I’m exploring 180 degrees longitude, better known as the 180th meridian. This line covers the opposite side of the prime meridian covering a part of the world mostly devoid of land. This page is part of my Voyageography geographic series to help better understand all 360 degrees of the world. On each page of this project I take it one 1 degree at a time to uncover the entire world. This time I look at the 180th meridian between 179.5 degrees west to 179.5 degrees east from 90 degrees north to south.
180°E runs across the Arctic north, northern Arctic bodies of water, down through the tundra of Russia, crosses the Bering Strait, skirts by the USA, covers the vast Pacific Ocean, while finding it’s way to hit some Pacific island countries. You will discover the highlights of all countries and territories located within .5 degrees of the 180th meridian, including what’s there, some travel tips as well as travel information to plan a trip in case you want to explore any parts in the real world. Take time read and to interact with all the maps and links.
Arctic Ocean – 90°N to 76°N
The 180th meridian starts in the Arctic Ocean where all longitude lines start, at the North Pole. Here it’s cold, isolated and frozen all year round. The further south you go through the Arctic Ocean, depending on the time of the year, ice breaks to open ocean. In recent years this has been more dramatic as ice is melting at a faster pace.
On the Arctic Sea Ice News, we can see the ice sheet that sits over the North Pole goes down on the 180th meridian. On average ice can reach about 1,200 miles south of the North Pole on the 180th meridian or at around 72°N. In recent history the Arctic Ocean is not freezing as quickly and thawing way too fast in the spring. Typically ice would reach as far down as the Russian coastline at around 70°N. However it’s recognized that this isn’t happening as frequently and many times the Arctic Ocean sees periods without ice.
Starts: 90°00’00.0″N 0°00’00.0″E
Exits: 76°00’00.0″N 0°00’00.0″E
988 miles long
Given that this portion of the Arctic Ocean is located north of Russia, this area of the world is pretty tough to visit. It is possible to take tours, like Polar Cruises, Arctic Odysseys, Deutsche Polarflug, Icetrek, PolarExplorers, and North Pole Adventures to the North Pole, but this part of the Arctic Ocean is known to be windy with rough seas. Many people simply choose to fly over the rough ocean and then land on the north pole or fly to an ice spot and ski to the north pole.
East Siberian & Chukchi Sea – 76°N to 72°N
Around the 180th meridian it could be said the East Siberian Sea and Chukchi sea meet up. The East Siberian Sea coming from the west and the Chukchi Sea from the east. This area is obviously very cold and contains some of the roughest seas in the world. This body of water is prone to high winds for much of the year getting as high as hurricane strength. Ice was very common and still is but it doesn’t usually get as far south as it once did.
Enters: 76°00’00.0″N 0°00’00.0″E
Exits: 71°31’52.4″N 180°00’00.0″E
276 miles long
This part of the 180th meridian is rather remote and you would need a boat to see it. The best way, if possible, is to take a ship from Pevek, Russia or from a city in Alaska. That being said there isn’t much in these waters. It is possible to see whales, polar bears, seals, seagulls, narwhals, and other arctic fish.
Life on the East Siberian Sea and Chukchi Sea
A drone view of the Chukchi Sea
Russia – 72°N to 65°N
The 180th meridian enters Russia at Wrangel Island. After a 38 mile stretch the 180th meridian goes back into the Chukchi Sea until hitting the Russian mainland around 68°N. From there the 180th meridian travels a rather remote part of Siberian Russia called the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. The 180th meridian exits Russia some 449 miles later at around 65°N.
Enters: 71°31’52.4″N 180°00’00.0″E
Exits: 65°02’19.9″N 180°00’00.0″E
449 miles long
The 180th meridian travels nearly 500 miles on Russian land however most of it is empty. In fact I could only find a few cities that even are between 179.5 to -179.5 degrees. They include Ryrkaypiy on the Russian mainland and Zvjozdny on Wrangel Island.
Speaking of Wrangel Island, it is perhaps one of the most unique islands in the arctic. It is owned by Russia and today is a full UNESCO World Heritage site because it’s home to a rare arctic tundra bio-system. Over 400 species of flora and fauna call it home including 8 mammals. The island is treeless, with over 900 lakes but is strikingly beautiful.
It is possible to see this part of the world if you’re ambitious enough. Wrangel Island in particular will take a lot of coordinating and weeks of travel but during the summer occasional tourist ships, like with Heritage Expeditions, make trips there.
The Russian mainland that the 180th meridian goes through is remote and mountainous. Roads are not common and people get around using boats or airplanes. This area is home to more indigenous culture rather Russians. In the city of Ryrkaypiy, known as the “place of the walrus,” marine living is very important along with reindeer herding farms. Again tourist companies like Heritage Expeditions make tourist trips here to learn about the culture, landscapes, and people. There is only one road connecting the city to Mys Shmidta and from there to the city of Egvekinot. Most of these roads are unpaved or can only be crossed during the winter so it’s probably not something advised to do.
Bering Sea – 65°N to 52°N
From the Russian mainland the 180th meridian enters the Bering Sea. From there it goes down for 900 miles until it comes close to the Aleutian Islands in the USA.
Enters: 65°02’19.9″N 180°00’00.0″E
Exits: 52°01’41.7″N 180°00’00.0″E
899 miles long
The Bering Sea is a cold ocean however also rich with wildlife with a productive ecosystem. It is home to animals like walruses, whales, belugas, polar bears, sea lions, puffins, crabs, albatrosses, and hundreds of types of fish.
Tours like Adventure Life, Bering Sea Cruises, and Zegrahm Expeditions all offer to travel the Bering Sea and the surrounding land masses including Chukotka in Russia and Alaska. In fact I did a simple google search and it was pretty easy to find many tour offerings. The costs are expensive and the travel can be slow but the highlight is to get to travel the most remote places on earth.
USA – 52°N to 52°N
The 180th meridian doesn’t technically touch any land in the United States however there is one landmass between the 179.5 to -179.5 degree mark. Just west of the 180th meridian near 52 degree latitude there is an island part of the Aleutian Islands called Semisopochnoi Island in Alaska.
Enters: 52°01’41.7″N 180°00’00.0″E
Exits: 51°52’14.9″N 180°00’00.0″E
11 miles long
Semisopochnoi Island is actually a pretty unique island for geography lovers. It is the technically the most eastern point of the United States sitting slightly west of the 180th meridian. In Russian it means the “having seven hills.”
The island has no native mammals. The island use to have arctic foxes that have since been removed after they were introduced. Birds are the most common including, geese, puffins, petrels, and auklets. It is possible to travel to the Aleutian Islands although I’m not sure if it’s possible to travel to Semiopochnoi Island. Doing some research doesn’t pull up any direct ways to get there however there are ferry services and boat tours offered from Alaska to the Aleutian Islands.
Pacific Ocean – 51°N to 9°S
At over 4,000 miles this part of the Pacific Ocean is 1/3rd of all of the 180th meridian. Covered in vast ocean it is of course possible to travel in any part of this area and many do including cruise ships and flights that cross the 180th meridian daily. You would probably need a GPS device to even realize you have crossed the 180th meridian.
Enters: 51°52’14.9″N 180°00’00.0″E
Exits: 9°20’50.2″S 180°00’00.0″E
4,230 miles long
Devoid of land these waters are mostly open to all types of marine life, and boats that make their way across the Pacific Ocean. Nearby there are many Pacific island nations that come close to the 180th meridian.
Tuvalu – 9°S to 9°S
One of the thrills in doing this project is finding land where I didn’t know any existed. Originally I didn’t think the 180th meridian came near the country of Tuvalu but it turns out there is a small atoll located just west of the 180th meridian around 9 degrees south. The 180th meridian does not touch the island but is part of the 179.5 to -179.5 region. The country of Tuvalu are small islands scattered across the Pacific Ocean around this area.
Enters: 9°20’50.2″S 180°00’00.0″E
Exits: 9°26’05.1″S 180°00’00.0″E
6 miles long
The coral atoll is named Nukulaelae, “land of the sands,” and there are people living on one of the islets, Fangaua. The atoll forms an oval from 15 distinct islets where all of the other islets are conservation areas. The island is only 2 square kilometers and has ruins on one of the islets that dates back to pre-Christianity days.
Pacific Ocean – 9°S to 16°S
After coming close to Tuvalu the line continues in the Pacific Ocean for another 400 plus miles.
Enters: 9°26’05.1″S 180°00’00.0″E
Exits: 15°42’36.0″S 180°00’00.0″E
433 miles long
Another part of the Pacific Ocean, this area it’s possible to see all types of marine life, birds as well as severe weather like cyclones.
Fiji – 16°S to 19°S
The 180th meridian first reaches near Fiji around 16 degrees south. The line finally enters Fiji on the island of Vanua Levu at 16 degrees. Fiji is technically the only other country besides Russia that sits right on the 180th meridian.
Enters: 15°42’36.0″S 180°00’00.0″E
Exits: 19°11’35.2″S 180°00’00.0″E
241 miles long
The line first comes near the island of Thikombia Island, Fiji, which is located on the eastern side of the 180th meridian. The island does have a small population, Natovutovu, on the southern part of the island but is mostly covered by a tropical rainforest.
The 180th meridian finally reaches land for the first time since Russia on the island of Vanua Levu. The line crosses a small section on the eastern part of the island and from what I can tell the area is mostly remote. However Vanua Levu is an easily accessible island with daily service from Suva, Fiji, the capital. Cruise ships also stop by with itineraries in the South Pacific. Top highlights include Waisali Rainforest Reserve, deep sea diving, waterfalls and tropical gardens. The nation of Kiribati has begun to buy land from the Fijian government as their islands face rising sea levels.
The line then hits Rabi Island, a volcanic island, that is home to Banaban people originally from Kiribati. The native Fijians were all moved from Rabi Island to Taveuni to make way for the newcomers. In fact the Banaban people were only given Fijian citizenship recently as they are still really Kiribatian citizens. There is no scheduled service to Rabi Island, you would need to go to Vanua Levu and find passage through there.
The 180th meridian continues to Taveuni Island which lies just south of Rabi Island. Taveuni is the third largest island in Fiji, and known for it’s natural beauty. Travel here is quite easy with flights from the capital Suva, or it’s possible to travel here by boat from one of the surrounding islands. One of the best features of Taveuni Island is that it retains all the flora and fauna that are native to Fiji. Without invasive species on the island the Fijian crab, fruit bats, and unique species of palm are in stable condition.
Before finally leaving Fiji, the line does not touch but does come near other islands of Moala, Totoya, and Matuku. All are pretty challenging to travel to although not impossible. If you manage to get to them they are some of the most unspoiled islands with pristine beaches and rainforest in the world.
Pacific Ocean, Southern Ocean & Ross Sea – 19°S to 78°S
From Fiji the next landmass is Antarctica over 4,000 miles away. From here the water masses crossed are the Pacific Ocean, Southern Ocean and finally the Ross Sea.
Enters: 19°11’35.2″S 180°00’00.0″E
Exits: 78°12’54.8″S 180°00’00.0″E
4,078 miles long
It’s all open ocean with a chance to see some birds, whales and other marine life. Close to Antarctica, in the Ross Sea, it is possible to see adélie and emperor penguins, petrels, seals and many types of birds. It is of course possible to travel to Ross Sea with tours like Oceanwide Expeditions heading to Antarctica.
Antarctica – 78°S to 90°S
Enters: 78°12’54.8″S 180°00’00.0″E
Ends: 90°00’00.0″S 180°00’00.0″E
819 miles long
The 180th meridian actually hits Antarctica pretty far south in longitude at around 78 degrees south. However that’s only the official land since ice can extend well north of that point. Nobody owns Antarctica however this region is claimed by New Zealand.
One of the many highlights of this area of Antarctica is definitely the Ross Sea Ice Shelf and the Transantarctic Mountains, both stunningly beautiful in their own right.
Countries and Territories on 180 degrees
4 countries and 1 territory
The USA and Tuvalu are not on the 180 degree line but within the 179.5 to -179.5 degree range.
Notable Bodies of Water
East Siberian Sea
South Pacific Ocean
Longitudes of the World Archive