Eclectic Curiosity

Posted on July 9th, 2003, by Steve Hardy in Archives, Uncategorized. No Comments

Seeing the world, degree by degree. Described by its founder, Massachussetts programmer Alex Jarrett, as “an alternative means of tourism, a way to explore the world using arbitrary destinations rather than the usual, planned vacation spots”, the Degree Confluence Project is an inviting non-profit initiative that simply sets out to catalogue the world by applying randomness to a system of strict order. It does this by trekking to the 12,000 or so land-based parts of the globe where degrees of latitude intersect with degrees of longitude. Roughly 20% have been recorded. Photos are taken, stories are shared and an amazing collage of the world is created.

Some confluences are located near a city (New Orleans, for example) but the remote locations of most confluences underscore humanity’s erratic habits as we spread across the land, or perhaps simply remind us that an orderly system for subdividing the world has little to do with where we actually live. Most locations serve as proof of how much remote terrain still exists, and a reminder that what may be geographically notable could also just be someone’s rice paddy or fence. Confluences recorded on the site include stunning locales from the Yukon to Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter and everywhere in between — northern Mongolia, Amazonian Brazil, even Antarctica.

The real gems on the site, though, may be the stories that volunteers tell of their treks. Because the confluences are based on geographic math rather than any natural boundaries, they are merely a random sampling of locales, a methodical way to document the Earth. The stories behind that sampling have become an informal history of travel through countries and cultures. As Jarrett puts it: “Not only do you get to see what the confluence was like, but you get to see the interaction between the person and the confluence.”

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