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MapLab: Inside Null Island, ‘the Most Real of Fictional Places’

The location of “Null Island” — a place that doesn’t exist outside of databases. In a new paper, researchers refer to it as “the most real of fictional places.”

The location of “Null Island” — a place that doesn’t exist outside of databases. In a new paper, researchers refer to it as “the most real of fictional places.”

Credit: Levente Juhasz and Peter Mooney

The intersection of the Equator and the Prime Meridian lands somewhere west of the coast of Africa, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. These are coordinates (0,0) in map coordinates system WGS84, the most commonly used system in web mapping. Physically speaking there is nothing there — apart from station 13010, a lone buoy named Soul that records weather data.

But if you dig into web maps and geographic databases, you’ll get the impression that there’s a lot happening at coordinates (0,0). Among other things: people running and cycling, cyberattacks, and a lot of Covid cases.