In this post I’m here to explore the 0 degrees longitude or better known as the Prime Meridian. This is the starting point in which all the longitudinal degrees are measured from and so I thought it would be appropriate to start with this degree.
This is a geography series and in this series I’m discovering the 0 degree line with a range off the line from 5 degrees west to 5 degrees east or 1 whole degree. I will be doing this in each post so that I cover all the the territory.
Arctic Ocean – 90°N to 76°N
The prime 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 prime meridian. On average ice can reach about 966 miles south of the North Pole on the prime meridian or at around 76°N. Below on this page I have added a video of what potentially the North Pole will be like in the decades to come.
966 miles long
Is it possible to travel this far north? Yes absolutely but you need money and patience. For starters, this is a remote part of the world and very cold. There are cruises that travel from Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard, Norway, and the Arctic that do cross the prime meridian. I did some research and I was able to find Polar Cruises, Quark Expeditions, and Poseidon Expeditions that offer services in the upper Arctic and trips to the North Pole. You can actually stand on top of the world as well as see whales, polar bears and icebergs.
Greenland Sea, Norwegian Sea & North Sea – 76°N to 54°N
Here there are actually 4 bodies of water before land or 1,520 miles in between. From the top it goes through the Arctic Ocean, Greenland Sea, Norwegian Sea, and the North Sea.
The Greenland Sea is more like the Arctic Ocean; cold and rarely rises above 32°F. The winds are regularly from the north, producing regular cold as well as regular icebergs, fog, wind and fast currents. It’s so cold that ice can be found from October to August making commercial travel limited but possible. Icebergs are still common here.
The Norwegian Sea is a transition zone between boreal and Arctic conditions, and is considered much warmer than it’s northern neighbors. This is a much easier place to travel to as it’s near Norway, and Iceland and just north of United Kingdom.
The North Sea is to the northeastern side of the UK and although chilly is much warmer than the Norwegian Sea. Also the North Sea is much busier in boat traffic.
1,520 miles long
This part of the prime meridian is rather remote and you would need a boat to see it. However the easiest way to do it would probably be to take a boat from Norway to the Shetland Islands crossing this part of the prime meridian. There is no significant land masses here or major attractions but it is possible to see ocean wildlife like seals, shrimp, plankton, arctic fish, herring, squid, humpbacks, sei, orca, dolphins, and whales.
If you would like to take see this part of the world I would recommend to take a cruise from London, Amsterdam, Oslo or Copenhagen and travel the North Sea up to the Norwegian Sea and then to the left to Iceland crossing the prime meridian.
United Kingdom – 54°N to 51°N
Near the city of Hull, United Kingdom the prime meridian finally hits land on a beach at Rimswell, UK. The city can claim to be the most northern city on the prime meridian. The line then continues down the eastern part of the United Kingdom for 205 miles and exiting the United Kingdom at the city of Peacehaven, UK.
Enters: 53°45’30.2″N 0°00’00.0″E
Exits: 50°47’15.8″N 0°00’00.0″E
306 miles long
Eastern England is filled with history that’s impossible to cover everything! Trust me when I say that Eastern England is definitely a place to consider traveling! However I can give you some of the highlights of the region.
Peterborough is a famous town because of it’s contribution to tracking the English language through the centuries thanks to the Peterborough Chronicles. It was one of the few surviving chronicles ot survive through out the centuries and is important to understanding the evolution of the English language.
Just further south is the historic city of Cambridge, home to the University of Cambridge. Cambridge is a lovely university town known for punting, rowing, beautiful churches, museums, and stunning architecture.
Near London there is the Royal Observatory Greenwich where the prime meridian passes through and is a great place to physically stand on the prime meridian. There they keep the official time and show a laser marking the prime meridian.
And then there is obviously London, the biggest city on the prime meridian with a metro population of 14 million. History dates back at least 2,100 years ago when it was a Roman outpost with native Celtic people living on the island. Today London is one of the biggest cities in the world, is a New York of Europe, and has many world class museums, parks, music, theater, and architecture.
There is so much information on London that you should use this page when planning. You could easily fill a week in the city alone and even more in the surrounding area of London.
English Channel – 51°N to 49°N
The prime meridian again enters the English Channel or the North Sea from southern England and finds itself in Normandy a short distance later.
Enters: 50°47’15.8″N 0°00’00.0″E
Exits: 49°19’33.9″N 0°00’00.0″E
101 miles long
This is one of the shortest parts of the prime meridian but has been an important one throughout history. The fact that the channel exists stopped the human reoccupation of UK for about 100,000 years and a huge natural defense. Back then and today it is one of the prime naval routes of the world.
France – 49°N to 42°N
From the English Channel the prime meridian enters France on a beach at Villers-sur-Mer. Just south of the Le Havre and just east of Caen in the Normandy region of France. The line exits France some 459 miles south of Viller-sur-Mer in the French Pyrénées near the city of Gavarnie, France.
Enters: 49°19’33.9″N 0°00’00.0″E
Exits: 42°41’07.9″N 0°00’00.0″E
459 miles long
Starting at the 49th degree and traveling south, we start in the Normandy region of France. This part of Normandy has many castles that are worth visiting including Chateau Guillaume le Conquerant, Chateau of Carrouges, and Chateau de Vendeuvre. Caen and Le Havre have some notable museums and monuments to visit.
The prime meridian then enters the eastern part of the Pays de la Loire and the western part of Centre-Val de Loire. The Loire Valley is famous for many unique castles and of course wine. Azay-le-Rideau has a beautiful château set in the middle of the Indre river.
From here the prime meridian enters the large region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and cities like Poitiers, Angoulême, Pau and the far southern French city of Lourdes. This region is vast and largely sparse by French standards.
The northern part of Nouvelle-Aquitaine there are many old villages and communes including Parthenay, a fortified town sit upon a rocky outcrop around two rivers.
In the middle of the region around Angoulême there is the Château de Bourdeilles, a castle that can be dated as far back as the 14th century. And just further south there is the town of Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, said to be one of the most beautiful villages in France. The town sits on a rocky promontory and contains many scenic viewpoints as well the Monolithic Church of Saint-Jean of Aubeterre. Most of this region is open farmland and a few forests.
In southern Nouvelle-Aquitaine, there is the Pic du Midi d’Ossau, a distinctive mountain that can be seen as far as 55 km away and is the symbol of the Pyrénées. Before the mountains are the hilly regions or the ‘gaves.’ The area is dominated by little mountain towns and the Pyrénées mountain range to the south. The prime meridian finally exits France near the Glacier de l’Épaule in the Pyrénées.
Spain – 42°N to 39°N
From the French Pyrénées the prime meridian enters Spain and stretches south for another 192 miles until it hits the Mediterranean Sea. From there the prime meridian travels 72 miles until it re-enters Spain at Alicante, Spain for another 16 miles until finally leaving Spain.
Enters: 42°41’07.9″N 0°00’00.0″E
Exits: 38°37’42.7″N 0°00’00.0″E
280 miles long
The most northern part where the prime meridian starts is at the Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido in the province of Aragon. A beautiful national park that use to have a rare goat called the Pyrenean ibex, extinct since 2000. It is now a protected area and a great hiking area.
Below that the prime meridian crosses into Parque Natural de la Sierra y Cañones de Guara, another national park knowing for canyons and rare birds of prey.
The prime meridian continues through Aragon in mostly hilly farmland and small towns. The Real Monasterio de Sijena is definitely a monastery I would consider visiting in the middle of rural Aragon. Just north of the city of Caspe, the prime meridian crosses the second longest river in Spain called the Ebro.
Near the city of Herbers, the prime meridian crosses into Valencian Community, the 4 largest region in Spain. The Parc Natural de la Tinença de Benifassà is another mountainous park that also has a monastery worth visiting.
In southern Valencian there is the city of Alicante, in itself worth a visit. In Alicante there is the ancient Roman city ruins of Lucentum; it’s possible to explore the archaeological site. Definitely visit the capital of the region, Valencia. To the east of Castellón de la Plana, the prime meridian actually exits Spain but comes back on shore at the bottom of Valencian Community near, west of the city of Dénia. There is a large castle overlooking the whole of the port that is worth a visit.
After crossing the mountain range of Sierra de Bernia y Ferrer the prime meridian finally leaves Spain at the city of Pueblo Mascarat at the local marina.
Mediterranean Sea – 39°N to 36°N
From Spain the prime meridian continues through the Mediterranean Sea for only about 193 miles until it reaches the Arzew Gulf off the coast of Algeria.
Enters: 38°37’42.7″N 0°00’00.0″E
Exits: 35°50’28.5″N 0°00’00.0″E
193 miles long
One of the busiest seas in the world the Mediterranean Sea around the prime meridian mostly skirts the countries of Spain and Algeria. Like the English Channel, this is also one of the prime naval routes and thousands of ships cross these waters every year.
Algeria – 36°N to 22°N
At around 36 degrees the prime meridian enters Algeria near the town of La Stidia. From there it will travel Algeria for 1000 miles until the border of Mail at 22 degrees north. Algeria holds the most miles with the prime meridian at 965 miles and much of the length is desolate. The prime meridian leaves Algeria in the Sahara desert at the Mali border.
Enters: 35°50’28.5″N 0°00’00.0″E
Exits: 21°52’17.3″N 0°00’00.0″E
965 miles long
In northern Algeria the landscape looks very similar to that of southern Spain. There are several cities like Mohammadia, Mascara, and Saida worth considering along the prime meridian. The northern part is mostly covered by the Tell Atlas or a mountain range that stretches through Morocco and into Algeria. They keep northern Algeria cooler than the south and much more like a hot Mediterranean climate.
From the mountains the prime meridian gets more remote and enters through the Sahara desert. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any towns though!
Mali – 22°N to 15°N
In northern Mali, the landscape is barren and full on desert. The prime meridian enters Mali in the Saharan desert and never leaves. From here it travels in mostly the Sahara desert and only come across a few towns. After 475 miles the prime meridian exits Mali at the Burkina Faso border.
Enters: 21°52’17.3″N 0°00’00.0″E
Exits: 14°59’46.6″N 0°00’00.0″E
475 miles long
This is pretty much a hostile place and only a few towns exist along the prime meridian. There are some towns in this region including the important city of Gao which is pretty arid but not completely desert.
The culture here is mostly nomadic people and include ethnic Songhai, Tuareg, Tadaksahak, and Zarma. Kidal, which is where the prime meridian first enters, is mostly empty in this part of Mali except for a few nomads.
Mali is suffering for Islamic militants (part of Al-Qaeda) who over took the northern part of the country and called for separation from Mali. Currently cities like Gao are free from ‘Azawad’ but the threat is always there. Back when they had the city harsh Sharia law was imposed including covering of women, stoning of people and destruction of many historic buildings. Use extreme caution when travel to this part of Mali as there are occasional violent episodes.
The line also crosses the great Niger river at Borem, a once obscure river that wasn’t really known to the outside world until the 18th century. This region was and still is essential to trade but has declined since it’s glory days. Recently this area was captured by Islamist separatist but has recently been recaptured by French and Malian forces.
15°N to 11°N – Burkina Faso & Niger
The prime meridian is totally within Burkina Faso from 15 to 11 degrees north. However since I did extend the range of land to half of a degree on each side of the prime meridian, part of this covers Niger. This part is the extreme northwestern part of Niger and is soley in the Saharan desert. You can see this illustrated on the map on this page.
Enters: 14°59’46.6″N 0°00’00.0″E
Exits: 11°06’42.2″N 0°00’00.0″E
268 miles long
From the dry Sahara desert the landscape begins the signs of greenery. There is the Sahel Reserve, a protected area. Also more towns pop up on the prime meridian in Burkina Faso including Markoye, Dori, Bilanga, and Diabo. The landscape could be described as arid but there is definitely more green compared to the sandy north.
The main ethnic groups in this region include Fula, Tuaregs, Songhai, and the Hausa people. Here the majority religion is Islamic, a common religion that borders any part of the Sahara desert. Burkina Faso in general is known for arts and crafts and actually hosts artistic cultural events.
Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries of Africa. Landlocked with poor soil, differences of religion, and neighbors with civil war have left Burkina Faso struggling.
This area, like Mali, also struggles with Islamic militants and is advise to use caution if traveling to the area. Even the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, suffered from attacks in 2013. However Burkina Faso is actually one of the safest countries in Africa despite being one of the poorest.
Togo & Ghana – 11°N to 5°N
The prime meridian then enters the country of Togo for only 1 mile before then going into Ghana. From here it straddles the border of Ghana for 9 miles and then crosses into Togo for 25 miles until permanently staying in Ghana for 344 miles.
Enters: 11°06’42.2″N 0°00’00.0″E
Exits: 10°36’47.3″N 0°00’00.0″E
Enters: 11°05’46.5″N 0°00’00.0″E
Exits: 5°37’27.3″N 0°00’00.0″E
If you look on a satellite you will begin to notice just how green Togo and Ghana really are. This is one of the rainiest parts of Africa and the prime meridian begins to make it’s way through the tropics at about 9 degrees latitude.
The prime meridian only hits Togo in the north western part of the country, for around 26 total miles. If you look on Google Maps you can see there is a little notch of land that Togo owns extending into Ghana. There is a small town that is sandwich between the two countries of Burkina Faso and Ghana but doesn’t has a name on Google Maps. I looked it up and it’s called Senkase.
From here it enters back into Ghana and the landscape is still mostly arid but with some vegetation. Maybe a town or two but from a satellite view, pretty sparse. Back in Togo it’s pretty much the same story but with a few more villages. The further south the land becomes even more green.
Back in and fully in Ghana the prime meridian cuts the eastern part of the country and also includes the country capital of Accra. It’s super lush landscape in the southern part of Ghana and the culture changes from that of the Arab north. Lake Volta is one the prime meridian and is a very popular tourist attraction. Digya National Park is home to 6 primate species, 236 species of birds, elephants, manatees, and otters.
Accra, Ghana is the largest city in Africa on the prime meridian. It sits just west of the actual line and is home to 2 million people. It is said to be one of the more cosmopolitan cities in Africa is a major tourist hub for all of Africa. Accra, Ghana is the last city on the prime meridian but technically the prime meridian leaves Africa at the city of Tema, Ghana.
5°N to 71°S – Atlantic Ocean & Southern Ocean
From Africa the prime meridian hits a very lonely path. Nothing but ocean until Antarctica.
Enters: 5°37’27.3″N 0°00’00.0″E
Exits: 71°26’54.6″S 0°00’00.0″E
5,325 miles long
The prime meridian enters the Gulf of Guinea, and then into the open Atlantic Ocean. Underneath the ocean there are some occasional mountains and hills. This part of the Atlantic stays relatively warm up until about 42°S where the water temperature starts to dip into the 50’s.
Further south the open waters can be rough and cold especially in the winter. As you approach Antarctica the water is cold in the summer and just above freezing in the winter.
Technically at 60°S the Atlantic Ocean changes into the Southern Ocean. Icebergs are common in this part of the ocean and do present a danger to ships. This part of the world also has a low ozone layer which means a high solar radiation. This is actually changing the DNA of many of the animals that are common in this part of the world.
It is possible to travel through here, especially on cruises but this isn’t for the faint of heart. Weather and conditions can be brutal so take caution in that. However this part of the ocean it is possible to see many types of marine life like whales, otters, seals, or even birds like albatross.
71°S to 90°S – Antarctica
This is the final stretch for the prime meridian and here it’s all dry, icy, and downright freezing. If you look at the satellite you would see that the land actually starts way more inner into what the satellite show. Ice builds up from the coast during the winter so the coasts expands and retracts throughout the year.
1,294 miles long
Antarctica is easily the least explored land part of the world. Only a few people have ever walked in any part of it’s interior. Therefore it’s hard to know what is actually there.
Technically no country owns any part of Antarctica. However Norway has territory claims in this part of Antarctica. Queen Maud Land is in the interior of Antarctica and contains dramatic mountains, glaciers, and ice as deep as 100 feet. There are a couple of Norwegian research stations in this region.
From the satellite it’s easy to see that most of Antarctica is ice and snow and truly is mostly a white continent. We do know that temperature are very cold, especially in the interior, getting as low as -80 F routinely.
More and more people are exploring Antarctica but it’s safe to say you probably won’t explore any part of the prime meridian touches unless you fly over it or are part of a research team. This part just doesn’t have easy access and is usually not part of any cruise tour.
Countries and Territories on 0 degrees
9 countries and 1 territory
Niger is not on the 0 degree line but within the range -.5 to .5 degree range.