Crossing the Line (1)

It’s the classic shot of Greenwich. It may now be one you have to pay for, but people still do it – the fascination for standing with one foot in the east, one in the west will always be irresistible. And I’m guessing that it’s been done ever since 1884 (officially) and before that (unofficially).

But what happens to all those cheesy snaps? Where do they end up? At the bottom of a shoe box, in an album, on the mantlepiece – or even, perhaps, they languish still in a roll of film, unprocessed, or in negative (My various family members always had far more unprinted in the days before digital than actual prints – the cost and/or effort required often outweighed the picture).

So I thought we could start a little occasional series of historic shots of people astride the Meridian line. It could be at the Observatory, or, frankly, anywhere in the world at 0° longitude, at any time, though the older the better. I wonder how old we can get? At first I assumed that it would be just since the Observatory was opened, but it occurs to me that even astronomers aren’t immune to the joys of standing with one foot in each hemisphere, so it could go back as far as photography or even line-drawings will allow.

I’d love to see a jolly astronomer enjoying a lunchtime sandwich in 1923 astride the line. Of course the Holy Grail would be Sir George Airey himself dancing a little victory jig after the International Meridian Conference or Ruth Belville, skirts akimbo, but I’d be just as happy to see your Uncle Ernie and Auntie Gladys on their holidays in 1958. I wonder if there are any French equivalents on the rival line in the Paris Observatory

This pic, of Lucya and her dad Toni, was taken in either 1962 or 1963 – given that she must have been all of two or three at the time I’ll forgive her for not remembering the exact date. What’s interesting is that the only thing that really gives us any sense of time at the ‘home of time’ is the clothing – the background has remained constant.

Actually, since I wrote this post I’ve been reminded of local historian Graham’s site The Greenwich Meridian which is all about – well, I think the name says it all…


the attachments to this post:

lucya and toni 1962or3 low
lucya and toni 1962or3 low


2 Comments to “Crossing the Line (1)”

  1. That’s a great idea. Turn them into a video! Stick all the photos into After Effects, positioning each one in the 3D space, so that the meridian line is maintained in the same position throughout each video. It would be mesmerising.

  2. LisA says:

    A friend and I took matching photo’s on the 180 meridian in Fiji and the Greenwich meridian, because we’re a bit sad like that.

    But I agree with Blackheath Bugle, a video would be great. I have seen one of different 0 degree points around the world at a talk at the observatory a couple of years ago. It was set to a piece of music of the chimes of the H4. Very cool.