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Sunday, 10 September 2017

Prismatic Reflection

    Back in the late 1980’s the ‘first cut’ of ‘The Chimes of Big Ben,’ described as the ‘Lost Episode’ had been discovered and was given the title of ‘Alternative’ which I suppose is right enough being one of two or more available possibilities. But nevertheless it’s a term which I have never particularly taken to.
    One scene from the first cut of ‘The Chimes of Big Ben’ which was not used in the transmission version, sees Number 6 outside his cottage just before curfew. He has a notebook and pencil and is using a curious wooden device, which he has made himself, the device is called a Triquetrum. Number 6 is trying to ascertain the whereabouts of the village by taking a series of astronomical bearings.
      “The triquetrum, a makeshift Greek device for discovering one’s whereabouts, not one hundred percent accurate, but on the other hand not too bad.”
   In his rather flippant way of describing the Triquetrum Number 6 got it spot on, save for the possibility of using it to discover the whereabouts of The Village.                                                                                                           
      The Triquetrum or three staff is an ancient Greek astronomical instrument developed by Claudius Ptolemaeus {Ptolemy in English} in the 2nd century A.D.   Ptolemy was an ancient Greek geographer, astronomer and astrologer who probably lived and worked in Alexandria in Egypt. The Triquetrum comprised of two intersecting struts hinged to a vertical post which enabled calculation of the angular elevation of a heavenly body observed through a sight mounted on the upper arm.
     Could Number 6 have used his own homemade Triquetrum to ascertain the whereabouts of The Village? I would appear that Number 6 had the rudimentary knowledge of astronomy in order to make the astrological calculations. He could at least discover in which hemisphere. The Village was by the position of the stars. He had the knowledge of nautical navigational experience as demonstrated by his schoolboy log written on the back of The Tally Ho during his sea voyage in ‘Many Happy Returns,’ and of  course he navigated his way back to The Village in the same episode. The thing about Number 6 is, he has knowledge which the ordinary man in the street does not. After all how many of us had even heard of a Triquetrum before we watched the first cut of ‘The Chimes of Big Ben?’
    In his notebook Number 6 had written a star chart. In the upper left hand corner Number 6 had circled the number 1754 which could be the 24-hour designation for
5.45pm, the time of his observations. If that is the case then we can reasonably assume this episode ‘The Chimes of Big Ben’ does not take place in midsummer when it would be too light at that time of the day to observe the stars. If the sketch is truly meant to be Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, then it’s a pretty bad one, for there are three critical stars missing and also the handle of the ‘The Plough’ is pointing in the wrong direction. It could be that Number 6 simply did not get around to notating the other stars, although he did
manage to jot down the stars to the right of Ursa Major, yet curiously there are misspellings of Ursa Minus and Ursa Magor, perhaps he was on drugs at the time! As for VI I have no idea what that is, save for Roman numerals for 6! Then comes the range of numbers and degrees at the bottom of the page of Number 6’s notes. 
21/48 | RA{Deg}|30
21/60 | 50 {End} | 55-15
    It appears after some in-depth research that there are not enough numbers for it to be a calculation. Possibly they are partial copies of two rows of almanac data, copied to be used as aids to making observations and computations perhaps. Whatever the above figures are meant to represent one thing is clear, Number 6 could have used the Triquetrum to determine his latitude. First he would have had to determine the hemisphere he was in – North Or South. This could be done by simply looking up, if he saw the Southern Cross he was in the Southern Hemisphere. However if he saw Ursa major, he was in the North Hemisphere. As Number 6’s star chart shows both Ursa Major and Ursa Minor then the star to the left of VI was most probably Polaris, and here we have the key to determining latitude. Once he had sighted Polaris, he would have aimed his Triquetrum at it and read off the angle of elevation, and that would roughly have given Number 6 his latitude. As for longitude, well there are two basic methods in determining longitude. With the astronomical method Number 6 would need to find longitude by the predicted time of an astronomical event, such as an eclipse, with the predicted time for a particular meridian, Greenwich Mean time for example. The mechanical method requires a chronometer. What is important however is that it is not possible to determine longitude without either an almanac, astronomical or nautical tables, or an accurate watch and a reference meridian. It is possible for a certain amount of guess work which Number 6 could indulge in. For example if he knew that he was at approximately 50 deg. N latitude, the climate of The Village might give him some answers. A moderate climate say would indicate that he was near the Gulf Stream. Longitude he could never determine successfully because he had not the tables or time reference to do so, and they could not exactly be purchased from the general store!
   The question remains, having made the Triquetrum would Number 6 be able to use the device in the open air without being observed by an Observer? Well I don’t see why not, after all the Observers don’t see half the things Number 6 gets up to! And besides that’s perhaps where Number 2’s ingenuity comes in. The fact that he probably already knew that Number 6 could not determine the whereabouts of The Village by employing this makeshift device, and hadn’t all the necessary resources he needed to do so. Also could Number 6 be absolutely certain of the date and time? To do so he would have had to have been keeping a calendar from the moment he arrived in The Village, and trust that his wristwatch had not been tampered with. Because what is there in The Village to confirm or disconfirm both the date and time? The only indicator as to the date is the day-date calendars in Number 6’s cottage Wednesday February 10th, as well as the date on The Tally Ho broadsheet Feb 10th.

Be seeing you

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