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Time Ball Tower

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The Time Ball Tower was built in 1894 so that ships' captains could set their chronometers -- essential for accurate navigation -- and was restored in 1997.

The first time-ball in Cape Town stood on a wooden tower in the mid-19th century at the Royal  Observatory. With the development of the docks in the 1860’s this ball was no longer visible to ships in the harbour. The second time-ball was built on the slopes of Signal Hill. This was replaced by the current tower in 1894 and remained in use for 40 years.  In the period after that it was used as repeater station for harbour signals. The first time-ball in Cape Town stood on a wooden tower in the mid-19th century at the Royal  Observatory. With the development of the docks in the 1860’s this ball was no longer visible to ships in the harbour. The second time-ball was built on the slopes of Signal Hill. This was replaced by the current tower in 1894 and remained in use for 40 years.  In the period after that it was used as repeater station for harbour signals. The dropping of the ball is triggered electronically by the SA Astronomical Observatory.  The mechanical system was restored by UCT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The Time Ball Tower is not open to the public, although it can be viewed from outside.



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