Welcome to the web site of Nicolàs de Hilster, PhD
I am a hydrographic surveyor by education and the founding owner of a company in specialised measurements in the hydrographic and geodetic field. Main field of work are offset surveys and calibrations of hydrographic survey, offshore and naval vessels. In addition I give courses and training related to surveying and the instruments involved and am lecturing at the Cat A bachelor hydrography course at the Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz on the isle of Terschelling, the Netherlands, since 2007.
In my private life I am a collector and independent researcher of nautical and geodetic instruments. The main focus of my research lies on instruments used for latitude determination at sea from Thomas Harriot to John Hadley and their contemporaries. Part of my research is creating reconstructions and replicas of the instruments and to use them in the field for a better understanding of their capabilities. On 9 May 2018 I graduated on the topic. In addition to that I am interested in geodetic instruments and their development from Martin Waldseemüller to Heinrich Wild and their contemporaries.
Apart from being a researcher I am one of the editorial board members of the bulletin of De Hollandse Cirkel (DHC), a Dutch society for the promotion of historical awareness of geodesy, and the Dutch representative for the Scientific Instrument Society (SIS).
This web site gives an overview of a part of my collection of nautical and geodetic instruments and the research on them, the works I consulted and collected on the topic and papers and PhD thesis I published. The current page is my slowly but surely growing blog.
In January 2021 this total station came up for sale on a Dutch on-line auction. The Zeiss Elta 20 was developed by the West German branch of Carl Zeiss, Zeiss Oberkochen, in the late 1970s. Together with the Elta 2 the Elta 20 was the successor of the Elta 14, the first self-registering total station. Whereas the Elta 14 was using a ticker-tape to store the observations the Elta 2 (of which the Elta 20 is a further development) was the first total station to use an internal memory device that was based on semi-conductor technology to store the observations.
This month a Zeiss Jena basis-reduktionstachymeter BRT 006 was donated to the collection. It originates from a survey department of a nearby council and is a nice example of the many inventions made to measure distances using the same geodetic instrument that would measure the horizontal and vertical angles.
In May 2019 I received my first HP 3810A. That example had been through the wars and was in a terrible state. All plastic components (covers, instrument panel, knobs, ocular) were broken and so was the internal cast-metal frame. In addition most parts of the yoke were heavily corroded and the battery-compartment and box were missing. Luckily I found a better one a year later.
On 13 and 14 December data was captured of M57 (ringnebula). It was the second attempt on coloured deep-sky photography with reasonable results (at least better than the first attempt with M27). Yet a lot can be improved...
This month the first deep sky pictures were taken at InFINNity Deck. After a few monochrome test images of M13, the first image in R, G, B, Ha, O-III and S-II was taken of M27, better known as the Dumbbell Nebula.
This Ahrend no. 7401 metric chain appeared on a Dutch on-line auction site in October 2018. Although I had already quite a few chains in my collection, the one shown here was of interest as it was 20 metres long, made of 40 half metre links. This makes it double the size of the 19th c. Lerebours chain in the collection and about the length of the imperial 19th c. Doyle and Son Chain.
Despite temperatures well over 30 degrees Celsius, July 2018 resulted in the best Solar System photographs so far taken at InFINNity Deck.
This month, 9 May 2018, I graduated at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam on my research of instruments for celestial navigation. I started this research some 17 years ago, when I wanted to know which instrument(s) were used prior to the invention of the octant. After having published several articles on the topic I was allowed to start my PhD research at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam in 2012. Now my PhD thesis is ready and printed in a limited edition of 300 copies.
This first week of this month we extended the library with an observatory. Designed by myself, last January my wife, brother in law and I started the build, with some assistance of another amateur astronomer, a fitter from the family and a local steel construction company. On the 18th the equipment arrived. The initial set-up consists of a 10Micron GM3000 HPS mount carrying a SkyWatcher Esprit 150ED, a Celestron C11, and a Lunt LS80THA.
In April 2018 I acquired this Wine gauging rod. The term wine gauging rod is a general term for tools that were used to measure the volume of liquids in containers like barrels. Although the first word of the term is wine, these rods were not necessarily used to only measure quantities of this beverage. In Dutch the wine gauging rod is known as a wijnroeiersstok and the person who used it, the wine gauger, was known as a Wijnroeier or Wynroeyer in old Dutch.
The acquisition of this Wild Heerbrugg T2 theodolite - DI4 Distomat combination was a rather nostalgic moment for me. I was trained as a hydrographic surveyor in the years 1985-1989. After having worked for my first employer for half a year around the Netherlands I was sent to a large breakwater maintenance project in Algeria. In total I spent about 13 months on the project with two to three weeks leave every ten weeks. Apart from the hydrographic surveys for the underwater part of the breakwater, which were done using our survey vessel Denise, the parts above the waterline were done from the breakwater using a Wild Heerbrugg T2, Wild Heerbrugg SERCEL DI4 Distomat combination very similar to the one shown here.
The DI4 was the smallest detachable distancer ever built and was a major improvement upon its predecessor, the Wild DI3s.
This Carl Zeiss Nivellier III arrived in the collection in September 2017. It was the top model of the series Nivelliers Heinrich Wild had designed during his years at Carl Zeiss Jena. The other two models, the Nivellier I and Nivellier II, which are already in the collection, were both lesser performing instruments. What they have in common is that they all have the same parts that were patented by Heinrich Wild.
In June 2017 I acquired this Wild Heerbrugg combination of a Wild T2 theodolite with a Wild DI3S Distomat Electronic Distance Measurer (EDM). The theodolite is very similar to the 1962 Wild T2 in my collection, but is equipped with the more modern turning knob type locking mechanism on the tribrach whereas the 1962 version still has a sliding knob.
The reason for this acquisition lies in the EDM. The DI3S and its direct forerunner DI3 were the first EDMs that could be fully integrated with a theodolite.
In the last week of 2016 this Pantometre à Lunette (pantometer with telescope) was auctioned on-line. Being complete with its original box and most of its accessories it was a temptation simply too hard to resist. The instrument arrived in the collection in the first week of January 2017.
This month an early 19th century surveyor's cross arrived in the collection. The instrument was made in the first half of the 19th century by Pasquale Cittelli, an instrument maker from Milan, Italy, and may well be the predecessor of the pantometer.
At the end of last month I found this early Wild Heerbrugg RDH on a Hungarian web site. After a few days negotiations with the owner the tachymeter was sent to the Netherlands and arrived in the collection. A week later a box with two horizontal staffs was offered by a befriended collector. The original 21a tripod was already in the collection, making the RDH set complete. The instrument appeared to be the 83rd RDH that Wild had made since they started producing them in 1950. In total just over 1000 RDHs were produced.
This month I was hinted that a variable Fall or Rise 'slope' attachment for the Cowley level was available on an on-line auction. This simple attachment allows the Cowley level to be used to set out slopes with gradients up to about 1:10 (see figure 21).
This month the third model of Wild's first levelling instrument entered the collection. The 1970 Wild NK2 is the modern styled version of the 1951 Wild N2 in the collection. The addition K in the model name also indicates that this instrument is equipped with a horizontal circle, in this case centesimally divided, an option Wild introduced in 1924 with its Wild NKII.
This month a Cowley level was donated to my collection. This very simple instrument, invented in 1944, looks like an old fashioned amateur camera than a levelling instrument and was one of the first popular automatic levels that was produced.
This Wild T2 theodolite, also known as the Wild T2 mod, arrived in the collection this month. It was formerly owned by the Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz (MIWB) on Terschelling, where it has been used from 2002 until 2014 for teaching purposes (see adjacent picture), mainly for sun azimuth observations using a Roelofs prism. At the start of the new academic year 2015-2016 it was replaced by a more modern Leica TCRA1101 from 2001, which also is used for the same observations.
This month a Kern DKM2 theodolite entered the collection. It came from the inventory of the Hogeschool Utrecht where it was used for educational purposes, but since this month it is on long term loan in my collection.
When Heinrich Wild left Wild Heerbrugg he joined Kern Aarau where he continued designing theodolites. The Kern DKM2 was meant to be the competitor of the Wild T2 and thus has similar specifications. The DKM2 shows features well known from Wild's original designs while working in Heerbrugg, but at the same time this instrument shows that his ideas kept on evolving while working at Kern in Aarau.
This month I finally managed to find myself an early AGA Geodimeter 112 for the 1980 SAT AGA-Minilir. Originally the Minilirs were bought with AGA 112 EDMs, but those were discarded in 1998 and replaced by Ibeo Fennel EDMs. The one shown here is only a few dozen serial numbers away from the first AGA 112 that was bought for the Minilir.
Last December this level came up for auction on a Dutch on-line auction site. Being in a terrible state little enthusiasm was displayed by potential buyers for this early Carl Zeiss Nivellier I. After more than four months waiting for a higher bid, the seller decided to agree with the offer I made. It took some 10 hours of careful cleaning to present it in the current state.
This month a levelling instrument by Wild Heerbrugg, the Wild N1, came up for sale on a Dutch on-line auction site. Here in the Netherlands it was dubbed "Baby Wild" as it was the little brother of Wild's standard levelling instrument, the Wild NII.
This month two Geodimeter System 400 total stations were donated to the collection by a former teacher of the Internationale Agrarische Hogeschool (International Agricultural University) Larenstein.
According to the manufacturer the Geodimeter System 400 was the first surveying system where hardware and software were integrated in an intelligent and powerful unit.
Last month another instrument entered the collection, but only made it to my web site this month. This time it is a 1948 Wild T1 complete with original metal dome and wooden transportation box. The Wild T1 was the predecessor of the Wild T1A that was already in the collection.
This month I found this rare piece of geodetic history: a 1943 CT&S Tavistock. It came up for sale on an on-line auction site, but having quite a few broken and bent parts not too many people were interested in it. To me it was a nice opportunity to see how easy it would be to get it up and running again. Some eight hours work turned this derelict instrument back into working order again...
This month a Wild Heerbrugg RDS came up for auction on a Dutch auction site. The abbreviation RDS stands for Reduktions Distanzmesser für Senkrechte Latte or 'Reduction Distance-meter for a Vertical Staff'. The RDS is one of the rarer theodolites Wild produced. It was a successful attempt to create a self reading tachymeter that would not simply give the slope distance to the assistant holding the vertical reference staff, but the horizontally reduced distance and the height difference.
Although in my collection since 2012, I did not find the time yet to add the 1992 Krupp Atlas PolarTrack to my web site. The PolarTrack was the relatively cheap successor of the Fennel/Minilir and partially came from the same manufacturer IBEO.
After acquiring the original tripod in 2013 I now finally found some time to photograph the instrument and create the story around it.
Only a few days old this month added 37 inches to the collection with the acquisition of two standards: a Standard Inch and a Standard Yard. Both were made by William & Thomas Avery, Birmingham, and date from 1875 (the Yard) and late 19th century (the Inch). They form a perfect combination with the other standard in de collection: the Doyle & Son 66ft Standard Chain.
Last year I was donated a Breithaupt PRURO circle testing collimator. It has taken a while to create its stand, but now it finally made it to my web site.
This month I visited the impressive Louwman Collection of Historic Telescopes of befriended collector Peter Louwman in The Hague. The collection was only recently made accessible to the public in the Louwman Museum, home to the world’s oldest private collection of motor cars which was compiled by two generations of the Louwman family. In the museum the Louwman Collection of Historic Telescopes found its own place. Next year the Scientific Instrument Society is planning a study tour incorporating the collection and being the SIS representative for the Netherlands Peter and I met to make initial arrangements.
After more than a year this month the new design of my own web site is finally launched. Most instruments have been re-photographed, showing them with much higher detail than before. All accompanying stories have been checked and partially re-written. Finally several instruments have been added and a search function implemented. Now the site shows instruments from the end of the 16th century up to the very end of the 20th century. Enjoy watching and reading!
Those who are eager to know what has changed since I stopped maintaining the old site have to go back to August 2012.
At the end of the 20th century the first robotic total stations saw the light. The advantages of the AGA/Minilir and Polartrack had not stayed unnoticed and thus the demand for robotic instruments increased and lead to new developments in geodetic instruments.
By the middle of the 1990s the best instrument money could buy was the Leica TCRA1101. I bought one for fieldwork in 2008 and another one in 2012. Still today the instrument is a fine piece of equipment to work with and therefore it still is in continual use. Having already several total stations on this site, this month I thought it would be appropriate to add the TCRA1101 to it.
In 2010 I was contacted by a client to do a job for him. We soon found out that our professions brought us a mutual hobby: collecting geodetic instruments. When the job was done he was that satisfied that he decided to donate a 1960s military Wild Heerbrugg T2 with an Autonetics ABLE gyro attached to it to the collection.
It took me several years to find out what exactly it was he had donated. Thanks to the increasing amount of documents coming available on the internet (possibly because of declassification), I finally found out what the original set was consisting of and what it was used for. This month I have written an article on the T2-ABLE combination and placed it in the geodetic section.
When Heinrich Wild started his own business, the first instrument he produced was the Wild NII in 1923, the forerunner of the N2. A year later he added a horizontal circle to the NII. Although in later years this would mean the model name would be extended with a K (for Kreis, German for circle), in 1924 this was still named NII (but I will use NKII for clarity).
This month a Wild NKII with the extreme low serial number 960 was found during a house clearing in the Amsterdam area and almost ended up in the skip. Luckily they thought of putting it on a Dutch auction site and that is how it ended up in the collection.
A few years ago I managed to add a Wild Heerbrugg T3 to the collection. That was an old sexagesimal one from 1937 with an astronomical reticle. Here in the Netherlands we are used to work with centesimally divided instruments, so I was still looking for an opportunity to lay my hands on one. Centesimal divided T3s are however almost as rare as rocking horse manure, so I had to be patient. This month finally a centesimal Wild T3 came up for sale. Not only was it centesimally divided, but it also was from 1939, two years before Heinrich Wild introduced the T4.
Every now and then really rare instruments show up on auction sites. This time it was an 1924 Carl Zeiss Nivellier II levelling instrument. This is one of the models Heinrich Wild created during his years at Carl Zeiss. The instrument came with a remarkable complete box and although it had to come all the way from Latvia, it arrived safely at the collection a few weeks later.
In the 19th century levels were mostly made of lacquered brass. In the collection there already was an Egault type level by Secrétan à Paris and this month I have added a Lenoir type level made by Tibaut Desimpelaere in Brussels to it. Both levels are quite basic and not of the best design. Having loose telescopes without a fixed vial makes them susceptible to errors as dirt could easily end up between the surfaces of the frame, telescope and vial. Still these levels have played an important role in geodetic history and are therefore worthwhile mentioning and collecting.
Recently I bought a new (second hand) Leica TCRA1101 Plus total station and in the same deal acquired a Wild Heerbrugg T1A for the collection. The T1A was Wild's first automatic theodolite, which means that the vertical circle is set vertical automatically.
This month a rare Wild instrument came up for auction for a very reasonable price. Having worked with it myself on a tropical pipeline project, the temptation was simply too large and I decided it had to be added to the collection. The instrument, the Wild Heerbrugg T0, was Heinrich Wild's answer to the American transit.
Last year we had a new house built, which meant that the collection was put into temporary storage for considerable time. After it was 'recovered' and placed into our new library I decided that it was about time to overhaul my web site as well. Most pictures were out of date, while the lay-out could do with a refreshment as well.
Designing started in winter 2013, while the actual work on it started on it in May 2013 and lasted until April 2014. During that period a whole new lay-out was made using the well known colours and most images have been re-taken.
In the meanwhile the old site was no longer updated, even though the collection kept on growing. New acquired and several, formerly not exhibited, existing items found their way onto the web. The blog is still here and I have updated it in this new lay-out ever since. Enjoy reading!
This month an instrument of legendary proportions (at least here in the Netherlands) was donated to my collection. This instrument, the 1980 SAT AGA-Minilir was the first autotracking total station and has been used to position vessels at, and piers of, the Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier during its construction in the 1980s. The instrument was initially combined with a Geodimeter AGA 112 electronic distance meter (EDM), which was later replaced by the IBEO Fennel PS 50 EDM. Depending on the EDM used the system became known as either the AGA/Minilir or Fennel/Minilir.
After having found Heinrich Wild's first two theodolites he designed for (or had design features by him) for Carl Zeiss, the 1924 Zeiss Th1 and 1926 Zeiss RThII, it was now time to get Wild's first own theodolite, the Archetype Wild T2. A befriended collector kindly pointed me to it when this one became available on an on-line auction site and this is how the instrument ended up in the collection.
Recently we have moved to a temporary home causing some silence on my blog. Last April I was informed that a 19th century 66ft standard chain came up for sale on an auction site. Having two 'normal' chains in my collection; the 19th c. Lerebours chain and the 20th c. Chesterman chain made me decide to add this rarity to it. It came in a box and is invested with hallmarks as can be seen on adjacent picture.
As may have been noticed I have switched off my weather cam some months ago. Instead I wanted to use that area on my web site for an other set of instruments and tools I have in my collection. Under the header Tools I will add steel tapes, chains, clinometers and other tools used in surveying. The first to be added are an early 20th c. Tibaut steel tape, a mid 19th c. Lerebours chain (see adjacent picture), and an early 20th c. Chesterman chain.
Strange how things can go when one uses and collects older instruments. It was only last May when I found a famous theodolite designed by Heinrich Wild during his years as manager of the Geo department of Carl Zeiss, the 1924 Zeiss Th1. Now I laid my hands on a 1926 Zeiss RThII, the first theodolite to feature Heinrich Wild's patents. This one once belonged to J.Th. Wouters, a Dutch architect.
A few weeks after I bought a 1961 Wild N3 for a product development within my company, a client who heard about it decided to donate this newer version, the 1977 Wild N3 to my collection. Judging from the impeccable state it is in, the instrument has spent little time in the field. The instrument was the latest version of the Wild N3 and design-wise it is very similar to the Wild TC1 Total Station in my collection which also dates from the same period.
For a new product development of my company I needed two Wild Heerbrugg N3 levels. A geodetic instrument dealer here in the Netherlands had two them in stock; one from about 1962 (serial 106547) and this one from 1961. Despite being the oldest of the two the 1961 Wild N3 is in an amazing brand new condition, due to the fact that it has only been used for educational and research purposes at the Delft University.
This month I was at the workshop of a Leica dealer here in the Netherlands in an attempt to get the 1980 Wild TC1 repaired. Although sadly enough the repair has failed, the discussions about early geodetic instruments lead to the discovery of a 1924 Zeiss Th1 optical theodolite on E-bay. This particular instrument was the first theodolite that combined glass circles with an optical plan parallel coincidence reading mechanism and marked the dawn of a new era in theodolite design and influence later models like the Wild T2 and Wild T3. After a few days of negotiations the instrument finally ended up in my collection.
I have added a new instrument to my collection. This time I obtained a 20th century Pantometer through an auction web site. The instrument combines the functions of an Equerre with those of a Graphometer or Pseudo Holland Circle. Having 'worked' in Argentina the instrument has seen more of the world that I did...
Recently a collector came to me with the request to restore an early Davis Quadrant. The instrument was bought without any vanes, but in style it was remarkably similar to the replica of the 1734 Davis quadrant I made (which is a replica of of an original in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich). The restored Davis Quadrant has a declination scale with English inscriptions and based on a Julian calendar, which indicates it was made before 2 September 1752 (the date the British turned to the Julian calendar). Using original woods and ageing techniques all four vanes were recreated in the style of the instrument (see pictures 19 - 21 for the fully restored Davis Quadrant).
I found this 18th century Surveyor's Cross while scouring the internet for antiques dealers. The instrument is a simplified form of the Holland Circle (Hollandse cirkel). Compared to it the instrument lacks a compass, the suspension ring for vertical measurements, and it has been engraved in degrees only. Holland Circles also had trigonometrical scales (sine, tangent and secant) and sometimes a Polygon scale similar to the one on the 17th c. Surveyor's Cross in my collection. Due to its simplified form the instrument is sometimes referred to as a Pseudo Holland Circle.
From 9 October 2010 until 6 February 2011 the maritime museum in Vlissingen, muZEEum, features the exhibition Geheime Kaarten in Zeeland, Getekend voor de VOC (Secret Maps in Zeeland, drawn by the VOC). The exhibit shows maps and instruments made and used by the Zeeland Chamber of the VOC. Being mainly used by Zeeland chamber of the VOC one of my reconstructions of the spiegelboog will be part of the exhibition. The spiegelboog - invented in 1660 by Joost van Breen, the later examiner of the mates of the Zeeland chamber of the VOC - was the first reflecting navigational instrument (picture at the right by Esther Boogaard).
With a generous donation by my family for my birthday I could make this long lasting wish come true; adding a 1939 Wild T3 (geodetic) to my collection (at the right on the picture). A search on the internet initially resulted in two instruments in the US, but both were incomplete. Finally I found myself this complete early one.
In addition to that I am trying to get all levels in my collection on-line as well. The first of them is the 1951 Wild N2 (at the left on the picture). It came into my collection as part of a generous donation by a former colleague in 2008. Up to now I lacked the time to get all instruments from that donation on-line, trying to get it done now though...
This month my article on the 1618 Demi-cross reconstruction was published in bulletin 105 of the Scientific Instrument Society. The article is available as download from the demi-cross page.
In 2006 I met clockmaker Günther Oestmann of Ars Mechanica at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. He then had a talk on casting an astrolabe, which he had recently done. After the talk we discussed the possibility to create a copy of the 1580s Mariner's astrolabe for my collection. I created an AutoCAD drawing based on the dimensions of an 1588 original, which Günther used to have the body cast. This month we met again during the A Sense Of Direction symposium and I was presented the astrolabe which he had made. On the adjacent picture Günther, who stands on the right, hands over the astrolabe to me.
On the conference I presented a paper on the early development of the 1734 Davis quadrant, which will be published later.
The National Museums of Scotland invited me to display my collection of replicas and reconstructions of early Celestial Navigation instruments at the launch of the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society, held in the National Museum of Scotland on 30 November, 2009. The image shows my instruments next to the replicas the museum was able to commission thanks to funding by The Royal Society.
The inset shows a full view of the table with from left to right: 1590 Hood's cross-staff, 1661 Kronan cross-staff, 1660 spiegelboog, instruments for electrical experiments, 1618 Demi-cross, a weather glass, telescope and lodestone, 1623 hoekboog, a globe, 1734 Davis quadrant, a magic lantern and 1720 Hasebroek cross-staff.
Although still available from C. Plath, the price was that high - about half their top model sextant - that I decided to recreate the pentagon prism attachment that once belonged to my 1956 geodetic sextant. I have spent quite a few enjoyable hours in my garage, cutting, drilling and heating some brass, the result of which can be seen here. Together with the pentagon prism attachment I made a new adjustment tool that is long enough to get beyond it and all for just little over the additional costs of their mahogany cases.
A friend of mine tipped me off that a 17th c. Surveyor's Cross was for sale on a Dutch auction site. After a week of bidding it finally came into my hands at a very decent price. When I collected it (some 200 kilometres away from here, close to were this friend lives) my friend asked me whether I would appreciate a 1980 Wild TC1 as well as a donation to my collection. Of course this was an offer to good to be true, so the collection has grown with another two land survey instruments.In addition to that I cleaned the 1956 geodetic sextant by C. Plath that I already had in my possession since last year. As the instrument was extremely corroded it took a mere five hours to get it a bit neat again.
Almost a year after I obtained the Keuffel & Esser transit I finally had time to repair the missing wire from its reticle. The reticle of this instrument was made of spiders cobweb of which only the horizontal stadia wires survived. The picture at the right shows the cross-orbweaver that kindly donated one of his threads through the repaired telescope of the transit. Repairing the cross-hair of the reticle took about three hours. See figures 15 to 20 on the 1919 K&E page on how this was done.
After four years of research I finally made a reconstruction of yet another early navigational instrument: the 1623 hoekboog (double triangle). It was developed in the early 17th century, around the same time as the 1618 Demi-cross and mainly used by Dutch navigators.
During (or rather at the end of) the 2009 SIS conference in Paris, France I visited this flea market where I found this old box with interesting content. Not only did it contain an equerre, but also a 19th c. Secrétan Egault level. The level was remarkably complete and in very good condition.
In addition to that this month my article on the 1590 Hood's cross-staff reconstruction was published in SIS Bulletin 101.
Another superb donation to my collection in 2009 next to the donation of the 1984 Kern E1. Being a left-over in an inventory, the previous owner had little use for this Leica NA2 with Wild GPM3 parallel plate micrometer and decided it would fit better in my collection than on the market. This level was originally developed by Wild Heerbrugg and was one of best they ever made with only the Wild N3 being more accurate.
I have added three theodolites to the land survey section which I received from (or swapped with) former colleagues last year; a 1962 Wild T2, an Askania Tu 400 and an early Carl Zeiss Th42 (the latter has left the collection in 2011). These instruments have an angular resolution of 0.0002gon, 0.001gon and 0.01gon respectively, so quite different instruments for different purposes. Although I am not sure about the manufacturing years of the last two instruments it seems in this case that by coincidence the accuracy is disproportionate with the manufacturing year (so the older, the better).
A colleague donated this instrument to my collection, for which I am very grateful. The instrument is a 1984 Kern E1, one of the first total stations made. It has served many years in the field and now finally retires in my collection while still in perfect working order.
A test bid on the internet accidentally resulted in this 1919 Keuffel & Esser Preliminary Survey Transit (model 5129N). I was only one dollar above the reserve (which was very reasonable) and nobody was feeling like overbidding me (perhaps because of the world wide financial crisis?). Never mind, I am happy with this new addition!
Through a Dutch auction site I found myself these two bottles. Together they form a level instrument for hydrostatic levelling. Once bought by Corus for shaft alignment, they were discarded some 20 years ago and subsequently taken home by one of their employees.
Another Ebay item: Again after searching for it for several years I finally got myself a 19th c. water bottle level. This is as basic as it can be; two communicating bottles of water, attached to each other by a brass tube.
A lucky bid on Ebay: After searching for it for several years I finally got myself a Roelofs Solar prism for my Wild T2. Although of Dutch origin, this one came all the way from Fairbanks, Alaska. The Roelofs Prism can be used for sun shots, which in itself are used to determine true north in the field. In my case I use the Roelofs Prism for gyro calibrations. Using a simple spreadsheet on my mobile phone I get accuracies of about 0.005 degrees, which is more than enough for a proper calibration as the gyros that I calibrate (Fibre Optic Gyro's or FOG's) have an accuracy of about 0.3 degrees.
The annual study conference of the Scientific Instrument Society was held in The Netherlands from 6th until 9th May, 2008. They not only visited several museums, but also had the chance to see the work of Tatjana van Vark in Ede and my instruments and dividing methods in Utrecht at the Utrecht University Museum (Picture by Otto van Poelje, Chair of the Oughtred Society Award, The Netherlands).
Last year I was commissioned to create a set of early 17th century navigational instruments for a new museum in Hirado, Japan. The set consisted of a demi-cross, a cross-staff modelled after the one found on board of the Kronan, a traverse board and a chip log with hour glass.
Another reconstruction finished: Master Hood's cross-staff from 1590, the start of a new development in navigational instruments.
This instrument has been described in period literature during the period 1590 - 1622 and was used for shadow observations of the sun in a forward manner and for land surveying.
It is finally finished: the reconstruction of a 1618 Demi-cross, an early Dutch backstaff after an instrument by Captain John Davis.
This instrument has been described in period literature during the period 1618 - 1693 and was used for backward observations of the sun.
After a long period of no updates on my web site I finally have some news. To start with I found myself a new object: a Cotton Type Range Finder.
This instrument was used some one hundred years ago to measure distance to objects at sea that have known dimensions.
The other news is that since November last year I have been researching the development of the Davis Quadrant. During this research I stumbled upon blue-print like sketches of an instrument from 1618 called the Demi-Cross. With the reconstruction of it nearing it's completion I will soon upload a page on this instrument.
At the 2006 Navigational instruments as a source of historic information symposium at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich I presented the spiegelboog (Mirror-staff in English) to an interested audience.
On this picture by Jeremey Spencer I am explaining the instrument to Wouter Heijveld (Curator of Navigational Instruments Rotterdam Maritime Museum), Gloria Clifton (Head of Royal Observatory, Greenwich) and Richard Dunn (Curator of History of Navigation, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich).
Finally after two years of research a complete article on the spiegelboog (Mirror-staff in English) was published in the Bulletin of the Scientific Instruments Society.
The Scientific Instrument Society (SIS) was formed in April 1983 to bring together people with a specialist interest in scientific instruments, ranging from precious antiques to electronic devices only recently out of production.
The Society has a truly international membership offering those who join the chance to link up with instrument devotees across the world.
My latest find: a brass octant by T.S. & J.D. Negus, New York.
In January 2007 I have been in contact with the great great granddaughter of John Davidson Negus. Much of the details on the Negus page originates from her research.
Delivered two cross-staffs to museums: one ebony cross-staff at the Archenhold Observatorium in Berlin, Germany and the copy of the Kronan cross-staff to the Kalmar Läns Museum in Kalmar, Sweden.
My latest project is finished: creating a copy of the Kronan cross-staff. In the meanwhile I'm starting research on another long gone navigational instrument: the Dutch version of the Davis quadrant: the 1623 hoekboog.
On the 22nd of October 2005 I presented a paper on the reconstruction of the spiegelboog at the 'Who needs scientific instruments?' conference at museum Boerhaave in Leiden, The Netherlands.
On the 11th we did a field test with my replicas.
My latest find: an 1943 U.S. Navy stadimeter. This instrument was used to measure the distance to ships at sea and is based on a sextant.
Combined my holiday with a visit to the Kalmar Läns Museum where I met Lars Einarsson and Max Jahrehorn. They allowed me to measure the 1661 Kronan cross-staff which I will build later this year.
A project is finished: The reconstruction of a spiegelboog (Mirror-staff in English), an instrument by Joost van Breen.
If you have any questions and/or remarks please let me know.