Saturday, August 23, 2014

Adventures, Exploration and Science . . .

The DLR train arrives
for Greenwich.
August 23, 2014 -- We were up again early and out for a day of exploration. After breakfast we headed out, by train, to Greenwich and the Royal Observatory. In was a 15 minute "free" ride on an elevated tram just outside and down the road from our lodgings. The "DLR" (Docklands Light Railway) opened in 1987 to serve the "docklands" around the Thames. We're staying in an area called "Canary Wharf" which has evolved into the financial center of the city. As an "elevated" system, it occurs to me that it was considerably less costly and easier to build. I read that, in 2013, more than 101-million passengers took the train along its route. By any measure, it's a great transportation system.

Linda "eyeballs" a neat find
at the Greenwich Flea Market.
We boarded at Canary Wharf and watched out the Greenwich station. It was just a few stops down the line. We came out of the station greeted by a beautiful suburb. Greenwich is in "southeast London" and is called a "Royal borough". Greenwich is also a "U.N. World Heritage Site" and is home to the "zero meridian". The population is about 255,000 residents. As we've seen all over Ireland and London, so far, the streets are full of pleasant shops and eateries. We stopped along the way at a delightful "flea market" where the local residents were selling some of their "treasures". Farther down the same road was an "open market" -- much like St. George's Market in Belfast. We decided to stop back for a snack after our visit to the observatory.

I'm on the West, Linda on the East
Hemisphere's of planet Earth.
We made our way along a long winding path through a beautiful park and up the hill to the Royal Observatory. The observatory sits on a hill overlooking Greenwich with a wider view of London in the distance. Our goal was to tour the observatory, see the telescopes and stand on the zero-meridian of the "planet Earth"! We managed to accomplish all three.  It was fun joining hands across the "western and eastern" hemispheres of the world, bring them together in a gesture of "friendship". It'd be nice if the nations of the world would follow suit!!

28" refractor at the Greenwich
Royal Observatory.
We visited the big 28" refracting telescope on the roof of the building. The telescope was completed in 1893 and "rededicated" in 1973 by the Queen. The 28" telescope is the 7th largest telescope (refractor) in the world. Interestingly, the United States has two of the largest refracting telescopes in the world -- with the 40" at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin and the 36" at the Lick Observatory in San Jose, California. These are all interesting and beautiful instruments.

We finished our visit by seeing the "meridian telescope" used to "define" the prime meridian of the world. The meridian was defined in 1851 and adopted by "international conference" in 1884. We continued to explore the grounds of the observatory for another hour or so and made our way down the hill. Our goal was to take a boat along the Thames.

72" Speculum mirror from the
Birr Castle Telescope
By chance, we decided to take a break in the National Maritime Museum not far from the observatory. As luck would have it, there was a conference underway called the "International Slavery Remembrance Day". We arrived in time to attend a lecture by "Onyeka: African's in Tudor England" for about an hour. There was an enthusiastic Queston and Answer period afterwards. Onyeka Nubia is a British writer, law lecturer and historian who has studied slavery in England for a number of years. He's the author of several books on this and other subjects.

Greenwich, and London as seen
from the Royal Obervatory.
Ultimately, we made our way to the dock and boarded a boat for the trip "up the Thames" to Westminster. Once there, we found our way by underground to the National Science Museum in the South Kensington District of the city. The museum is HUGE. Our primary goal was to see the 72" mirror from the Birr Castle telescope at Birr Castle in Ireland. The mirror has been in residence since just before World War II for safekeeping. It is big and it is beautiful! As we explored the ground and first floors of the museum, it was apparent that we'd need a lot more time to do the collection justice. But, we did see a good number of the exhibits and plan -- if time permits -- to come back for more.

It's been a busy day, so far, and we plan to make our way to our lodgings for a well deserved rest and some "television". We don't know what tomorrow will bring, as yet, so stay tuned and discover what we'll do to continue our explorations . . .