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Churruca’s Observatory

Churucca's Observatory (Fort Chacon), Laventille | Photograph Courtesy Adrian Camps-Campins

Written by Geoffrey MacLean

Don Cosmo Damien Churruca was a Spanish Officer and well known as a scientific navigator. In 1792 he was appointed to lead the expedition to fix the longitudinal points in the New World relative to Cadiz, Spain.

He arrived in Trinidad on 21 July 1792 and with the permission of the Spanish Governor Don Jose Maria Chacon, proceeded to establish an observatory at Laventille. The observatory is situated adjacent to the Roman Catholic Church. A plaque incorrectly identifies the ancient structure as “Fort Chacon”.

On 2 January 1793, Churruca made geographical and astronomical history by observing with great precision the immersion of the third satellite of Jupiter in the disc of the moon and also that of the first satellite. From his observations he fixed, for the first time, an accurate meridian in the New World. On 28 January 1793 Churruca dismantled his observatory and sailed to Grenada and then back to Spain.

On 21 October 1793 in Cadiz, Churruca accurately assimilated his observations enabling him to link the New World with the Old and fix an absolute longitude of the Observatory at Laventille. These were later confirmed by further observations at Havana, Cuba.

Churruca married Dona Maria Dolores Ruiz de Apodaca, a niece of Don Sebastien de Apodaca, Admiral of the Spanish fleet which was anchored at Chaguaramas and scuttled, when General Abercrombie invaded Trinidad in 1797.

Observatory Street in Laventille was named for the Churruca Observatory.

Excerpt from Voices in the Street

Olga J. Mavrogordato, 1977

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