Where Do the Prime Meridian and the Equator Intersect?

A Key Piece of Trivia to Stump Your Friends

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The equator and prime meridian are both invisible lines that circle the Earth and help us in navigation. Though invisible, the equator (0 degrees latitude) is a very real location that divides the world into the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The prime meridian (0 degrees longitude), on the other hand, was created by scholars who needed some point as a frame of reference to begin noting east-west points on the map.

Location of 0 Latitude, 0 Longitude

It is by pure coincidence that the coordinate of 0 degrees latitude, 0 degrees longitude falls in the middle of a little-known body of water. To be exact, the intersection of zero degrees latitude and zero degrees longitude falls about 380 miles south of Ghana and 670 miles west of Gabon. This location is in the tropical waters of the eastern Atlantic Ocean, in an area called the Gulf of Guinea.

The Gulf of Guinea is part of the western edge of the African tectonic plate. Most notably, according to the theory of continental drift, this may have been the location where South America and Africa were once joined. A look at the maps of the two continents quickly reveals the remarkable possibility of this geographic jigsaw puzzle.

What Marks 0 Degrees Latitude, 0 Degrees Longitude?

Very few people in the world will ever pass over the point where the equator and prime meridian meet. It requires a boat and a good navigator, so, unlike the prime meridian line in Greenwich, there is not much call for tourism at this location.

The spot is marked, though: a weather buoy (Station 13010—Soul) is placed at the exact location of 0 degrees latitude, 0 degrees longitude. It is owned and maintained by the Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic (PIRATA). Like other buoys, Soul regularly records weather data from the Gulf of Guinea, such as air and water temperature and wind speed and direction.

Null Island

Natural Earth GIS Data also added an imaginary island to the 0,0 location in 2011. It is a designated area of one square meter (10.8 sq ft) called Null Island. Natural Earth Data refers to it as a "troubleshooting country ... with an Indeterminate sovereignty class," and it is used for "for flagging geocode failures which are routed to 0,0 by most mapping services." (Geocoding is a process that takes data involving physical addresses and translates them into geographical coordinates.)

Since its creation, through fiction, the "island" has been given its own geography, flag, and history.

Is This Intersection Important?

The equator is an important line on the earth's surface. It marks the line above which the sun is directly overhead on the March and September equinoxes. The prime meridian, being an imaginary line, created by people to mark zero degrees longitude, could have been located anywhere.

Therefore, the intersection of zero degrees longitude and zero degrees latitude is of no geographic significance. However, just knowing that it is in the Gulf of Guinea may serve you well on a geography quiz, when playing "Jeopardy!" or "Trivial Pursuit," or just when you want to stump your friends and family.

Additional References

View Article Sources
  1. Polson, John and Bruce A. Fette. "Chapter 8 - Cognitive Techniques: Position Awareness." Cognitive Radio Technology (Second Edition), edited by Bruce A. Fette, Academic Press, 2009, pp. 265-288, doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-374535-4.00008-4 

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Rosenberg, Matt. "Where Do the Prime Meridian and the Equator Intersect?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/prime-meridian-and-the-equator-intersect-4070819. Rosenberg, Matt. (2020, August 27). Where Do the Prime Meridian and the Equator Intersect? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/prime-meridian-and-the-equator-intersect-4070819 Rosenberg, Matt. "Where Do the Prime Meridian and the Equator Intersect?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/prime-meridian-and-the-equator-intersect-4070819 (accessed April 2, 2023).