Hirado Factory Navigation Set

The complete set of instruments for the Dutch factory in Hirado.
Figure 1: The complete set of instruments for the Dutch factory in Hirado.
On 20 September 1609 the Dutch East India Company (VOC) established a trading post at Hirado, Japan. In 1639 they built a stone warehouse on the location, which was the first western one in the Japanese Empire. Being three stories high and with a length of 29 metres the building dominated the harbour entrance of Hirado. Towering high above the otherwise modest wooden houses and showing the Christian year 1639 it upsetted the Japanese authorities that much that only three months after completion it was ordered to be demolished again. The Dutch were ordered to leave and moved to Deshima. Now, more than 360 years later the Japanese decided to rebuild the warehouse and make it a museum.1,2

Filling the museum with period objects is far from easy, especially considering the limited budget which mainly consists of donations. Therefore it was decided to find reproductions of the most precious objects, like paintings, furniture, weaponry and navigational instruments. In October 2006 I was contacted by Takeshi Gotoh from Japan Europa Promotions with the question whether I could supply a set of navigational instruments for the museum. Almost a year later a Japanese delegation visited my home and workshop to see the instruments at first hand and make a decision which instruments to take. In November 2007 I was commissioned to produce a set of navigational instruments consisting of a demi-cross (no Dutch term has been found so far, but halve graadboog would be most probable), a cross-staff (in Dutch: graadboog), a traverse board (in Dutch: penkompas, uurbord or bestekplankje), a chip log (in Dutch: logplankje and a hourglass (in Dutch: zandloper).

The ebony and pearwood version of the Kronan cross-staff.
Figure 2: The ebony and pearwood version of the Kronan cross-staff.
The work started the second week of January 2008 and it would take two full months, including weekends, to produce the set. Finally the instruments were handed over on March 9th, 2008 to a very satisfied customer. The museum was opened on 17 September 2011, almost exactly 402 years after the trading post was first established on 20 September 1609.2 The instruments are there now on display and in their on-line catalogue.3

Materials used for this set are ebony for the staves, pear wood for the vanes and brass for springs and screws. The traverse board is made of oak with cherry wood pegs. The chip log was made of oak as well and is weighted with lead. The hourglass is made of cherry wood and leather. The glass of the hour glass was hand made by T&K Young in the United States and runs 28 seconds. White paint is applied to the white areas of the demi-cross and traverse board.

Notes

[1] See Netherlands Society in West Japan
[2] See Hirado City Official Web-site
[3] See Navigation Tools page of the Hirado Dutch Trading Post web site.

If you have any questions and/or remarks please let me know.

The hourglass of the Hirado navigation set.
Figure 3: The hourglass of the Hirado navigation set.
 
The hour glass next to the traverse board of the Hirado navigation set.
Figure 4: The hour glass next to the traverse board of the Hirado navigation set.

The chip log of the Hirado navigation set.
Figure 5: The chip log of the Hirado navigation set.
 
The pin of the chip log. By pulling it the resistance drops, which makes it easier to retrieve it.
Figure 6: The pin of the chip log. By pulling it the resistance drops, which makes it easier to retrieve it.

Celestial Navigation Coastal Navigation Distance measurement
1580s Mariner's astrolabe 1590 Hood's cross-staff 1618 Demi-cross 1623 hoekboog 1660 spiegelboog 1661 Kronan cross-staff 1720 Hasebroek cross-staff 1734 Davis quadrant Early 19th c. ebony octant Late 19th c brass octant 1941 U.S. Navy quintant Hirado navigation set