Two events at Chilean National Maritime Museum

1:  Permanent exhibition opens featuring large naval ship model

In the last days of 2015, in front of a very large audience of naval, civilian and cultural authorities, a permanent exhibition hall was inaugurated in the Chilean National Maritime Museum, Valparaiso to tell the story of Armored Admiral Latorre, the biggest battleship in the Chilean National Fleet from 1920 to 1958.

The ceremony was headed by the Naval Commander in Chief, Admiral Enrique Larrañaga. Also in attendance were the Naval High Command and some authorities of the cultural circles in Valparaíso. There also were some historians, writers and also several of the ship’s ex-crewmembers.

The modelmaker, Alfredo Urrutia, the Chilean Commander in Chief, Admiral Enrique Larranaga Martin, Mr Luis Cambiaso one of the donors, and the Director of the National Maritime Museum, CA IM (R), Mr Cristian del Real

The new exhibition hall features a very large model, the biggest in South America, of the ship, built to a scale of 1:20. The model is 9.5m (31 feet) long, and occupies the entire centre of the hall. The model is complemented by pictures of the ship and crew, as well as some objects from the ship, all of which tell her history. It began with the battle of Jutland in 1916, during the First World War, when the ship’s name was HMS Canada, sailing under the British flag. The exhibition tells of the hundreds of officers and crew who brought the ship to life on her incorporation into the Chilean Navy. Her armament included 14 inch guns, capable of firing a 720 kilo shell almost 23 kilometres.

The model of Armored Admiral Latorre is made of iron, resins, wood and plastic, and was built by the Naval modelmaker Alfredo Urrutia Martínez. The project was developed thanks to the support of donations through the Mar de Chile Foundation and thanks to the contributions of several enterprises, including Terminal Cerros de Valparaíso S.A., Tarpulin, and Raylex y Continental Global Logistics. Personal donors included José Avayú, Mauricio Sanzana, and Gonzalo Martin y Juan Mas. 

The support of commercial and personal donors made the project possible and will reinforce Chilean maritime culture and the importance of naval history through this important ship which remained on duty with the Chilean Navy for 38 years. 

2:  ‘Time Ball from Valparaiso’ recovery project

In a formal ceremony celebrated just before Christmas 2015, the Chilean Maritime Heritage Corporation (COPAMACH) officially handed over to the Chilean Navy, the Heritage Recovery Project Time Ball from Valparaíso. A visual time correction device used in the main ports of the world around the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The time ball was mounted above the ex-Naval Academy building, which is now the National Maritime Museum, in Valparaíso.

The 'new' Time Ball atop the Maritime Museum

The Time Ball Project involved the building of an operating reproduction of the original artefact, built to scale. It was developed thanks to grant funds given by the Arts and Culture National Council, with additional donations and the economical help of the Banco de Crédito e Inversiones, Puerto Valparaíso Enterprise, Terminal Pacífico Sur, Cambiaso Hermanos, Cultural and Educational Foundation ‘Arturo Prat’, and the personal contribution of Mr Mauricio Sanzana.

The President of the Maritime Heritage Corporation of Chile, Admiral Rodolfo Codina Díaz, officially handed over the finished Project to Rear Admiral Arturo Undurraga Díaz, Commander in Chief of Chile’s First Naval Zone,.

The Project involved exhaustive research, design, engineering and installation of the time ball. It is hoped the signal will bring back the ancient custom of ships in Valparaiso Bay synchronizing their clocks at 12:00 noon. 

A number of dignatories were involved in the official hand over of the Project including the Mayor of Valparaiso, Mr Jorge Castro; the Regional Director of the Regional Council for Culture and the Arts, Ms Nélida Pozo; the President of the Maritime Heritage Corporation of Chile, Admiral Rodolfo Codina; the Director of the National Maritime Museum, Rear Admiral IM Cristian del Real; senior executives from donating companies, directors of the Maritime Heritage Corporation of Chile and special guests. All were able to observe the arrival of noon with the elevation of the time ball and its subsequent drop, a process that extends in total for approximately five minutes.

During the hand over occasion, the Director of the National Maritime Museum said, "This is a huge gift for the Museum, to close the Centenary Year, because we recover a very important instrument that existed in the 19th century in this same building. We are re-installthe time ball thanks to the initiative of Mr Camilo Cruz, an industrial designer, who saw existing time balls on a trip to Europe and brought the idea to the Museum.

“At the beginning of the project there were only traces of the time ball structure in the roof of the building. We used those remains, but all the rest had to be redesigned, which involved technical studies of architecture, in order to establish a mechanical, automated system. 

“Now, by simply pressing a button, the entire process starts working. The ball begins in its final rest position. It then rises up to the centre point of the shaft where it stops for 2 minutes. The reason for this is so that ships in the Bay could prepare their instruments; then the ball rises to the top of the shaft, and stops again for a minute more. Those in the ships would have their binoculars trained on the time ball, ready to set their chronometers when, finally, at 12 noon precisely, the ball falls to its rest position.”

The project involves a reproduction of the time ball signal that operated in Valparaiso between 1894 and 1920. It was a structure of 10m high, a weathervane at the top and a ball two meters in diameter. The design is similar to time balls which could be found in the ports of Deal in Kent, UK; Fremantle in Western Australia; Point Gellibrand in Port Phillip, Melb0urne, and also in Sydney, Australia; Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa; and Gdansk in Poland. Research for the project revealed about sixty time balls which are kept in various degrees of preservation and, just a few, which are still operating.