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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Surveyors take measure of the Washington Monument

By Brad Wright/CNN

August 18, 1999
Web posted at: 3:33 p.m. EDT (1933 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Washington Monument is getting a high-tech measurement to determine the exact height of the obelisk that dominates the skyline of the nation's capital.

A team of surveyors from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), using high-tech Global Positioning Satellites, is re-measuring the height of the monument for the first time since 1934.

"The Washington monument is 114 years old and today it's getting a space age address," said James Baker, the director of NOAA. "With this new technology, the global positioning system, we'll soon know exactly how tall the monument is and we'll know whether it is rising or sinking or whether it's leaning."

A preliminary measurement announced Wednesday indicates that the monument is 555 feet, 5.9 inches, which is very close to the 555 feet, 5 1/8 inches used by the National Park Service for years. However, NOAA is continuing work on a more precise measurement which will require a few more days to calculate.

Baker hopes the survey of this national landmark will raise public awareness of global positioning satellites and the National Spatial Reference System, which is the foundation for all types of surveys. NOAA uses the same survey techniques to survey areas around airports to ensure safer travel.

The monument is surrounded by scaffolding to support workers on a major renovation project. NOAA's "geodesy" experts are eager to test the accuracy of the surveying equipment within the scaffolding.

The Random House Dictionary defines "geodesy" as: "The branch of applied mathematics that deals with the measurement of the shape and area of large tracts of the country, the exact position of geographic points and the curvature, shape and dimension of the earth."


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Washington Monument Web site


Wednesday, August 18, 1999

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