3 bells and all's well

before clocks how did sailors know the time to be able to shout out throughout the night, 1bell and all's well, 2 bells etc etc
13:42 Tue 21st Aug 2012
 
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if the hourglass didn't work they could count: one elephant, two elephant...
In fact a lot of the time they would be simply guessing. The real purpose of the watchman calling out was to provide reassurance rather than any precise notion of the hour - they would like any human be losing concentration, not noticing when hourglasses ran out etc. In the early pre-railway days of the industrial revolution, when more precise timekeeping became desired, visual and auditory prompts were still relied on rather than seeing the dial of a clock - many clocks in mills or farm estates chimed, but did not have (expensive) faces with figures on them - other mechanisms included a chime combined with a ball on a flagpole, that climbed the pole gradually to midday then dropped.
The railways changed everything because they needed precise universal time to avoid terrible high-speed accidents.
Sailors didn't call our 'All's well' That was done by the street watchmen in towns and cities.

Ships' bells were chimed according to the the six four hour watches in a day, the Middle Watch (Midnight - 4am) Morning Watch (4am-8am) Forenoon Watch (8am-12 noon) Afternoon Watch ( 12 noon-4pm) Dog Watches ( 4-6, 6-8pm) the First Watch, (8pm-Midnight).

1-bell indicated the first half hour of the watch, ie 12.30am, 2 bells = 1am, 3 bells = 1.30am and so on to eight bells signifying the end of the Watch.

Calculations were done at sea by the sun and then by timepieces of one sort or another.
On reflection, Zingo, mariners DID used to call out ' And all's well ' after sounding the watch bell, and that would have been in the days of hour glasses and wooden ships. My mistake.

D

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