. It is composed of about 130 small islands. It is the result of a volcanic eruption some 100,000 years ago along the mid-Atlantic ridge, and has subsequently migrated westwards at about the same rate as the United States. Changes in sea level are responsible for erosion of the top of the volcano allowing the growth of corals and other marine life. Eolean dune formation followed which is now seen as a hard and soft limestone due to the action of rainwater. The climate, which is under the influence of the Gulf Stream, is hot and humid in the summer and the air is laden with salt. This makes a corrosive mixture which rapidly rusts wrought iron and steel though cast iron survives better. Brass also corrodes rapidly. The Island is about 22 miles long and about a mile and a half at its widest.

View from the Commissioner's House in the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda

 

I was invited to make a survey of the clocks on the island by the Executive Director of the National Museum of Bermuda, Dr Edward Harris, MBE, JP, FSA. The trip also involved the overhaul of a turret clock by John Moore and Sons, which used to reside in the clock tower of the Great Eastern Storehouse in the Royal Naval Dockyard, but now is in the Maritime Museum. The movement has a ting-tang chime and strikes the hour. It has Moore's deadbeat escapement and is dated 1856. Four other turret clocks were found on the Island including the early wrought iron clock with a birdcage movement in the Whitney Insitute, a Gillett and Johnston movement with gravity escapement, one by Benson and one by Thwaites and Co, (now Thwaites and Reed). A number of privately owned longcase and bracket clocks were also recorded.

 

The intention is to restore all of the clocks to working order and ensure that they are protected from the harsh environment. It is also intended to make a survey of clocks on the Island and to keep a record of them at the Museum. This is just a brief introduction to the clocks on the Island. A full account of the trip appears in the June and July  2007 issues of Horological Journal.

The Great Eastern Storehouse which is now a shopping mall.  The clock has four dials and was electrfied in the 1980s.  The right-hand tower houses a tidal dial which used to be manually operated, but was subsequently converted to electric.  The mechanism is now defunct and totally out-of-date.

The original John Moore clock movement now on public display in the Maritime Museum.

Restoring the dial of the renovated John Moore turret clock in the Maritime Museum.

The clock tower of the Whitney Institute..

Birdcage movement of the turret clock in the Whitney Institute.

Within the Maritime Museum, there is a Dolphin Quest where one can swim with the dolphins which are really beautiful creatures, and highly intelligent. The young one you see here was born in Bermuda and is happily flicking the medicine ball with his tail and then catching it in his mouth - he never missed! There are, of course, fantastic beaches, and it is a haven for all forms of water sports and diving on the many very early shipwrecks. Need I say any more about sunsets - the Island is so far from land that the clarity of the air is noticeable and there were no two sunsets alike.

Dolphin Quest

Just one of the many quiet bays - this one is Horseshoe Bay

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