Navigational equipment, nautical sextant in case, brass / glass / wood, possibly made by Thomas Downing, London England, [1896-1920], used by Maritime Services Board of New South Wales, Australia, [1897-1978]
A sextant measures the altitude of the sun, moon, or stars to calculate a position at sea. They were developed in the mid 1700s as a precision instrument for use for navigating at sea. The were also used by marine surveyors for mapping the coastline and shallow waters.
This sextant was used by the Marine Services Board of New South Wales in the late 1800s, early 1900s. Sextants, such as this one, would have played an important part in their everyday work.
Written by Erika Dicker, Assistant Curator, November 2007.
This sextant was donated to Sydney Observatory by the Maritime Services Board in 1978.
Sydney's first harbour master was appointed in 1811 to control the port and the ships that used it. The Navigation Department was established in 1897 and became responsible for the navigation laws.
The Maritime Services Board was established in 1936 and took over the functions of the Navigation department. They had the responsibility for all ports in NSW and governed over laws of navigation and pilotage. The Marine Services Board was dissolved in 1995.