Sunday, 25 February 2007

More of my Melbourne

The only advantage of being driven out of your house by a proctologist's waiting room full of arseholes noisy neighbours is that you're inclined to go somewhere and do something at a time that might otherwise be wasted on getting a decent night's sleep.

I thought about going to Queenscliff to take some photographs of those splendid hotels that had been built as coffee palaces but decided that it was too big a drive when I hadn't slept properly. (It's only about 90 minutes from home but I didn't fancy it.) So I went to Williamstown instead, which is only a 15 minute drive.

Of course, I hadn't thought this through. (I rarely do.) Williamstown was packed. True, it's always popular on Sunday mornings but today it experienced an alignment of events. Apart from the usual breakfasters, joggers and amblers, there was a bicycle tour, a market and a jet boat race. As everyone was far too lively and social, I headed for the café-free part of town—Point Gellibrand, which was the site of the first permanent European settlement in Victoria.

The Point Gellibrand time ball tower started life in 1840 as a lighthouse. The original wooden structure was replaced by the bluestone (basalt) tower in 1849 but this new building only functioned as a lighthouse for a decade. In 1859, a lightship took over the role.

The Point Gellibrand time ball was moved from the nearby telegraph station to the disused lighthouse soon after. It marked time for maritime traffic for almost 70 years. Then, superseded by more advanced technology, the time ball was dismantled and the tower returned to its original use as a lighthouse. A circular brick extension added nothing to its aesthetics but made the light visible against the expanding city backdrop.

Following the decommissioning of the lighthouse in 1987, local community groups restored the mechanism and replaced the time ball.

Point Gellibrand was under threat of development but is now a park. It's a good spot for watching ships and seabirds and for musing. I would have stayed there longer but people were setting up banks of loudspeakers for the jet boat race. Out of the frying pan ...



What exactly was a time ball & how did it show the time if that's what it did?

Snail said...

The ball was lowered at the same time each day, so ships' masters could adjust their chronometers.

It's one of several different time signals used then. At some places, instead of a visual signal there might have been a noonday gun.