For my last day in London and the last day of my European vacation I figured it was appropriate to spend the day at Greenwich (pronounced gren-itch). Greenwich is the home both the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The Prime Meridian separates the East and West Hemispheres, like the Equator separates the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Greenwich Mean Time is the universal measurement of standard time.
The story behind the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time is a fascinating one which I don't intend to repeat here because you can find most of it on the Royal Observatory web site. What I will say is that the two are very much related and their history is tightly coupled to that of navigation and hence my GPS device which was extremely useful to me during the past 3 months.
You can find more on the Royal Observatory, Prime Meridian, and Greenwich Mean Time as follows:
My visit to Greenwich started with an hour long boat ride down the Thames from Westminster Pier (a short distance from Big Ben) to Greenwich. Once I got to Greenwich, I did a quick stop at the Tourist Information center and its coffee shop, then headed up the hill to the Royal Observatory. After that I headed down to the National Maritime Museum for a visit, then checked out some of village before catching a boat back to Westminster Pier.
That's our captain for the trip to Greenwich.
I already showed you plenty of photos back in May of the area between Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge, so I won't repeat any here. However, this is probably a better photo of Tower Bridge that's worth showing.
The area between Tower Bridge and Greenwich is mostly apartments/condos and some office buildings. This is the world famous Canary Wharf area north of Greenwich.
As we can see here, it was low tide during our ride downstream this morning.
The apartments/condos that line the Thames east of the Tower Bridge are a mixture of old converted warehouses and new modern buildings like that below.
This is the Royal Observatory.
As I headed for the Royal Observatory the first order of business was to find the Prime Meridian (longitude equal to 0°00'00.0") with my GPS device which shown below, or is it? More on this later.
This is the Shepherd 24-hour Gate Clock in front of the Royal Observatory. The dial shows Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Universal Time (UT).
This is it, the Prime Meridian indicator.
Here I am on the Prime Meridian with my GPS device in hand. But, something is wrong?
The Prime Meridian is not at a longitude equal to 0°00'00.0" like it is supposed to be. As we can see here it is at 0°00'05.2". My earlier reading of 0°00'00.0" was actually taken about 300 feet east of here! According to one of the girls working here the line shown here which everyone gets their photos taken next to is wrong, but it's kept for historical purposes. Apparently, recent calculation say it should be further east, but she didn't know if it should be 300 feet east like GPS device says it should be. I'll need to do some research on this when I get home. By the way, there were several other people here with GPS devices and they all said the line was in the wrong place. However, the amount they said it was off depended on the quality of their GPS device. None of them agreed with my device, but that is because none of them had the new receiver technology that's in mine.
That red ball was used in the old days to allow ships in the area to set their clocks. If you go to the above mentioned web site, you will learn why it was important for ships navigating the open seas to have an accurate time reference. Every day this ball rises to the top and drops back down again exactly at noon allowing anyone within site to set their clocks. It's supposedly done this every day since 1833, but it didn't happen today due to technical difficulties.
Here we see the main building and all the people taking photos around the Prime Meridian.
This garden commemorates the International Meridian Conference of 1884, held in Washington DC, at which it was voted that the Meridian of longitude passing through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich should be adopted as the Prime Meridian of the World..
This is a shot looking to the north of the Royal Observatory. The buildings at the bottom of the hill are the National Maritime Museum (left) and the Queen's House (center). The high rise buildings in the distance are part of the Canary Wharf area.
This is the entrance to the National Maritime Museum. Like the Royal Observatory, cameras aren't allowed inside which is too bad because both place were fascinating with plenty to see.
Down near the pier where our boat arrived from Westminster, there is a tunnel that allows you to walk under the Thames over to the Canary Wharf on the other side. Here is the entrance to the tunnel. A similar building exists on the other side and is just barely visible above the back of that van. I didn't have enough time to go across and check out the other side.
That's the Millennium Dome, one of the biggest cultural disasters in England's history. There is currently some redevelopment going on there and while I was driving around England over the last couple weeks I heard on the radio that someone wants to turn it into a mega casino!
Time for the boat ride back to Westminster. It's much more crowd than this morning, the tide is up, and the wind is howling so a good portion of the crowd up here (including me) moved downstairs to shelter.
Well, that's it! Tomorrow morning I head to the airport and catch an airplane back to Canada. I'm looking forward to getting home after being away for 90 days.