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ship's bell

bell used as early as the 15th century to sound the time on board ship by striking each half hour of a watch. The mariner's day is divided into six watches, each four hours long, except that the 4:00 to 8:00 PM watch may be "dogged"; that is, divided into the first and second dogwatches, each two hours long, to allow men on duty to have their evening meal. Through the 18th century, time was ordinarily measured on board ship by using a 30-minute sandglass. The quartermaster or ship's boy turned the glass when the sand ran through, and it became customary for him to strike the bell as he did so. Eight times in each watch the glass was turned and the number of strokes on the bell indicated the number of half hours elapsed after the men came on deck. These strokes are sounded in pairs, with an interval following each pair

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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