I should be embarrassed to say that in all my years in Port Elizabeth I have NEVER visited this point…
It took the behest of a very special soul mate to finally walk to the top of Lovemore Heights and see Humble Ways and the trig beacon marking the southernmost point of the 30th Meridian East on Africa.
The meridian 30° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Europe, Turkey, Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole.
The 30th meridian east is the mid point of Eastern European Time and forms a great circle with the 150th meridian west.
The 30th Meridian East featured in an eight-part television documentary travel series made for the BBC, Pole to Pole, with Michael Palin and was first broadcast on BBC1 in 1992.
Michael Palin undertook a journey by the most direct route possible with the most land to cross from the North Pole to the South Pole.
The trip from the North Pole to the South Pole went via Scandinavia, the Soviet Union, parts of Europe, and through the heart of Africa. The intention was to follow the 30 degree east line of longitude, which would cover the most land. A last-minute diversion to Chile included South America in the series. Using aircraft as little as possible, the whole trip lasted 5.5 months.
While in South Africa Palin attended a local football match. In Johannesburg he received some bad news: the SA Agulhas, a scientific research ship they were scheduled to take to Antarctica has no space for them. While the BBC scrambled for alternatives, Palin visited Western Deep Levels Mine, the world’s deepest gold mine. In Soweto he met former South African neighbours of his from London; jazz trombonist Jonas Gwangwa and family. Then he caught the luxurious Blue Train to Cape Town. On top of Table Mountain he regarded the Cape Point (NOT the southernmost tip of Africa) and reminisced about how the continent changed him from an optimist to a realist. Unfortunately for him, the BBC’s efforts to get him on the Agulhas failed.
The commemorative plaque on the trig beacon states:
BUFFELSFONTEIN and THE ARC OF THE 3OTH MERIDIAN
This beacon represents the Southernmost point of a chain of triangles measured along the 30th meridian through Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and ending near Cairo in Egypt. The purpose of the measurement was to determine the size and shape of Earth. Prior to 1999 the beacon was also the origin of the geodetic survey of South Africa.
The project was initiated by Sir David Gill, the astronomer Royal at the Cape in 1879 and the final measurements were completed in the Sudan in 1954.
The arc known as the Arc of the 30th Meridian can be connected across the Mediterranean Sea through Crete and Belarus to a similar arc measured through Europe terminating at North Cape in Norway. The European Arc is known as the Struve Arc and together these two arcs cover nearly 105 degrees in latitude which is over 11 650 km in length.
This plaque was unveiled by the President of the Institute of Professional Land Surveyors of the Eastern Cape, Mr CJ Bollaert-Davis on 8 June 2004, 125 years after the initiation of the project and 50 years after the completion of measurements.
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