Null Island

In the Gulf of Guinea, about a thousand miles west of Africa, is Null Island. A one-square meter plot around the point where the prime meridian and the equator cross at exactly zero degrees latitude and longitude. 0°N 0°E.

We’ve all been there before. It’s the busiest place on earth. Right now, thousands of people live there, billions of photos have been taken there and occasionally, people come to say hi for a fraction of a second.

At least that’s what a computer sees. Because the only real thing at Null Island’s location is a weather buoy, called Station 13010 Soul“, which is in an isolated state of indeterminate sovereignty, bobbing up and down lonely in cold waters.

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Null Island is a non-place that algorithms use for an incident, event, or object in the real world when they don’t have detailed positioning, because the digital geospatial data is incorrect or out-of-date (null, null).

The pizza joint in the neighboring village you can’t find on google maps? It’s on Null Island. Delayed emergency response? Probably a Null Island routing fault. The secret Ernst Stavro Blofeld villain cave? It’s on Null Island. Your position when using digital camouflage? Null Island.

The supposed island is the result of programming errors. It’s a blend of real and imaginary geography, of mathematical certainty and pure fantasy. It exists among worlds. A lot happens, even though there’s nothing there. There may even be dragons. It’s a good enough metaphor for the ambiguous world we live in. Nothing but not Null. Busy but actually alone. Charted and unexplored at the same time.

Null Island is a great place to navigate and explore the unknown — the vast chasm between what we know, what we don’t know, and coming to grips with what is unknowable.