вторник, 19 мая 2009 г.

TIME SIGNAL FIRED AT STS.PETER AND PAUL FORTRESS


By Lyubov Tsarevskaya

There is a long-standing tradition in St. Petersburg. Every day at noon a gun is fired on the Fortress of Saints Peter and Paul to let people know the exact time of day. There is even a saying: "As exact as a gun shot."

The city of St. Petersburg was founded in 1703. The very next year gun salutes were introduced to accompany the raising and lowering of a flag over the Fortress of Saints Peter and Paul at sunrise and sunset. These were the first time signals in St. Petersburg. Very soon gun shots also announced important events in the life of the royal family, the city and Russia as a whole. They warned of imminent flooding of the Neva River and even announced the day when the river became clear of ice.

In December 1735 at a meeting of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences the distinguished astronomer Joseph Delile suggested firing a gun at high noon from a fortification of the Admiralty so that every one in the city would be able to set his timepiece by the sun. There was no action on this proposal, however, until more than a century later when a cable was being laid from the Pulkovo Observatory to St. Petersburg to inform the Central Telegraph of the exact time. Then it was that a gun at the Admiralty began announcing high noon. To ensure accuracy a fuse wire was placed in the gun, and the other end of the wire was connected by cable to a battery at the Central Telegraph. When a special clock at the Central Telegraph indicated 12-noon, the electricity circuit set off the gun.

This happened at noon on February 6th, 1865. A new tradition had been born. Nine years later the gun was moved to the Fortress of Saints Peter and Paul. Here it was fired by an electric current from a clock in the home of the Fortress commandant that was connected by cable to the Central Telegraph. There, were many people in St. Petersburg at the time who had no timepieces and judged the time as best they could by the position of the sun. They had every reason to appreciate the gun shot at high noon.

This practice went on until the 1st of June, 1934. After that for more than two decades the Fortress of Saints Peter and Paul was silent. It spoke up again only when it was time to celebrate the 250 birthday of St. Petersburg. Two 152- millimeter howitzers that had seen action in World War II were set up in the Fortress, and on the 23rd of June 1957 they announced high noon.

Since that time this tradition has come into life. It has now become so habitual that no one notices the booming of the gun. According to opinion polls, at least some people are surprised for a moment, but then relax, with the thought that all is well. Only the youngest of the young wonder why a gun has gone off when there is no war.

Source:THe Voice of Russia

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