Have you ever been to the Four Corners monument where Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah come together? It’s a relatively remote tourist trap of a place that’s really only good for two things: Navajo fry bread, and standing in four states at once while saying “Hey, look! I’m standing in four states at once!” The surveyors who set the states’ boundaries declared the point to be at 36° 59′ N, 109° 02′ W. And unless you own a GPS receiver you’d never know that the concrete slab proclaiming to be the Four Corners point is actually completely in Arizona. The true Four Corners point is awkwardly situated a hundred yards or so away, as my friend Roy (who does have a GPS receiver) determined. Think of all the misguided pictures of sneakers on that slab! Oh the humanity!
This business of invisible survey lines floating over real terrain is fascinating. After all, as this satellite image of the Four Corners region shows, nothing about the landscape particularly invites us to paint straight lines across it. But in doing so, we make some barren patch of nowhere worth visiting. Cynically I want to say: if looking at invisible lines is so interesting, I’ll put some in a box and ship them to you for a very small charge. But looking at invisible lines is interesting, as the Degree Confluence Project illustrates. In a practice akin to geocaching, adventurers with digital cameras and GPS units are photographing places in the world where lines of latitude and longitude come together. The pictures are charming and the stories are folksy. You can spend hours here. Look at the great big map of coverage and click on some remote place and see what you turn up. I like the story of 49 N 133 E, which is near Birobidzhan in extreme eastern Russia. The author writes “If you ever thought that explaining what a confluence is and why you want to find one to friends was hard, try explaining one to your Russian driver with a translator.”
Incidentally, the ever-helpful Wikipedia also notes
Another four corners, the intersection of the borders of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut in Canada, is not graced with a similar tourist attraction because it is located in extremely remote northern wilderness.
Set up a Navajo fry bread stand there and you could make a killing!