Poles, meridians, tropics, circles – a brief digression.

What with our crossing – on foot – the Tropic of Capricorn in Namibia, which I told you about in yesterday’s post, I got to thinking about the two very important geographical points, seven lines, a pair of meridians, and five parallels that adorn our globe – in all, nine objects:

– The North Pole;
– the South Pole;
– the Greenwich meridian;
– the 180th meridian;
– the equator;
– the Arctic Circle;
– the Tropic of Cancer;
– the Tropic of Capricorn; and
– the Antarctic Circle.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been at both the Poles and I’ve crossed all the meridians and parallels plenty times (mostly not noticing – high up in a plane). But it’s alas only seldom I’ve walked across, along, and photographed these geographical objects like I did recently with the Tropic of Capricorn. Still, let me go over what I have ticked off, and what remains still in my to-do list…

I. The North Pole: been.

All my tales from the northernmost side point are here. Specifically, a highlight for me – taking a dip in a hole cut in the polar ice (at the Barneo ice base) – here!


And btw: in good weather, the North Pole looks like this:

Endless icy expanses, sometimes icebergs ‘stranded’ in the ice. And talking of the ice – it moves: at a speed of around five kilometers per day! Because of this the North Pole isn’t fixed up on the surface of the ice, and its precise spot at any particular time needs locating with special devices. Btw: 90°00′ means we’re right at the Pole!

And these are our intrepid polar skiers. We sponsored the women’s North Pole expedition. How, why and details – here.

II. The South Pole: been.

So significant was this trip – I wrote a book about it. Truly a fascinating, breathtaking, unforgettable adventure.

A bit like with the North Pole, the South Pole wanders about a bit – rather, the mega-deep ice cap covering the earth at the South Pole does the wandering. Accordingly there’s a ceremonial South Pole (all shiny and pole-like – v. photogenic:) and a Geographic South Pole (literally a broomstick stuck in the ice, anything but ceremonial!). And every morning of every New Year’s Day the polar scientists measure how far the old Pole has moved, and mark out the new position. Thus, on January 1 there are a full three South Poles: Ceremonial, old Geographical and new Geographical. Not a lot of people know that ).

The inevitable South Pole selfie – Jan 1, 2010:

Yes, we installed a Christmas tree, and danced a jig around it!

The ladies at the ‘finish’!

III. The Greenwich meridian: been.

This one’s easy to get to – and view. It’s in London, a day’s walk from the center. And walk we did – a few times. Highly recommended!

This is probably the most stable out of this list of geographical objects on the planet. All the rest (Poles, equator, Tropics…) move around a bit as the planet rocks to and fro due to various reasons. The Royal Greenwich Observatory stands firm in one place.

180th meridian: been.

Getting here ain’t easy. You need to get either to Chukotka or Fiji. Or to the middle of the ocean. You could visit it on Antarctica too, but that’s taking it a bit too far. I settled for Fiji. And at one point I straddled the meridian!

The International Date Line is on (or, in places, zigzags around) the 180th Meridian. That means that when I straddled it, one foot was in yesterday, the other – today!!

Actually, that’s how folks on the island lived – split into different days! But eventually they got sick of it, so moved the International Date Line out to sea.

V. The equator : been.

I visited the equator in Ecuador. Rather – I visited the equators. For there are two: the official one and the ‘alternative’ one (100 meters from the official one). And using satellites you get a third equator – a bit further north, which you could call the current geographical one.


Alternative! ->

VI. The Arctic Circle: crossed.

Plenty times flown over this. Direct flights from Moscow to the west coast of the U.S. go over the Arctic. I think the flight Moscow – Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky also does. Kangerlussuaq (greenland) is also north of it, as of course is the North Pole, both of which I visited. I have still to get to Murmansk and Norilsk, mind. Also still to do: cross the Arctic Circle on foot.

VII. The Tropic of Cancer: crossed.

And crossed it many times – in a plane. I have crossed it on the ground too in one place – in Abu Dhabi, in the Empty Quarter desert. But there are no markings, so I didn’t even notice.

VIII. The Tropic of Capricorn: As of a few weeks ago – been!

And in fun company:

The Tropic of Capricorn is crossed every time you leave Sao Paulo’s airport and head into the center of the city. Thus, I’ve crossed it plenty. And up in the sky in: Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

The Antarctic Circle: crossed.

…When we flew to the South Pole in 2009. Also – on the Santiago-Sydney flight.

I crossed it also on a ship – the Akademik Sergey Vavilov, one our Antarctic expedition in March 2017.


And that’s about it, I think. If I’ve forgotten anything – do please let me know!

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    you never mentioned what it feels like to have the sun right above one’s head! :)

    Thank you very much for sharing!

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