Royal Observatory, Greenwich 

The main goal of today’s outing was to see the observatory and stand on the Meridian. That we did. It’s a hoof to the observatory from the Maritime Museum (which we spent minimal time in because it’s mostly geared to children).

The path to the observatory was through the beautiful park and up a long and quite steep walkway. 

With views down over the city and the O2 arena that was used during the Olympics and is used today as a concert venue.

Voila- the observatory, finally, huff puff puff puff.

The Royal Observatory was founded in June of 1675 and in August of that year construction began.

The exhibits inside are largely devoted to the development of navigation and time keeping instruments. Mr. EOS was on camera duty for this venue and was so enthralled he forgot to take photos of much. Boooo Hissss.

The first Royal astonomer was John Flamsteed, the house named after him is where this octagon is.

Among the many displays of time keeping devices is this, the third of four gizmos developed by Mr. John Harrison to enable accurate measurement of time at sea. 

We lost the photo Mr. EOS took – it’s on the camera but it won’t transfer to the iPad so this photo is one we found online.

His device mitigates the effects of ship movement on accuracy thereby enabling greater precision in navigation. So basically if you know the time in Greenwich and you know the time in your location at sea, you know your position with respect to the lines of longitude.

The Prime Meridian is zero, the starting point. Here are peeps taking selfies with one foot in each hemisphere. If they checked their GPS location, they would find they were about 100 meters off because the GPS was developed using better data points.

The Shepherd Gate Clock is mounted on the wall outside the gate of the RGO. It’s an early example of an electric clock, probably the first to display Greenwich Mean Time to the public and is unusual in using the 24-hour analog dial.

From the RGO website:
From 1852 to 1893, the Sheoherd master clock was the heart of Britain’s time system. It’s time we sent by telegraph to lockdown and many other UK cities. By 1866, time signals were sent to Harvard University via the new transatlantic submarine cable. In terms of the distribution of accurate time into everyday life, it is one of the most important clocks ever made.

Speaking of time boys and girls, we are all out of it for this trip. We’re packing up and mentally gearing for an eight hour flight stateside tomorrow knowing we neither have a balcony nor a butler but maybe in a nod to the QM2 voyage, we’ll fly wearing a tuxedo and ball gown and see if we get any strange looks. 

Thanks for coming along. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. I could be cranky tomorrow so bear with me.


6 thoughts on “Royal Observatory, Greenwich 

  1. Wow- Thanks for doing this post. I went there at age 14 and hope to do it again.

    Special Quiz: What is the GPS longitude of the line.

    Your camera hack should tell you. I believe it’s about 100 meters off zero.

  2. To google cheat and answer my own question:

    The prime meridian passes through the Airy transit circle (51°28′40.1″N 0°0′5.3″W)[4] of the Greenwich observatory. It was long marked by a brass strip in the courtyard, now replaced by stainless steel, and, since 16 December 1999, has been marked by a powerful green laser shining north across the London night sky.

    Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers show that the marking strip for the prime meridian at Greenwich is not exactly at zero degrees, zero minutes and zero seconds but at approximately 5.3 seconds of arc to the west of the meridian (meaning that the meridian appears to be 102 metres east of this line). In the past, this offset has been attributed to the establishment of reference meridians for space-based location systems such as WGS 84 (which GPS relies on) or that errors gradually crept into the International Time Bureau timekeeping process.

  3. I’m so sorry you didn’t like the Maritime Museum. It’s enormous and not just for kids. I think it’s the largest of its kind. Ship models, figureheads, maps, marine art, navigational instruments and history. Loads of history. My recollections may be a bit blurry but I wonder if the Observatory is connected to it and you actually did see a lot of the good stuff.

    Have a quick, smooth, easy trip home.

    1. It was half-term in London so kids were out of school yesterday and the Maritime Museum was MOBBED with the mommy and me crowd. I’m sure had we stayed we would have found plenty to like but we weren’t in the mood for rugrats.

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