Remarkable Sundials

On January 24, 2013 · 2 Comments

I’ve had a bit of a sundial fixation since stumbling across the dueling Dodge City railroad time zone sundials during Kansas Mountain Time. I don’t think I’ll reach a point where I’m compelled to compile a list and go out of my way to visit them (as I do with lighthouses, fortifications and breweries), however I’d probably take a look if I found myself in the vicinity of a particularly remarkable specimen.

There are people infinitely more interested in sundials, and I certainly understand their passion for an esoteric topic considering my similar tendencies related to other objects. I found a couple of organizations where like-minded individuals can share their discoveries and promote their hobby, the North American Sundial Society (mentioned in the earlier article) and the British Sundial Society. There are other societies in different parts of the world although I didn’t have an opportunity to visit their sites. I also learned a new word: Gnomon. It has nothing to do with gnomes. It’s the part of a sundial that casts a shadow.

The world’s largest sundial is probably in Jaipur, India. I won’t focus much attention on it because Google Sightseeing already discussed it. Feel free to check it out if you’re interested. I’ll wait until you come back.

Sundial Bridge



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I discovered a particularly elegant example in Redding, California. A bridge shaped in the manner of a sundial spans the Sacramento River, joining the north and south campuses of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park. The operative word is "shaped" like a sundial since it’s not actually functional. As the North American Sundial Society explains,

When is a bridge not a bridge? When it’s almost a sundial. The 217 foot high suspension span called Sundial Bridge wants to be a sundial, and has come very close. The suspension pylon is aligned true north, but unfortunately performs as an inaccurate gnomon with an inclination of 49 deg (for bridge functionality) rather than for the 40.6 deg latitude of the site.

If we moved the bridge due-north to make it functional, changing its location to 49° latitude without changing the longitude (map) it would serve a bridge between the United States and Canada at O Avenue, a spot mentioned previously in Big Zero. I love life’s little coincidences.


Carefree Sundial



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Maybe I just like the name. Carefree Sundial sounds, well, so very carefree. The dial is found in a town of the same name outside of Phoenix, Arizona. Carefree is one of those upscale planned communities that sprouted from the desert for the benefit of snowbirds and retirees in the 1950’s. Residents live along Nonchalant Avenue, Never Mind Trail, Happy Hollow Drive, Lazy Lane, Dream Street, Ho Road, Hum Road, and Ho Hum Drive.

A shopping center within the development includes a large sundial centerpiece to accent a partial roundabout. From the North American Sundial Society, again:

A 90 ft. diameter horizontal dial with a large reflecting pool beneath the gnomon designed by John Yellott. The hour markers are 4 ft. diameter concrete circles. The dial is designed to show solar time corrected for the time zone offset. Thus the hour markers have been moved ahead of the solar time position. The hour lines are separated by alternating dark and light colored stones. The gnomon itself is 4 ft. wide, 62 ft. long and the tip is 35 ft. high. A pilot dial at a scale of 1/4 in. = 1ft. is at the South end of the large dial. It is constructed of gold-anodized aluminum with time lines at 10 minute intervals.

Actually Carefree seems a bit schizophrenic. Other roads within the community include Bloody Basin Road, Long Rifle Road and Sidewinder Road. Imagine living at the corner of Nonchalant and Bloody Basin (like this guy). It’s an odd juxtaposition.


Falcon Square Sundial



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I found this beauty listed as a Dial of the Month by the British Sundial Society. This is Falcon Square in Inverness, Scotland.

Four scaphe dials are located around the base of a 27-foot Mercat Cross in Falcon Square, Inverness. The obelisk is topped by a bronze unicorn, and decorated with four flying falcons. The dials are robustly designed by Emma Lavender, and show BST with declination lines marked by their zodiac symbols.

Got that? The small sundials are located on the base. I enjoyed the unicorn even more, though. It’s not everyday that one has an opportunity to view a unicorn high atop a column unless one lives in Scotland, where the royal unicorn is a symbol of the Scottish monarchy. We need more unicorn sundials.


Museum Puspa Iptek Bandung, Indonesia



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This single object explains why the vast preponderance of 12MC content focuses on English-speaking locations. It’s not because I don’t care about the rest of the world because I most certainly do, it’s because my comprehension of any language other than English falls terribly short of any level of usefulness. Google offered a very tantalizing option: thebiggestsundial.com only to lead me to a site written primarily in an Indonesian language. "The biggest sundial" seemed really specific and sounded like it was going to be English-friendly. I could recognize only a couple of words: "Sundial (Jam Matahari) adalah seperangkat alat yang digunakan sebagai petunjuk waktu semu lokal (local apparent time) dengan memanfaatkan MATAHARI yang menghasilkan bayang-bayang sebuah gnomon (batang atau lempengan yang bayang-bayangnya digunakan sebagai petunjuk waktu)."

Let me see: sundial… local apparent time… gnomon… and it went downhill from there.

Google Translate helped with basic meanings. It was still ridiculously difficult to uncover the actual location of the sundial. Eventually I found it but only because several visitors had posted on foursquare. The sundial was incorporated into the design of a building that houses the Puspa Iptek museum, a facility that focuses on science and technology.


Best Product I’ve Seen in a Long Time

I wish, I so wish I lived on the 51st latitude, north. Then I could purchase the Sundial Glass. I could combine my neurotic fixation on punctuality with my abundant appreciation of craft beers into one convenient package.

It’s an over-sized pint glass. It’s a sundial. It actually tells time! Unfortunately it was designed for Brighton, England although the website does explain that it will work anywhere along the same basic latitude. Kyle, the Basement Geographer, in British Columbia might be able to use it. Me? I’m out of luck until someone invents one for 39° north.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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