the Degree Confluence Project

United States : Ohio

1.2 miles (2.0 km) NE of North Benton (Mahoning), Portage, OH, USA
Approx. altitude: 319 m (1046 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest OpenStreeMap topo aerial ConfluenceNavigator)
Antipode: 41°S 99°E

Quality: better pictures needed

Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: Looking east #3: Looking north #4: Looking south #5: Looking west

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  41°N 81°W (visit #1)  

#1: Mr. Kirkbride standing at his confluence.

(visited by Matt Walcoff)

17-Jan-2000 -- A few weeks ago, I noticed the web site and figured I had to be a part of this. I was thinking to myself how little we get to see of the country from the roads, and how it would be nice to walk a cross-section of it to see what it's really like. Your idea of just visiting degree concluences seemed a bit more feasible.

I checked out a map, and found there is a confluence in Berlin Township, about 45 minutes from me. Now I don't have a GPS receiver. But this is why it's cool to be a reporter. I figured I could borrow one from a store if I told them it was for a story. Berlin Township is not really in our coverage area, but when you work for a small paper, you can use a bit of your own initiative.

I wrote you about the spot, and you said you tried to get there but found the weather too dismal. I decided I'd do it myself. I talked to my photo editor. Lucky for me, he thought the story idea sounded pretty cool. (He could have just as easily said, "You want me to drive 45 minutes to take a picture of a what?!")

That morning, I stopped at a marine store that was letting me borrow a GPS receiver and headed out to the confluence. The Tiger Map Browser pinpointed it where Leffingwell Road crosses the Mahoning-Portage county line, but the GPS placed it about 500 feet east of that spot and a little bit off the road. (My guess is the goal of the people who surveyed the area 200 years ago was to locate the border at 81W.)

After tracking down Mike, the photographer, who almost couldn't make it, I knocked on the door of the farmers whose pasture contained the confluence. The wife answered, and was pretty unimpressed about the whole thing, but the husband was a nice guy and was willing to let us take pictures.

The GPS receiver indicated the confluence was about 10 feet inside the western edge of this fenced-in pasture right off the road. Mike took a picture for the paper with the farmer, Mr. Kirkbride, standing in front of the fence, the shots looking in each direction from the spot, and the shot of the GPS receiver. Actually, the GPS receiver was a few thousands of a minute off, but it kept changing even as we were standing still, and it was 15 degrees outside, so we said we were close enough.

All photos are copyright © 2000 by the Tribune-Chronicle, Warren, Ohio. The article mentioned above is reprinted here with their permission:

Map readers can pick out Berlin farmland

Tribune Chronicle

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 unremarkable field.

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 to."

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.



 All pictures
#1: Mr. Kirkbride standing at his confluence.
#2: Looking east
#3: Looking north
#4: Looking south
#5: Looking west
#6: GPS photo
ALL: All pictures on one page