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On my second day in the United Kingdom, I went to Greenwich (pronounced gren-itch) to visit The Royal Observatory Greenwich on top of a hill (which has a marvelous view of London by the way). Established in 1675, the Royal Observatory played a vital role in astronomy and navigation as it was the site where the Royal Almanac was created, a document describing the location of celestial bodies that would then be used by navigators at sea to determine their longitude. Today, it’s part of the National Maritime Museum.
As you enter through the gate, the first thing you notice is people piling up on the Prime Meridian to take photos. The Prime Meridian which defines 0° longitude. I joined the pileup and took a photo on the line to see if the photo’s metadata would rest on exactly 0°. Turned out to be -0.0014139° longitude, about 98m west of the meridian.
The Prime Meridian Line running across the ground with my feet either side of the line on the pavement inscribed with the position of cities relative to the meridian.
A few meters from the Prime Meridian was a stump signifying Hailley’s Meridian. He actually came pretty close. Anyway, I didn’t spend £10 to look at a line. I came to learn about the history of timekeeping, so I moved onto the Flamsteed House named after the Observatory’s first Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed.
In the Flamsteed House are artifacts commemorating the housed astronomers. After the tribute, there was a room dedicated to the effort behind solving the longitude problem (finding a way to accurately calculate longitude). Most of it was dedicated to John Harrison’s effort. After all, he spent 31 years developing clocks to solve. His final attempt culminated into the H4 which was accurate within a few hours, however, the Board of Longitude refused to award him the prize for his efforts, so he had to fight for it in Parliament.
After the exhibition on the longitude problem, I moved where I found more clocks along with how time was shared among citizens and a tribute to the Greenwich Lady who sold clocks and synced them to the time at the observatory. I then stepped into the courtyard to take a lot of selfies next to a dolphin sundial which didn’t work because it was cloudy. Ah well, on to the next one that is another building. In it were some really big telescopes, a book store, a room full of timepieces from around the world and a picture of Flavor Flav.
In all, the Royal Observatory Greenwich is a wonderful place to visit. With a large collection of timepieces as well as it’s efforts to show how the astronomers worked, the Royal Observatory actually makes clocks fun. My favorite part was on John Harrison’s efforts to solve the longitude problem. If you’re in London and you have some hours to spare, the Royal Observatory is worth a visit.