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Octant

From the Collection of Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village 89 Merri Street Warrnambool Victoria

Description
Octant, once belonging to Captain Farquhar Chisholm. Wedge shape (the size of an eighth of a circle), made of wood, glass and metal. Used in the 1880s. Maker’s name across centre “L. SIMON - - - SHIELDS”. Three (3) light filtering, coloured glass shades. Two (2) eyepieces. Scale attached for measuring angles. Label inside the fitted, wedge-shaped case "Thomas L. Ainsley, Optician"
Size
L 32 x W 30.5 x D 7cm
Attached Files
Links
Object Registration
2432.04
Keywords
flagstaff hill, warrnambool, shipwrecked-coast, flagstaff-hill, flagstaff-hill-maritime-museum, maritime-museum, shipwreck-coast, flagstaff-hill-maritime-village, maritime navigation, navigation instrument, migration, captain chisholm, farquhar chisholm, sailing ship, the elizabeths, thomas l. ainsley, l. simons, shields england, octant, john hadley
Historical information
An Octant is a doubly reflecting navigation instrument used primarily by sailors to measure the angular distance between two visible objects and was a forerunner of the sextant. The name comes from the Latin octo, or “one-eighth of a circle,” for the Octants arc which spans 45°, or one-eighth of a circle. The primary use of an Octant is to measure the angle between an astronomical object and the horizon for the purposes of celestial navigation. The estimation of this angle, is known as sighting or shooting the object, or taking a sight. The angle, and the time when it was measured, can be used to calculate a position line on a nautical chart (latitude), for example, sighting the Sun at noon or Polaris at night (in the Northern Hemisphere) gives an angle by which the latitude can then be estimated. Sighting the height of a landmark on land can also give a measure of distance.

This fine octant once belonged to Captain Farquhar Chisholm and was donated by his granddaughter, Margaret Ruth Greer (nee Chisholm, born 1914). The label inside the Octants box reads “Thomas L. Ainsley, Instrument Maker … etc”.

Farquhar Chisholm was born in 1832 in Inverness, Scotland. He regularly sailed on perilous voyages between Quebec, Canada and the Baltic ports of Europe. In 1854 he migrated to Australia during the Gold Rush, to a place called Fiery Creek (near Beaufort Victoria) where he was fairly successful in his quest for gold. In the years of the Great Gold Rush it was said that there were over 40,000 diggers in the gold fields of the Beaufort area!

In 1857 having made sufficient money, he hired another crew and returned to Clachnacuddin, Inverness shire, Scotland and in that same year, he studied and obtained his Master Mariner Certificate (which would have included the use of an octant for navigation). He was appointed to Mr George (or James) Walker, as commander of his sailing ship, the 3-masted ELIZABETH, built 1859 and known as “The Walker barque”.

In 1870 he married, then in 1887 returned to Australia with his wife and children (Kenneth Chisholm (1871), Mary Bremner Chisholm (1873), Margaret Hood Chisholm (1874), Farquhar Chisholm (1878)). They arrived in Port Melbourne, Victoria and sadly, only six weeks after landing, his wife Caroline passed away (in Geelong,1888). In 1900 Capt. Chisholm lived in Camperdown (Victoria) and not long after this his daughter Margaret died of consumption.

In his later years, he went to live in the manse of St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, Wangaratta, with his son, Rev. Farquhar Chisholm. He died there on Sat, 23rd March 1912, 80 years old. He was known as “… quiet, unobtrusive and competent, respected by all with whom he came in contact”.

Some other members of Captain Chisholm’s family are; his older son Kenneth Chisholm, who was a contractor in Camperdown; a nephew Donald Macintosh (of 23 Douglas Row, Inverness); a grandson Brian Jones (son of Caroline Belle-Jones nee Chisholm, who lived in Camperdown in the earlier part of her life).
When Made
mid 1800's
Made By
Thomas L. Ainsley (Maker)
Significance
The octant, the forerunner of the sextant, was a significant step in providing accuracy of a sailors latitude position at sea & his vessels distance from land when taking sightings of land-based landmarks.
Inscriptions & Markings
Label inside case "Thomas L. Ainsley, Optician" Maker’s name across centre “L. SIMON - - - SHIELDS”.
Last updated
28 Aug 2019 at 6:19PM