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The Ship’s Binnacle

October 27th, 2015 by Piper Smith

A binnacle was originally a case or box in front of a ship’s helmsman intended to store and protect navigational instruments while providing quick and easy access to them. It eventually evolved into a cylindrical pedestal in which a compass was mounted with other instruments stored below. Over the ages, as more metal was used in the construction of ships– ranging from nails to armored plating– the metal was found to cause magnetic deviations in compass readings. The binnacle was modified to include movable masses of iron to compensate for these deviations. The spheres on this binnacle are painted red and green–  a common practice since their introduction in the late 19th century.

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