BERLIN TOWNSHIP The pasture on Willis and Ann Kirkbride's farm is one
of the most noteworthy places in Mahoning County. Countless state maps mark its location.
Sure, it looks like any other field. There's no buried treasure there, and nothing of
historical value ever took place there, unless you consider kids complaining about baling
hay while boaters relax on nearby Berlin Lake.
In fact, the Kirkbrides, who have farmed the land for 52 years, never knew until Monday
their property was one of only a few hundred places like it in the country. With the help
of satellite technology, they learned last week the now-famous pasture sits precisely on
41 degrees north latitude, 81 degrees west longitude.
"I could dig up some dirt, put it in bags and sell it," joked Willis, 75.
Were it not for Alex Jarrett, a computer programmer in Northhampton, Mass., the
Kirkbrides might never have learned of the cosmic importance of their otherwise
In 1996, armed with a new hand-held global-positioning system receiver, Jarrett and a
friend decided out of curiosity to visit where 43 degrees north hit 72 degrees west, not
too far across the New Hampshire state line. He was surprised to find a lack of any marker
at the wooded site.
He hit a few more of the 21 similar spots in New England and posted pictures on an
Internet site, the Degree Confluence Project at confluence.org.
"A lot of people sit around and go to parks or something like that," said
Jarrett, 24. "They don't get out and just explore. One of the things I like to do is
explore places no one goes, old railroad lines or islands no one usually gets out
Jarrett said he found far more people were interested in his quirky idea than he ever
thought was possible. People have sent pictures of confluences from 33 states, Canada,
France, Jordan, Burkina Faso and the grandfather of all degree confluences, the South
Pole. Wild Wild Web, a syndicated television show about the Internet, featured Jarrett's
site on a recent broadcast.
Some confluences, like the one in Berlin Township, are just off the road. One is in an
alley near The Ohio State University, another in a suburban Milwaukee driveway, another
along an irrigation canal south of Phoenix.
Not all the spots are so easy. They may require a trek through thick woods or barren
desert. Confluence seekers have had to deal with unwelcoming farmers, corporate security
and even a military policewoman guarding a naval weapons station in California.
"The adventure of getting there is definitely most of the fun of the
project," Jarrett said.
The theoretical center of the Western Hemisphere, 45N/90W, is well-known enough to have
its own booster club, headquartered at a bar in nearby Poniatowski, Wis. A couple of local
folk singers wrote a song about the hamlet "It's very hard to find it on a map of
county roads / Ridiculously easy on a four-inch globe."
There are 64,442 degree confluences in the world, but most are in oceans or polar
regions. Only 10 are in Ohio. After the one in Berlin Township, the nearest one is 52
miles away near Lodi.
On a trip to Indiana last month, Jarrett sought to visit Mahoning County's confluence,
but the snow and cold dissuaded him. With the help of Sand Dollar Marine in Niles, which
loaned a GPS receiver, the Tribune Chronicle decided to claim 41N/81W for posterity.
The vicinity of the confluence was found using maps on the Census Bureau's Web site.
The GPS receiver, which communicates with satellites to identify location, marked the
pasture as the hollowed ground.
"You go to school and learn about latitude and longitude, but you don't think
about it," Ann Kirkbride said.
But thanks to the Internet, the world will soon know about the pasture of power. When
the boaters start coming through Berlin Township in the summer, they will know they're not
just driving by another field.