Null Island

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Null Island
Null Island 2017.jpg
The weather buoy moored at the coordinates of Null Island, in the Gulf of Guinea at 0°N 0°E
Null Island is located in Africa
Null Island
Null Island
The point of intersection of the prime meridian and the equator, in the Gulf of Guinea
Coordinates0°N 0°E / 0°N 0°E / 0; 0Coordinates: 0°N 0°E / 0°N 0°E / 0; 0

Null Island is the point on Earth's surface at zero degrees latitude and zero degrees longitude (0°N 0°E / 0°N 0°E / 0; 0), i.e., where the prime meridian and the equator intersect. Null Island is located in international waters in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly 600 km off the coast of West Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea.[1] The exact point, using the WGS84 datum, is marked by the Soul buoy (named after the musical genre), a permanently-moored weather buoy.

The term "Null Island" jokingly refers to a fictional place at that location, and to a common cartographic placeholder name to which coordinates erroneously set to 0,0 are assigned in placename databases in order to more easily find and fix them. The nearest land (4°45′30″N 1°58′33″W / 4.75833°N 1.97583°W / 4.75833; -1.97583) is 570 km (354 mi; 307.8 nmi) to the north – a small Ghanaian islet offshore from Achowa Point[2] between Akwidaa and Dixcove. The depth of the seabed beneath the Soul buoy is around 4,940 metres (16,210 ft).[3][4][verification needed] Although Null Island started as a joke within the geospatial community, its existence has both technological and social implications that promote Null Island as a recurring issue in geographic information science.[5]

In software[edit]

In terms of computing and placename databases, the coordinates for Null Island were added to the Natural Earth public domain map dataset[6][7][8] c. 2010–2011, after which the term came into wide use (although there is evidence of it being used previously).[9] Since then, the "island" has, through fiction, been given a geography, history, and flag.[1] Natural Earth describes the entity as a "1 meter square island" with "scale rank 100, indicating it should never be shown in mapping".[6] The name "Null" refers to the two zero coordinates, as null values (indicating an absence of data) are often coerced to a value of 0 when converted to an integer context or "no-nulls allowed" context.

The location is used by mapping systems to trap errors.[7] Such errors arise, for example, where an image artifact is erroneously associated to the location by software which cannot attribute a geoposition, and instead associates a latitude and longitude of "Null,Null" or "0,0".[10] As reported in January 2018 by Bellingcat, other data mapped to the location include activity events from the Strava fitness-tracking app, apparently mapped to the location due to users entering "0,0" coordinates to disguise their real locations.[11]

Soul buoy[edit]

A weather and sea observation buoy is moored at the Null Island location. The buoy ("Station 13010 – Soul") is part of the PIRATA system, a set of 17 buoys installed in the tropical Atlantic Ocean since 1997 by the United States, France, and Brazil.[12] Like the other buoys in the system, it is named after a musical genre.[13] It is an ATLAS (Autonomous Temperature Line Acquisition System) buoy, autonomous, conical-shaped and 3.8 m high. It is anchored by a cable to the seabed.[4] It measures the following:

  • Wind speed and direction
  • Air temperature
  • Precipitation
  • Humidity
  • Solar radiation
  • Pressure, temperature and conductivity up to 500 m below the surface.

The buoy disappeared less than a year after its installation, and was replaced in 1998.[13]

See also[edit]

  • Colonel Bleep – a 1957 cartoon that took place on the fictitious "Zero Zero Island" (i.e., Null Island), where Earth's equator meets the Greenwich Meridian
  • MaxMind, an Internet geolocation company that by default set 600 million IP addresses to a farmhouse in Kansas
  • Royal Observatory, Greenwich – located due north of Null Island


  1. ^ a b St. Onge, Tim (22 April 2016). "The Geographical Oddity of Null Island". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 12 May 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  2. ^ Map of the Gold Coast Colony and neighbouring territories (Map). London: War Office, Intelligence Division. IDWO 1097 – via Georeferencer.
  3. ^ Jacobs, Frank (March 25, 2022). "Welcome to Null Island, where lost data goes to die". Big Think. Archived from the original on 2022-12-09. Retrieved 2022-12-13.
  4. ^ a b "Bathymetric Data Viewer" (Survey map). National Geophysical Data Center. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 4 August 2022.{{cite map}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Juhasz, Levente; Mooney, Peter (2022). ""I Think i Discovered a Military Base in the Middle of the Ocean"—Null Island, the Most Real of Fictional Places". IEEE Access. 10: 84147–84165. doi:10.1109/ACCESS.2022.3197222. ISSN 2169-3536.
  6. ^ a b Kurgan, Laura (2013). Close Up at a Distance: Mapping, Technology and Politics. New York: Zone Books. p. 157. ISBN 9781935408284.
  7. ^ a b Vaughn Kelso, Nathaniel; Patterson, Tom (31 January 2011). "Natural Earth version 1.3 release notes". Natural Earth. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
  8. ^ Hotz, Robert Lee (14 July 2016). "If You Can't Follow Directions, You'll End Up on Null Island". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 13 July 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  9. ^ Currie, Chris [@chriscurrie] (18 April 2009). "@braz we call that spot "Null Island." It's at Lat 0, Lon 0" (Tweet). Archived from the original on 10 September 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2022 – via Twitter.
  10. ^ St. Onge, Tim (9 May 2016). "Null Island is One of the Most Visited Places on Earth. Too Bad It Doesn't Exist". Atlas Obscura. Archived from the original on 25 August 2017. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  11. ^ Aric, Toler (29 January 2018). "How to Use and Interpret Data from Strava's Activity Map". Bellingcat. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  12. ^ "Station 13010 - Soul". National Data Buoy Center. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  13. ^ a b Huet, Sylvestre (1 December 1998). "Après le Pacifique, l'Atlantique équipé de bouées de surveillance". Libération (in French).

External links[edit]