Baseline and Meridian

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    Baseline and Meridian

    On November 7, 1852, Colonel Henry Washington, a deputy surveyor, surveyed the San Bernardino Base Line and Meridian from a point west of Mount San Bernardino (10,649 feet/3,246 meters). The base and meridian lines serve as the initial surveying point for all of Southern California. The lines cross at latitude 34.12134 and longitude -117.34859.

    Because of the state's shape, three meridian-base line sets are required for surveys in all parts of the state. The other two are the Mount Diablo and Humbolt base and meridian lines.

    Update 1: This photo was used to accompany an article by Beth Kanter, What's Your Social Media Baseline?, on March 7, 2009.

    Update 2: This photo and a small quote appeared in an article, I Always Wondered About This, on Ron's Log on June 19, 2009.

    Rialto, California


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    1. Pete Zarria 63 months ago | reply

      I assume meridian is one of the surveying meridians? Interesting all the different baselines.

    2. “Caveman Chuck” Coker 63 months ago | reply

      Pete Zarria — In the bottom pink area of California, Baseline Road runs east-west along the base line (labeled "Base Line" on the map) and Meridian Avenue runs north-south along the meridian (labeled "San Bernardino Mer." on the map).

    3. Pete Zarria 63 months ago | reply

      Meridian and baseline form the basis of the legal descriptions of real estate. I always found it interesting the earth doesn't allow much in the way a single baseline.

    4. “Caveman Chuck” Coker 63 months ago | reply

      Pete Zarria — I always wondered how they determined where to start. Did they walk around until someone said, "this looks like a good spot to call the center of the world"? They don't have even-numbered latitudes and longitudes. Why did they pick 34° 7' 16.8234" and -117° 20' 54.6" instead of 34° 0' 0" and -117° 0' 0"?

    5. john4kc 63 months ago | reply

      Theory- are these latitude and longitude values shared with peaks of mountains such as Mount San Bernardino or other geographic features? Back in the 1850s 34.000 would be more arbitrary than being able to point a transit at a peak, at least I would think. Did you look for a marker in that area? (I'm sure you did).

      I don't know much about surveying at all so keep that in mind.

    6. Pete Zarria 63 months ago | reply

      Thats a good question. I'm pretty sure its arbitrary like picking Greenwich as 0. You can imagine the negotiations that must have occurred among the 1st world powers. The equator is easy, the longitudes must have been a struggle.

      Why the odd numbers? To protect the land survey engineers franchise, like Latin & doctors/lawyers. If you control the language and access to info, etc, you have a lock on your occupational fortunes. Or I'm just an old cynic.

      I want to know how the USGS picks its landmark spots where it sticks the monuments. Then they base the baselines from those known locations.

    7. “Caveman Chuck” Coker 63 months ago | reply

      john4kc, Pete Zarria — The latitude is shared with the peak on Mt. San Bernardino. But that makes me wonder why they didn't use Mt. San Gorgonio, the highest peak in Southern California, within a day's walking distance of Mt. San Bernardino (at least it was when I was a teenager and in better shape). I can't find any reason for the chosen longitude.

      The National Geodetic Survey has a marker near there: EV3638. The coordinates for the marker are 34° 7' 17.42084" and -117° 20' 54.63245". I didn't look for the marker though. Here is a Google Maps Street View of the intersection.

      As an added bonus, if go south on Meridian about a mile or so, to the intersection of Meridian Ave and Foothill Blvd, you'll find Wigwams!

    8. Pete Zarria 63 months ago | reply

      I'm thinking because somebody had to climb up and attach the monument.

    9. “Caveman Chuck” Coker 63 months ago | reply

      Pete Zarria — I remember Mt. San Gorgonio having a benchmark on top, but I couldn't find it in the NGS database. Maybe some other organization put a marker there.

      [Later] On the website, I found a photo of the marker with the description San Bernardino County Surveyors Marker:

      Also, I remember San Gorgonio being 11, 502 feet instead of the 11,499 shown on maps these days. The elevation on this marker is 11,501.6 feet. I feel vindicated!

    10. cptdrinian 63 months ago | reply

      Very interesting bit of trivia. You know, I've learned quite a bit of local history from your postings. Thanks.

    11. “Caveman Chuck” Coker 63 months ago | reply

      cptdrinian — I do what I can. Thanks for taking the time to read my postings.

    12. siennablackburn 42 months ago | reply

      How many meridian lines are in California ?

    13. lakewobegon 38 months ago | reply

      The actual Latitude and Longitude for the San Bernardino Baseline and Meridian are 34 07 12.96 N, 116 55 51.60 W.

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