Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Ed reports from the UK of a visit to the Prime Meridian: "I went to Greenwich today. Interesting, but much less impressive than crossing the Arctic Circle. I think we give more weight to latitude than longitude. Maybe that's just because we all hit all the longitudes long ago."

I can't describe crossing the Arctic Circle, though I have an ambition to do so (the ambition is fairly dim in February, however, when the Arctic has come to me). The closest I've come is Vyborg, Russia, latitude about 60° 42' -- roughly six degrees short. I've passed through all of the longitudes, as Ed has, and had before Yuriko and I made it to Greenwich near the end of 1994. Still, I got a kick out of standing on the Prime Meridian, as illustrated here, though I've since read that the zero line used by the Global Positioning System is about 100 meters east of the former line, now the tourist-attraction line, at the Old Royal Observatory.

The sign behind Y is, or was, actually a vending machine. Insert a pound coin and you get a time-stamped souvenir. (As a very small child, Lilly got a hold of this souvenir, causing the damage visible here).

"Some interesting stuff in the maritime museum," Ed continued. "The first actual Franklin relics I've ever gotten to see. Pretty exciting for an Arctic geek like me."

John Franklin relics -- very cool indeed, and I don't mean that as a gag line. I went to the Greenwich Maritime Museum, too, but don't remember seeing anything associated with the famed Arctic explorer. Maybe I was of too ignorant of Franklin at the time to notice, or maybe those items weren't on display. I do remember a fine exhibit on John Harrison and the Longitude Problem, which impressed me, and added to the experience of standing on zero degrees east-west.

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At 6:13 AM, Anonymous e said...

there were so many people on the line, i honestly can't tell you if the vending machine was there or not. i did not, obviously, get a time-stamp souvenir, since i didn't care, although i find the entire idea of how we place ourselves on a spinning globe to be endlessly fascinating. google earth, though, places my house in the middle of the lake, rather than on its shores.

it has always been an ambition of mine to cross all the longitude lines on the ground, rather than cheating, as you and i have done, with trans-oceanic flights. my friend marie has done this, catching a freighter across the pacific, the QE2 across the atlantic.

i simply have the atlantic and an oddly inconvenient but relatively small chunk of the pacific to go.


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