Right before reader Brent traveled through Manitoba and recorded his visit to the Dominion Land Survey’s Prime Meridian, he and I were discussing the 100th Meridian west of Greenwich. He shared this 1992 video from The Tragically Hip, "At The Hundredth Meridian"
Go ahead and turn it up if you like. It will be good background music for the remainder of this post. It’s OK, they’re Canadian so it will be doubly appropriate.
The 100th Meridian — as we’ve discussed before — is both a climactic and cultural divide roughly speaking between the western and eastern sides of the North American continent. Think, cowboys on one side and investment bankers on the other if one wishes to reduce it to ridiculous stereotypes. The same general mythology seems to surround this longitude whether one stands on the Canadian or U.S. side of the border.
View 100th Meridian West – twelvemilecircle.com in a larger map
Brent, working from distant memory, thought there might be a 100th Meridian marker somewhere along one of the Canadian highways. I decided to search for it vicariously through Google Street View, and figured the Trans-Canada Highway would be the most likely candidate. Surprisingly, shockingly some might say, this most important long-distance highway connecting Canada from one end to the other seemingly ignores this momentous meridian. Here is where it starts to get strange. I did find a road sign practically atop meridian:
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It implores travelers to "Explore Manitoba Attractions." Ironically, however, it completely ignores a bona fide attraction an arm’s length away. This is such an unfortunate lost opportunity.
The Province could create a little pocket park with a pullout, cement a few rocks together and affix a plaque, and create a mini geo-trail by combining it with the Prime Meridian marker and whatever oddball geography occurs in the 190 kilometres (118 miles) between the two. People go on wine trails, right? I’m sure bored long-distance drivers would also follow a geography trail if someone put a little effort into it, maybe created a website and published a few brochures to stuff into racks at rest stops and motel lobbies.
Others have broached the subject of 100th Meridian tourism. It just so happens that the meridian passes through Brandon, the second largest city in Manitoba after Winnipeg, and practically adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway. The idea was floated by an obviously enlightened individual on a discussion of a new Brandon Welcome Sign (you’ll need to scroll way down or text search on "meridian"):
BRANDON / Where the Great Plains Begin / Then you put a marker for the 100th meridian up on the TransCanada and on Victoria Ave. / On Vic you put a small area to pull over for pics next to the 100th Meridian Marker. It is just slightly east of the corner of E. Fotheringham & Vic.
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A Lovely Spot for a Park, with Access Road Already in Place… How about it, Brandon?
I don’t know if it ever resolved itself that way but I did notice people complaining about the cost of a new sign recently. What does the sign say? Does it mention the meridian? Maybe a reader from Brandon will find this page someday and let us know.
To the people of Brandon: if you build a small park and erect a monument on the 100th Meridian, I will visit your town and I will spend money on a hotel room, I will eat in your restaurants and I will fill-up my car before driving on. No doubt, other geo-geeks will do likewise. I can’t promise that it will happen next week or next year, but it will happen. Your investment will be more than paid back by tourism dollars.
Do you think we could convince The Tragically Hip to sing at the dedication?