"A time-check at the Timeball Station" Top 5 Page for this destination Lyttelton Things to Do Tip by Kakapo2
Lyttelton Things to Do: 42 reviews and 73 photos
Update April 2011
Unfortunately the just renovated Timeball Station has been terribly damaged in the 22 February earthquake. It is going to be dismantled, and then we will have to wait and see what happens - and if it will be restored at all at some point.
In pre-radio times it was essential to have visual signals for communication between ships and ports. For this reason we have the wonderfully restored Timeball Station which has become Lyttelton's landmark building with its castle-like shape and the big flag pole some metres beside, both sitting dramatically over the harbour on a cliff. Plus, it is one of the few timeball stations worldwide which are still in working order, and the only one that has survived in NZ.
Daily from 1876-1934, the dropping of the Lyttelton timeball signalled Greenwich time to shipping in the harbour. This enabled navigators to check their chronometers and so calculate accurately their position of longitude once back at sea.
The machinery and the astronomical clock are from Britain, the timeball comes from Germany, from the famous Siemens Brothers. The building was designed by a Canterbury architect named Thomas Cane - and my husband's father was involved in the restoration in the 1970s :-) It was built in local scoria and quoins of white Oamaru stone - and was obviously one of the first infamous NZ leaking homes ;-) They were busy adding parts over many years and putting concrete on the walls to make the station weather-proof.
From the end of World War I the signal was dropped less frequently as radio communications were increasing. On 31 dec 1934 the service stopped. The Timeball Station was used for other purposes. In 1969 it was leased to the Lyttelton Maritime Association which started to restore it. In 1978 the station reopened.
The timeball is dropped at 1pm on days when the station is open.
The flags, which predated the Timeball Station, were used on the flagstaff nearby to signal to ships and to communicate shipping advice to the town. Today they are on the pole on special occasions to welcome visitors.
1 Nov-30 Apr: daily 10am - 5.30pm
1 May - 31 Oct: Wed-Sun 10am-5.30pm
Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
Admission (as Feb. 2007) $7, children/students $2, families $15.
Address: 2 Reserve Terrace, Lyttelton
Directions: From London St (main street) cross Oxford St. London St continues uphill as Sumner Rd (Sumner is signposted), left turn to the Timeball Station is indicated.
Phone: (03) 328 7311
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