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Football Earth and the Degree Confluence Project


Now this may be the wildest web-based community project to date: The Degree Confluence project. The project goal is amazingly audacious - to "to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location. The pictures, and stories about the visits, will then be posted …"

A basic calculation shows that there are 64,442 confluences . (To see this, forget the poles for a second - they are points of only one latitude (90° or - 90°), and 360 longitude-values. The remaining confluences then are 179 latitude lines * 360 longitude lines = 64,440 confluences. Add the poles to get to 64,442)

The project was started in 1996 by Alex Jarrett because he "liked the idea of visiting a location represented by a round number such as 43°00’00"N 72°00’00"W. What would be there? Would other people have recognized this as a unique spot? "

He also writes that he had recently purchased a GPS and was looking to"come up with something to do with it."

After posting about the confluences he was "claiming" to his web site, readers "claimed" some of their own and posted about them there, and the project " just snowballed from there."

Boy, did it. Currently there have been over 5,000 successful confluence claims!

I can’t possibly describe all of the incredible detail that has gone into the project, e.g. are the confluences on land, water, or ice? You have to check out the web site for an amazing set of tools that will help you find confluences not yet "marked", where confluences are in a given country, plus much more. (There’s even a listing of letters in a variety of languages that you can use to describe the project to the owner of the land on which you’re trespassing, and hopefully avoid being shot.)

There are 2 reasons I am posting about the DCP here:

Because the earth is not perfectly spherical, but flattens out at the poles, and the degree-lines of longitude get closer and closer, the confluence points start getting so close to each other to not make sense to have so many claims from such a small area. (Not to mention that they are in an arctic region). The DCP has come up with a classification system that denotes confluences as primary or secondary depending on distance from the poles. The calculations of confluence locations are based on modeling the earth as an oblate spheroid (i.e. an ellipsoid of revolution).

OK - so there’s a modeling connection. But a better connection is provided by a quote from a confluence hunter:

Confluences are interesting to me because they represent randomness that emerges from strict order. It goes far beyond a silly quest for invisible man-made boundaries. The confluence latticework is an open defiance of the order our culture imposes on us, which frowns on tourists who abandon the traveled roads, the sanitized vistas, and the stops designed to conjure up dollars for empty memories.

Here the randomness described is the wonderfully diverse events that can happen as you travel to a confluence - the vagaries of life and culture on this degree-by-degree grid.

So go to your nearest confluence (the web site has a tool to help you find this point), photograph it, and claim it on the site - there are still over 11,000 available.

And be sure to bring your letter about the project translated into the correct language!