On the right meridian

Imagine that your plane takes off from Heathrow on Monday 13th March at 0.01am and heads WEST in the direction of Anchorage airport in Alaska.
The journey lasts over 15 hours. What time and date will you arrive in Alaska?
Similar question – why do you experience jet lag when you travel from Paris to New Zealand or from Tokyo to Berlin?

One way to find the answer to these questions or to refresh and deepen your knowledge about time and space is to visit the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. 

Arriving in style appeals to Adrian and myself so we board a City cruise boat. 
The boat leaves the impressive area of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London and sails east. 
Further along the River Thames estuary the water is getting choppy.
On the both sides of the waterfront dark brownish and grey warehouses, converted into modern, interior-trendy apartments (I guess) connect the past with the present.
This is the area where in previous centuries ships from all over the world were coming to trade.
The skyscrapers of Canary Wharf appear on the left bank and minutes later the boat stops at Greenwich pier. 
It is a cold March morning.
Greenwich Park is beaming with children, parents, dogs, joggers, and of course, the flood of international tourists climbing the Greenwich Hill. It  includes a huge group of students from Scandinavia who are surprisingly awake and chatty following their teachers.
We speed up to overtake them and then we are at the top of the hill. 
The Royal Observatory in Greenwich is the home of the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time. 
The Prime Meridian is a humble line, unnoticeable as everything worth noticing could be. It is a line in the pavement in the courtyard of the Observatory. 
Two signs indicate that this is not an ordinary line. One is the big Airy Transit Circle telescope in the building behind the line, constructed by the seventh Royal Astrologer George Riddell Airy.
The second sign signalling the uniqueness of the 0” longitude line is the fuss around it – families with children and young people from all over the world are taking photos here.Yes, they aim to show their exciting life on Instagram and TikTok but there is more to that.
The left leg is in the west hemisphere and the right leg is on the east hemisphere of planet Earth. Who can do that? Only heroes!!! Heroes like Batman or Spiderman, or Indiana Jones. 
The impossible is possible, everything is possible. On the right meridian everything is possible. 
If I dig deeper, the Royal Observatory makes everyone feel a part of something greater than themselves, something that is called progress.
The prime meridian is arbitrary – it could be everywhere in the world.
The International Meridian conference in Washington in October 1884 decided by nations’ votes that Airy’s meridian should be the prime meridian. The main reason was the fact that in the second half of the 19th Century 72% of the world’s trade was dependant on the sea-charts which had already accepted Greenwich as the prime meridian (based on the Nautical Almanac of Nevil Maskelyne, the fifth Royal Astronomer).
The same conference approved the proposal of the Scottish-born engineer Stanford Fleming for 24 time zones, each representing 15” of longitude and an hour of solar time. The developing railway systems of America and Canada and their struggle with the local times were behind the proposal. 
Away from the fame of the Prime Meridian is the 180” meridian that runs mostly through the Pacific.The 180” meridian is the International Date Lane and strange things with time happen when you cross it from west to east or from east to west.
If you want to have a personal adventure with that – book a flight to Fiji. 
Remember, miracles happen on the right meridian!

1 Comment

  1. Very interesting Nina.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *