A chronicle of fall quarter abroad at Oxford, 2010
Saturday, October 23, 2010
View from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich - wow!
I feel like I've been to a cornerstone of the modern world: Greenwich, England. I still remember sitting in science class (in eighth grade, I think it was) learning about the prime meridian and being told that Greenwich was pronounced "Grenich," not "Green-witch." How fantastically strange, then, to see it with my own eyes, and to stand on the spot of the prime meridian itself.
I ended up in Greenwich for an architecture class field trip, during which we saw several famous examples of 17th-century buildings designed by such architects as Inigo Jones,
One of the stargazing rooms and old telescopes
Christopher Wren, and John Webb, including the Queen's House and the former palace and sailors' quarters (now a naval school). But the highlight of the trip by far was the Royal Observatory. After class was adjourned, I went with a group of people up a hill to see the building, which was pivotal in the development of accurate star charts used for navigation - and which is also the site of the prime meridian, or 0 degrees longitude. It has since been turned into a museum, which in its displays of telescopes, maps, and intricate old clocks (designed with the aim of keeping accurate time with Greenwich Mean Time, which would assist in mapping one's exact coordinates while at sea) had me fascinated. Granted, I love old clocks already, but here I really got the feel of a challenging but exciting time in history, in which shipping, travel, and exploration all exploded and changed the world. (Some big names here too - Richard Halley and Sir Isaac Newton among them.)
After visiting the Royal Observatory, we did some window shopping and eating in Greenwich and then London before heading to see a play in the evening. It was called The Woman in Black and was very well done, with innovative uses of the stage and light and sound effects, but also rather scary. (Suffice it to say, I did not scream like some others in the audience did!)