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Deutsches Technikmuseum - Seamarks!

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:


The donation contains six locations:

Photo: A brass cylinder standing on a wooden plate. At the upper end a vertical rod protrudes with a T-shaped handle of wood. A elongated funnel is attached to the cylinder and is approximately at right angles from this.

Foghorn with manual air-pump, around 1900
Foghorns produce their tone like a clarinet and send it in one direction like a trumpet: Compressed air flows over a metal "reed" and causes it to vibrate. The sound produced is then projected through the funnel to the outside.

Photo: The color meter is in the form of a flat round box which stands perpendicular. It has approximately the size of a hand. It is painted black. Near the top is a peephole and a hole at the bottom of the display which shows the current setting.

This spectrophotometer was used at the Seamark Testing Grounds of the GDR from 1967 to 1989.

Photo: A lamp, which is about as high as a leg shows red light. The housing is made of red painted sheet metal. Lower part and upper part are connected by means of four thin rods. In between is the cylindrical optic consisting of sharp cut glass parts.

Red-illuminating electric dual lantern to identify moles or buoys.

Photo: A conical body made of brass stands on a cylindrical base. On the latter there are two control wheels for the wicks. Located at the tip of the cone are circularly arranged thin sheet metal brackets which are capable of holding a lamp glass.

Petroleum lamp with two wicks - Around 1783, Swiss physicist Pierre Argand developed oil lamps designed such that the wick formed a hollow cylinder up into which air could flow, better supplying the flame.

Highlights of orientation along Germany's coasts

Gallery in the Permanent Navigation Collection (1st Floor, New Building)

5 November 2013 to 31 January 2019

Black and white photo: View on the Lake Müggelsee. A narrow landing stage stands on the shore. Located at the end of it is a framework which is as high as a ladder. On its top a lantern is attached. The opposite lake shore is visible in the distance.

Test bench for a lantern at Müggelsee, 1952 © SDTB / Historisches Archiv, Sammlung WSA Stralsund

How do seafarers orient themselves on the sea and off the coasts – at every time of day, in every weather?

Besides the natural points of reference – the sun, stars, coastal silhouettes and the Earth's magnetic field – help comes from man-made marks: seamarks. 
These are divided into optical, acoustic and radio-frequency signals – known to us as lighthouses, daymarks, buoys or lightvessels – lighthouses on the waves.
In the development of seamarks as warning and guidance systems, signal range, unconditional reliability and the cost of operation are important factors.

From oil fires to the LED lamp
The exhibition picks out the highlights in the evolution of optical signals, covering on 70 square metres their development from fire-towers to the oil lamp and gas light, to electrical light sources such as today's wide-spread, bright, energy-saving and long-lasting LEDs. The employment of reflecting mirrors, refractive glass lenses, colours and repeating light signatures demonstrates the ceaseless change in the field of seamarks. Characteristics such as different colours and rhythmic light patterns make it possible to identify the lighthouse emitting the signal, and hence improve guidance.
Numerous original objects such as glass optics and measuring equipment, as well as archive material and photographs trace the development of a unified German system of seamark administration. 
The exhibits were acquired by the Museum of Technology in 2009 from the Transport Technology Unit of the Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration in Koblenz.

Black and white photo: A two-storey building with a gabled roof and lots of windows on the long side. Located on the narrow side is a tower-shaped annexe which towers above the roof, and a lower annexe with a circular base and a large window area.

Seamark Testing Grounds at Müggelsee, Berlin-Friedrichshagen, 1952 © SDTB / Historisches Archiv, Sammlung WSA Stralsund

Centenary: 100-year anniversary of the Prussian Seamark Testing Grounds
As shipping increased in the 19th century, the need for better orientation along the coasts rose with it.
In Europe, the central governments of France, England and Scotland administered the lighting of their coastlines. Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands also maintained federal organisations for the regulation of seamarks. After the foundation of the German Empire in 1871, a unified system slowly began to emerge in Germany.
In Prussia – the largest coastal nation with the most seamarks – central organisation was of paramount importance. To this end, 100 years ago, on 1 April 1913, the Prussian Seamark Testing Grounds were established in Berlin-Friedrichshagen.

The institute at Müggelsee was overseen by Walter Körte (1855–1914). He drove the development of standardised seamarks and operational benchmarks through his contacts to industry and other neighbouring German states. By the time of the First World War, an effective system of fixed and floating seamarks for daytime and nighttime navigation had evolved. From 1918 onwards, the main focus shifted to collaboration on the international level. After the division of Germany in 1945, the Testing Grounds for West Germany moved to Koblenz, and those for East Germany to Stralsund. In 1990, the two testing centres were merged into one central institute in Koblenz.

Header photo: A small but very robust electric lantern to identify moles or buoys
All colour photographs by Clemens Kirchner