Monday, October 18, 2010

Barnacle-covered 300-year-old pocket watch

Via Make
...comes this amazing video of an x-ray trip through a barnacle-encrusted lump from a 17th century shipwreck. It reveals the workings of a very sophisticated, gorgeous watchwork mechanism inside. The researchers (from National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh) who used this x-ray technology are excited about the prospects of using it on future, similarly encrusted underwater finds.
Via Nature:

The watch was found on a wreck believed to be the Swan — a small warship that sank off the west coast of Scotland during the English Civil War. She formed part of Oliver Cromwell's forces that attacked the Royalist stronghold of Duart Castle in Mull, UK, but succumbed to a violent gale on 13 September 1653.

The resulting reconstruction of the watch shows plenty of decorative touches and exquisite attention to detail. The top and bottom plates are held together by square-section Egyptian tapered pillars, first used around 1640. Other parts of the mechanism are engraved with a floral design. The clockface itself is marked in Roman numerals with what appears to be a fleur de lys on each half-hour, and an English rose in the centre.

The researchers even found the maker's name. An engraving on the watch's top plate reads "Niccholas Higginson of Wesminster". Clockmakers' directories attest that Higginson was making watches in Chancery Lane and in Westminster, London, in the years before the Swan went down.

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