Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, September 1, 2011



Move over, STONEHENGE!  The world's largest clock is now located at BURNING MAN!  For those of you not living on the West Coast of the United States, BURNING MAN is a week long festival which celebrates people who want to "design art and express their individuality."  The concept is to create a temporary city, in the middle of the Nevada desert, for one week.  Over 50,000 people arrive to a makeshift city to showcase their fantastic creations.  Then, on Labor Day, everyone packs up every last scrap and leaves the desert as if nothing had happened.  This happens to be the festival's 25th anniversary.  To celebrate, artist JIM BOWERS, with the help of scientists from LAWRENCE BERKELEY LABORATORIES, have constructed the world's largest clock.  It's over a mile wide, with enormous hands and awesome lasers that shoot into the sky.

All of which puts the Guinness Book of World Records in a bit of a quandary.  Is this temporary creation really the biggest clock ever?  After copious amounts of research, we here at the DUNER BLOG have concluded that...no, it isn't  Clocks that sit on the ground are silly.  Only birds can see them...and we all know that birds can't tell time.  The only huge clocks that matter are those on erected on towers so that everyone can see them and know the time of day.  So, on this Labor Day, we'll salute those who know the nine-to-five grind and  we will count down our five favorite clock towers of all time.

NOTE: This list does not include the Campanile on the University of California in Berkeley, which is the coolest bell tower in the universe...not just earth!

Prague's famed clock
#5 Prague Astronomical Clock. In the year 1410, Czech clockmaker JAN HANAS unveiled his gigantic astronomical clock to the delight of crowds crammed into the Old Town Square below.  Not only does this baby tell time, but it also plots the phases of the moon and sun.  It is the only functioning 'astrolabe clock' in the world.  It's resilient too.  During the Prague Uprising in 1945 it took a licking and kept on ticking when negative Nazis fired on it.

#4 Kremlin Spasskaya Tower.  Located in the heart of Moscow, this proud clock tower has kept Russians on time since 1491.  Think about all the rulers during this period! This list includes Czars like Catherine the Great, Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible.  Then it rang for dictators like Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky and billionaires like Mikhail Prokhorov.  The clock changes moods with the regimes.  During the Soviet era, a large red star was erected on top which remains today.

London's Big Ben
#3 Railway Station Tower Tsim Sha Tsui. Constructed at the height of the Victorian colonial period, this massive clock tower is 164 feet high.  The bells chimes in synchronicity with the trains, who arrived in Kowloon from the rich trading city of Canton, just up the Pearl River.  Next to the railway station is the Star Ferry terminal which whisks passengers to Hong Kong Island.  The station was abandoned for a modern underground terminus, but the clock tower remains as a tribute to a glorious past.

#2 Big Ben. When it opened to the public on May 31, 1859, Big Ben was the tallest clock tower on earth.  Nowadays, it's the third tallest, but it still has the distinction of being the tallest clock tower with four faces.  What amazes us about Big Ben is the clock's spectacular endurance.  In 150+ years, it has only broken down once.  In 1976, a chiming mechanism cracked and for a horrendous twenty-six days Londoners had to go without their beloved Big Ben chiming away every hour on the hour.

The Abraj al-Bait Towers
#1 Royal Mecca Clock Tower.  There's a new sheriff (an Arabic word!) in town, and he lives in Mecca.  Opening next year...just in time for Ramadan...it will be not only be the world's tallest clock tower but the fourth tallest building in the world as well.  It's also a hotel, apartments...heck...it even has two heliports! Not only does it chime every hour, but also five times a day for prayers.  The Saudis are hoping this clock, complete with an immense telescope, will become a new standard in a new era...with Mecca Standard Time replacing Greenwich Mean Time.

I tell you...people really get carried away with their clock towers!

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