14-Aug-2001 -- We, that is my Wife, Jacqui, our
friends Debbie Miller and Sarah Chandra, and myself,
Dave Whiteley have visited and photographed the location
North 13 degrees and East 80 degrees. This point is a
distance south of the road between Chennai (the new name
for Madras) and Sriperumbudur,
beyond Poonamalee, and about 6km from Sriperumbudur.
Jacqui, Debbie and I were on holiday in India, and our
stay in Chennai had been organised by Sarah. Before
starting out trip we saw a GPS receiver
for sale very cheaply, and we had bought it with the
Degree Confluence project in mind. We discussed the
project with Sarah, she was interested,
and so, on the afternoon of Tuesday 14th August 2001, we
set off along the Poonamalee road from Chennai in a hired
Ambassador taxi. This is a major road, and is much used by
the heavy trucks and buses that rule the Indian roads.
It is flanked on both sides for most of its length by
businesses serving this traffic; tea and food stalls,
tyre and mechanical repair shops and many buildings painted with
brightly coloured advertisements. All
however is often covered on a generous layer of Indian dust.
Beyond Poonamalee we started using the GPS receiver to
monitor our position. The countryside became more open
and scrubby, and with it being
the monsoon season there were many boggy or flooded areas.
As we neared the confluence point it became clear that
it was to the left (south) of
the road so we searched for a turn off in that direction.
There were few turnings, but one appeared in the right
place, so we turned off.
Our driver did not speak fluent English, so I had to
direct him through Sarah. I do not know if Sarah had
explained what we were doing. Still, he
was very patient while I directed him in wrong direction
a few times. Eventually we found the nearest place to the
confluence point. Between us
and it was a tall block built wall. I tried to see over
the wall, and to photograph the confluence point from
outside the wall. All I could see was
scrub, a roadway, a car park, and a concrete mixer.
I was ready to give up. The wall clearly indicated that
intruders were not wanted. Sarah however had other ideas.
She directed the driver to go back
to the main road, and to find the entrance gate to the
compound. There she got out of the car, and started talking
to the security staff on the gate,
asking to speak to the Head of Public Relations. Our car
was blocking the gateway, so we moved to one side. After a
few minutes the gate opened,
and Sarah waved to our driver to enter the compound.
We were directed to the main offices, in through the
imposing front doors of the Hyundai Car Factory Offices,
up the polished stone staircase, past
the uniformed guard, in to the huge open plan office, and
to the screened off area with the huge table and desk. I
tried to maintain a dignified
appearance, however this was hampered by my clothes. I am
not slim. I live in northern England, an area not noted
for warm weather. India is hot.
When in India I wear cool Indian clothes, typically a
Kurta pajama. This consists of a lightweight long loose
collarless shirt, and thin loose trousers
held up with a tie string. I find that, because of my
shape, if the tiestring is too tight it is most
uncomfortable when sitting for long periods in a
car. My tie string was now too loose, and I tried to
maintain dignity while holding my trousers up.
We were introduced to the desk's occupant, Senior General
Manager Human Re sources, Mr G.S. Ramesh, and to
Mr C.S. Lakshminarayan, the
Senior Manager of Utilities and Services. As I now
understand it, we got through the gates because, when
Mr Lakshminarayan was at school in
Coimbatore, his geography teacher had told them that
their school was at the crossing point of 11 degrees north
and 77 degrees east. This had
started one student's facination with Longitude and
Latitude. This person just happened to be at Mr Ramesh's
desk when the security staff rang to
report the strange visitors. Mr Lakshminarayan knew what
these strange foreigners were talking about.
A young man wearing a brown uniform and white gloves
brought in a tray of cold drinks in crystal glasses, while
we explaind the GPS reciever to
We were then taken back out to the front of the offices,
and driven in two of the companies cars to the area I had
identified from outside the walls.
Using the GPS we set off to find the Confluence point. We
passed racks of neatly stacked timber. All packing cases
to the site were dismantled,
and the timber re-used. We were told that all office
furniture was made from such recycled timber. Beyond these
stacks was unused land, with a
few piles of sawdust or other dumped waste. I gave the GPS
to Mr Lakshminarayan. After all, this was his territory.
He eventually found the confluence point.
The GPS did not give a steady reading. We had bushes on
two sides, and several people standing nearby which cannot
have improved radio
reception, however the readings oscilated evenly on both
sides of 13 degrees 00.000 minutes north and
80 degrees 00.000 minutes east.
Because of the language problem, and the cooperation we
had recieved I did not feel able
to request that all people leave the point for a bare
photo. I do however have a photo (#1) of the point without
any of the team on it.
I tried to take photos of the GPS display, (probably making
reception even worse) to record all the zeros. The best I
managed was one digit off. Mr
Lakshminarayan told some workmen to mark the point with a
wooden stake. He told us that he planned to replace the
stake the next day with a
concrete marker and a plaque. This would then be used for
surveying purposes for future factory development. I took
other photographs. Debbie
and Jacqui took more photos of me taking photos.
We then left the confluence point, took more photos outside
the main offices, got back into our taxi, and drove back
to Chennai. Later that evening
we boarded an overnight sleeper train. The next morning
we were on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, probably one of
the world's most impressive
railway journeys, but that is a different story.
Many thanks to all those who helped, and to those who
started the Degree Confluence project; without you we
would have missed a great experience.