Ships, Clocks & Stars:

The Quest for Longitude

Ships, Clocks and Stars: The Quest for Longitude

Discover the extraordinary story of the race to determine longitude at sea

  • 5 May–30 October 2016

    Discover the extraordinary nautical instruments that led to maritime history’s greatest scientific breakthrough.

    For hundreds of years, European merchants staked their fortunes on long-distance voyages. Travel at sea was dangerous and safe passage relied on fair weather and effective navigation. Unlike on land, the sea has no fixed points to help seamen determine their position. This could lead to unnecessarily long voyages or the loss of ships, cargo and life.

    Travelling from the National Maritime Museum, London, this award-winning exhibition tells the story of the search for better ways of navigating by finding longitude – distance east and west. It was a problem that had frustrated the greatest minds since the late 1400s. Three hundred years ago the first Longitude Act offered life-changing rewards for workable solutions. Eventually two emerged – using clocks and stars – which cracked the longitude problem and helped re-shape our understanding of the world.

    Acclaim for Ships, Clocks & Stars

    ‘The display is often breathtakingly beautiful: early instruments of sculptural beauty, brass shining through the dimness, revered original documents, arching glass globes and artful video displays.’

    – Libby Purves, The Times

    Ticket Information

    Open daily, 9.30am–5pm, from 5 May 2016

    See our Admissions page for full price information and to book your tickets. Our Plan Your Visit page has everything you need to know about a trip to the museum.

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    Buy the book

    Finding Longitude book cover 

    This beautifully illustrated book is the official publication of the exhibition and unravels in detail the stories behind how the longitude problem was solved. Buy the book >> 

    Exhibition producer

    Royal Museums Greenwich logo

    Exhibition produced by the National Maritime Museum, London

    Exhibition Supporters
    Principal sponsor

    United Technologies Corporation Logo

    Media sponsor

    Foxtel History channel logo

    Catering sponsor

    Laissez-faire catering logo

    Australian Government International Exhibitions Insurance Program logo

    Ships, Clocks and Stars was supported by the Australian Government International Exhibitions Insurance (AGIEI) Program. This program provides funding for the purchase of insurance for significant cultural exhibitions. Without AGIEI, the high cost of insuring significant cultural items would prohibit this major exhibition from touring to Australia.

    Marine keeper H4, 1759. ®National Maritime Museum, LondonMariner's compass, Johnathan Eade, circa 1750. ® National Maritime Museum, LondonSully 'C'. ® National Maritime Museum, LondonTerrella, ca.1600. ® National Maritime Museum, London