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Ingrid Gregor | DESY | Germany

View Blog | Read Bio

Journey to the Zero Point of the Earth

Last weekend I was in Berlin to go to a concert of Ben Harper. On the way to the little hall where he was performing, we walked through a very interesting area in Friedrichshain (in the East of Berlin) where many artists rented old buildings or little halls to have enough space to work. And by chance we actually bumped into a friend of ours, Thomas Stüssi, who is an artist.

This reminded me of a real cool performing art he and his friends did two years ago. The artist collective FallerMiethStuessiWeck (FMSW) decided to give the zero point of the earth a physical fastening. The zero point is the point where the equator meets the prime meridian. It is the position N0o00’000’’E0o00’000’’ respectively S0o00’000’’W0o00’000’, and can be found in the Golf of Guinea 600km south of the Ghana coast.

The first idea they followed was a special buoy, but as the sea is at the zero point about 5000 m deep, this would have been rather difficult. So FSWM planned to bring a sphere “filled” with a vacuum to the zero point – an objet d’art representing the “nothing”. They produced the sphere out of two half stainless steel spheres (25 cm diameter, wall thickness 3cm) and found a company who welded the two halves together inside a vacuum chamber. With this procedure a low pressure of 0,000001 bar could be reached.

Now they wanted to bring this sphere to the zero point, but just taking the plane to Ghana would have been too simple. They saw the journey also as some kind of pilgrimage to the centre of the cartographic world, a slow approach was important. The car transporter ship Grande Argentina from Hamburg to Ghana was found, a journey of 6 weeks from northern Europe to Tema, the biggest harbor in Ghana, only 25km from Accra. On the journey they passed Tilbury, Antwerpen, Dacca, Benin and Lagos.

May 8th 2007 - FMSW leaving Hamburg with a car transporter ship.

May 8th 2007 - FMSW leaving Hamburg with a car transporter ship.

Now the most difficult part of the journey started. They had to find a small, but not too small ship, to get to the zero point. Finding such a vessel in Ghana was more difficult than anticipated, but in the end, shortly before their money and time ended, they found the perfect ship. With an unplanned accompany of a priest the 600 km journey to the final destination through rough sea was the the most adventurous part. In vicinity of the zero point they took a rubber dinghy to find the perfect point. Using a GPS it took about one hour to get as close as they could and then let the sphere go. The sphere reached the ground probably something like 20 minutes later. They also collected 50 l of “zero water” and of course took a plunge into the zero point.

Now the sphere will lie in the darkness 5000 m on the ground for ever and all of them will always think of the sphere when they look at a map of the world.

[A complete report on the performing art can be found (in German) here. ]

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