We started our day by taking the Underground and DLR to Greenwich. We headed up the hill to the Royal Observatory where we spent the remainder of the morning. Afterwards, we headed back down into town to have lunch and to visit the historic ship Cutty Sark. We then caught the ferry by mere seconds to return to the center of London.
Although the weather seemed nice around sunrise, fog rolled in when we first headed out to the Underground. It was no better after we transferred to the DLR and it emerged from the tunnels to run on the surface. And it was still no better when we arrived at Greenwich. We walked through the fog up the hill to reach the Royal Observatory.
The fog was pretty heavy!
The Octagon Room is the oldest room in the observatory. It was intended for making observations but wasn’t really oriented properly to do so.
There is a large section of the observatory dedicated to the history of timekeeping devices. Accurate timekeeping was required to determine longitude. In particular, the Royal Navy needed for each of its ships to be able to figure out exactly where they were and thus they needed better clocks. They offered a large sum of money to anyone who could create a reliable device that could be used on a ship. Ultimately, this device, the H4, won.
After emerging from the first building on the tour route, we could see that it was still foggy, though perhaps a bit less so. The red ball mounted on a pole was used as a mechanism to notify ships in the Thames of the time. It would drop at exactly 1pm each day.
Outside, the Prime Meridian runs from one of the buildings through a fenced in plaza. It shows many cities across the globe and their longitudes. Sadly, Honolulu has become Honolulo in British English.
Very foggy once again…
Multiple meridians have been used over the years based upon the alignment of the observing instruments inside.
This dome formerly contained telescopes.
We went up narrow circular stairs to reach the top of the observatory. The sky was starting to clear!
There is an obsolete but still functional telescope in the rooftop observatory. It is open for periodic nighttime viewings during the winter.
Upon exiting the observatory, we saw that the fog had lifted quite a bit! We could even see the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf in the distance as well as the City of London even further away!
We also took a panorama of the scene…
The GPS prime meridian is about 100 meters away from the historical prime meridian that runs through the Royal Observatory. It is here at the center of frame and runs a bit to the left of the O2, just visible in the foggy distance.
After finding the meridian used by GPS, we headed down the hill to return to Greenwich.
The Cutty Sark is a British ship built for the tea trade near the end of the age of sail. It is a iron framed wooden ship that was made to be fast.
Its hull is encased in a copper zinc alloy to prevent barnacles from attaching to the hull, thus allowing faster movement through the water.
On the inside, the original structural elements, including iron and wood, are painted white.
The crew lived on the top deck. The crew was pretty small with less than 30 men. The lowest ranked crew members would have lived in bunks like these.
Looking up at the ship’s rigging. Some men were up there today doing some maintenance.
The ship’s wheel at the very back of the top deck.
The Cutty Sark is permanently dry docked. It is actually lifted up off of its keel to offload the weight.
There was a collection of figureheads from various ships. Some are from unknown sources.
One last look at the Cutty Sark as we headed towards the ferry pier.
We caught the ferry heading upstream just as it was about to leave. They had already started getting ready to leave but let us on at the last second. The river ferry quickly headed away from Greenwich.
These modern ferry boats are much faster than the Cutty Sark!
Soon we were well beyond Canary Wharf, leaving its cluster of skyscrapers in the distance behind us.
We eventually passed under the Tower Bridge, where we crossed the Thames by foot yesterday afternoon.
A nice view of the Tower of London on our right as we sped away.
We quickly passed the HMS Belfast.
And we quickly passed under the Millennium Bridge. Much faster than walking!
We finally reached Westminster where we disembarked. We saw our ferry, the Cyclone Clipper, pulling away in front of the London Eye and the historic London County Hall. The ferry operator, Thames Clippers, has a marketing agreement with Uber, hence the Uber Boats branding for the river ferries.