June 13th 2019
By Tess Tangney
After cycling in the rain for almost an hour we arrived at Dunsink wet and in need of a strong cup of tea. We dried ourselves off and couldn’t wait any longer to get searching through this magnificent building. Our first stop was the basement, after looking through a few rooms finding nothing more interesting than an old Dell computer our hopes were falling. Dunsink didn’t let us down though, the next door we tried swung open to reveal a treasure trove of artifacts. From beautiful long brass telescopes to a disassembled orrery we couldn’t believe our luck. We filled our hands with as much as we could carry and brought it upstairs to have a proper look.
Oscar quickly got caught up in trying to make an old clock drive built by Grubb tick again while Gabriel got lost in a device we later found out is called a Differential XYmachine, used to look at minute details in photographic plates. I began to reassemble a long refracting telescope from the 1870’s, the hours passed quickly and before we knew it, it was time for some lunch and another cup of tea. Poor Peter had to endure the three of us asking him all about his career while we ate our sandwiches. He told us some incredible stories, like when he flew with the Irish aircore to view a total solar eclipse. He also included somethings which didn’t work out for him which I think we all found very reassuring given what a successful and interesting career he’s had so far.
We headed upstairs to the library for the afternoon. Oscar had been researching Dublin Standard Time (DST) for the past week and was hoping to find some of the remaining Transit books, which were used to calculate DST in the 18th and 19th century. Out of the 7 books that were used, 5 are still known to exist. Our plan was simple – look for the oldest books in the room. We soon had four large leather bound books spread out on the floor, each filled with thousands of dates and times. We couldn’t believe our luck, we’d managed to find all but one of the Transit books!
After a day exploring, it was time to head back out into the rain and start the long cycle home.