Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Bletchley Park

I have been interested in code breaking and the role of Bletchley Park for many years.  The first book I read about it was Simon Singh's Code Book but I think even that was pre-dated by my Father telling (and re-telling) us kids all the story of the Man Who Never Was.  Bluff, double-bluff, codes, spying and cyphers - all interesting to my young mathematical brain.  Maps can sometimes be vague about the truth: a cartographer tells you want they want you to know.  And sometimes, for political expediency (or just downright deception), they choose to use the map to mislead.

Anyway, since then I've read a few more books about Bletchley and was really keen to see it.  Having a scientist for a husband and two mathematical/scientific daughters it was top of our list and we finally made it to north west London to visit.

We spent a good chunk of our time the Bombe Museum in  Block B.  This was allegedly only meant to take 30 mins but I think we were in there over 90.  There was just so much to see.  I've never seen a Bombe and we stood and watched this replica whilst listening to a lengthy explanation as to its operation.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Bombe (5)
And round the back.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Bombe (3)
Fortunately we'd all read the book(s) so knew roughly how the Enigma/Lorenz machines worked as it's quite a lot to get your head around straight off.  What with different dials, daily changing start positions, reflecting paths inside the Enigma machine and wires to reconnect letters on the plug board it was a formidable challenge to break the code.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Bombe (8)
Now this is what I call an exciting exhibit - a whole row of Enigma machines.  Nearly as good as a row of theodolites.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Bombe (1)
I hadn't really considered what the British version was, but of course there was one - the Typex machine.  It was built on the design of the Enigma machines we had legally purchased between the first and second world wars.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Bombe (7)
It was interesting to note that after development of the Typex the Brits had a dilemma about whether or not we owed the German manufacturer payment for IPR (Intellectual Property).  Golly, even when at war the British were minding their Ps and Qs...

The Bletchley Park site hub is the main building, the 'mansion'.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Grounds (3)
Initially all the code breakers were housed here.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - House
As the number of personnel grew, from 100s to 1000s, additional huts were built and are now scattered around the mansion and pond.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Grounds (2)
Hut 8 was where the naval intelligence worked and where Enigma was cracked.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Hut 8 (3)
It looks just like a lot of establishments I still work in.

This is a replica (of the actual?) of Alan Turing's desk.  With, you'll note, an Admiralty chart on the wall behind.  Of course.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Hut 8 (1)
Our visit to Bletchley Park was most timely being just a month after the release of the film Imitation Game.  Of course we'd all been to view it.  For sure, it wasn't the most technically in-depth explanation of how the code was broken, and it only focused on initial Enigma break, but it was a realistic portrayal of Alan Turing and his life.  Anyway, we were delighted to find that they had an Imitation Game set exhibition with some of their props in the house.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Imitation Game (14)
The school hats and blazers of the young Turing and his peers.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Imitation Game (13)
The bar area.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Imitation Game (5)
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Imitation Game (11)
Sadly we ran out of time to see everything.  I left undiscovered Hut 11, which housed the Turing-Welchman Bombe, Huts 3 and 6, where the Army and Air Force messages were decrypted, and really didn't do Hut 8 much justice.  We also didn't explore the grounds - although I did manage to sneak in a quick scout around the mansion and found this little one: a bit too easy to spot since someone had painted it.
14 12 29 Bletchley Park - Grounds (4)
We'd allowed 4 hours for our visit, had taken 5, and still didn't see it all.  Fortunately the tickets last for 12 months so I'll certainly be back for more.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

A Geo Christmas

A Christmas miscellany to put us in a festive mood...

I have long been a fan of the Norad site to track Santa (or Father Christmas as I still stubbornly refer to him).
When the girls were younger I used to show the girls his progress as their excitement mounted on Christmas Eve.  Now today my daughter showed me a new site - Google Santa Tracker. which, for some reason, thinks I'm in Teddington, UK.   He'll need to come a bit further west if he's going to deliver the goods.  It's quite fun actually and I'm sure one could easily lose an hour of your life fiddling around on it.  This news story gives more info on the detail of the sites.  Tracking a fictional figure is obviously a very serious business.

Meanwhile a friend has just sent me a Christmas present from Apalachicola in Florida.
And a surveyor in California has recent Tweeted me his postcard.
Kevins postcard
Which is nearly as exciting as mine.
14 09 17 Postcard BM
This surveyor then pointed out that there are even more! Check out the postcard locker website. Now all I need to do is either visit numerous National Parks in the US or encourage others to and post me the evidence.

And to finish, because I've finally stopped work, I made myself a Christmas gift set today.
14 12 24 Cushion
Happy Christmas!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Goofy Points

I spent a few days in Frankfurt last week and had zero opportunity for any geo explorations.  However, never one to miss a moment, as we got out the cab at Frankfurt Airport for our journey home I spotted this. A Verm Punkt.
14 11 22_24 Germany (11)
I was with two other chartered surveyors.  The quantity surveyor thought I was nuts to be photographing the pavement, but the geomatics surveyor thought it perfectly normal and to be totally expected in the circumstances.

I had been expecting to find a Mess Punkt, as I had previously in Cologne and Copenhagen.
14 10 31 Mess Punkt
On translation Verm came out as "goofing".  Not quite what I was expecting and certainly not what geomatics surveyors do ;-)

However if you translate "verm punkt" you find out that Verm Punkt is actually a contraction of Vermessungspunkt, a measuring point.  And now I've researched a bit more I've realised that "mess punkt" is short for messungspunkt. Which presumably is a contraction of vermessungspunkt.  One word two contractions.  The wonderful world of the German language eh?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Wonderful Wonderful Geo Copehagen - The Geomatics Bit

Aside from drooling over the maritime museum, I also found a few observatories in Copenhagen.

The Botanical Gardens contain Observatory Hill, the highest point of the inner city of Copenhagen.  Which is certainly not much.  But it has an observatory on it and a statue to the astronomer Tycho Brahe.
14 10 31 Botantical gardens too (4)
On Googling info on Tycho Brahe I came across this site, the Scientist Tourist, and realised there is much more to discover, such as Tycho Brahe's 16th Century observatory on Ven, a Swedish Island in the Oresund. I'll pop that on the list for next time.  There's also quite a thing about his false nose which he lost in a duel in the next location I visited. OK, that's not a geo fact whatsoever but you never know when it might come in handy.

The second observatory I found was up the Rundetaarn.
14 10 31 Runddtaarn (10)
This 17th Century tower has no steps but a 209m long spiral ramp which winds 7.5 times around the hollow core of the tower.  It's only 36m high.  The ramp was built to serve the observatory: pushing astronomical instruments up a slope is an awful lot easier than lifting them up steps.
14 10 31 Runddtaarn (1)
The observatory is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe and some of its old instruments are on display.
14 10 31 Runddtaarn (7)
14 10 31 Runddtaarn (9)
14 10 31 Runddtaarn (4)
I was very pleased to discover that if I stood on the glass floor, approx 25m up the hollow tower, I was standing directly above Denmark's point zero.  It's not everyday that you stand at 0, 0.
14 10 31 Runddtaarn (6)
The second tower of the day, sans observatory, was Vor Frelsers Kirke, Church of our Saviour.
14 10 31 Vor Frelsers Kirke (2)
No astro goodies here and no slope, however a great interest factor of a corkscrew staircase which twists initially internally, then externally up the spire.
14 10 31 Vor Frelsers Kirke (7)
The steps get narrower and narrower until they eventually peeter out.
14 10 31 Vor Frelsers Kirke (9)
You can just imagine how wonderful the views were.

And just when I thought it couldn't get any more exciting, we found a mess punkt.  My Copenhagen Odyssey was complete.
14 10 31 Mess Punkt

Wonderful Wonderful Geo Copenhagen - The Maritime Bit

I've just returned from a few days away in Copenhagen.  Number one on my 'to do' list was the M/S Museet for Sofart, the Danish Maritime Museum.  It is based in Helsingor, 50km north of Copenhagen.  From 1915 it was housed in the nearby Kronburg Castle but in 2013 it moved into a new architecturally amazing building set in a dry dock.  The whole museum is underground and I loved the light, steps, slopes and innovative use of the space.
14 10 30 Danish Maritime Museum (30)
The exhibition was pretty darned good too.
14 10 30 Danish Maritime Museum (33)
The museum is well themed with innovative use of video and displays.  As ever I was itching for the navigation section.  There were a few interactive displays showing you how sailors calculate latitude and longitude using sextants and chronometers but apart from that there was the standard bevy of glass cases with old instruments in.  I'm sure there must be a creative and fun way to teach navigation but this hasn't quite hit it on the spot.

Anyway, a horde of sextants, octants and all things for measuring angles.
14 10 30 Danish Maritime Museum (22)
14 10 30 Danish Maritime Museum (25)
Globes and a copper plate.
14 10 30 Danish Maritime Museum (23)
Measuring speed.
14 10 30 Danish Maritime Museum (34)
Depth measurement tools.
14 10 30 Danish Maritime Museum (29)
This Decca display brought back memories and made me feel ancient.
14 10 30 Danish Maritime Museum (26)
When I first started work in 1991 Decca was still being used, and the trials and tribulations of sunrise and sunset beset us all.  I never did see a Decca tie worn though.
14 10 30 Danish Maritime Museum (27)
A Danish chart symbology guide.
14 10 30 Danish Maritime Museum (28)
The section on international trade was interesting.  Ranging from the beginnings of organised international trade - tea, china, cloth etc - right through to the huge container ships of today.
14 10 30 Danish Maritime Museum (38)
I played a game involving buying, shipping and selling goods around the globe.  Imagine my thrill of coming 4th.  Oh, perhaps only 5 people had played that day?
14 10 30 Danish Maritime Museum (21)
Maersk had a big look in which is not surprising since they are a Danish company.  I think I read that they move 10% of international trade which sounds about right.  They have 600 ships moving 4 million TEU every year between Europe and Asia (let alone the rest of the world).  A TEU is a Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit. It is hard to get one's head around the quantity of goods we are talking about here.
14 10 30 Danish Maritime Museum (40)
Helsingor itself hosts a well maintained harbour.  The route between the Maritime Museum and the  railway station passes a couple of boats.  One obviously looks like a tourist vessel, but not sure about the Garmin one.  Perhaps used for paying day trippers?
14 10 30 Helsingor (6)
14 10 30 Helsingor (7)
Helsingor harbour marks are well painted.
14 10 30 Helsingor (5)
And I liked the plastic fish.  Better plastic on the quayside than out in the ocean eh?
14 10 30 Helsingor (4)