Greenwich and The Tower of London

Monday, July 20th- Today we took a boat to Greenwich to visit the library at the National Maritime Museum. It was so much fun to see London from the Thames. Once we arrived in Greenwich we walked past the spot where Henry the VIII, Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I were all born. Unfortunately, the palace where they were born is no longer standing.

The Library at the National Maritime originally opened its doors in 1937 and is currently undergoing a massive redevelopment to be completed in 2012. The library contains approximately 100,000 modern books, 8,000 rare books and 20,000 pamphlets and is named in honor of Sir James Caird as his collection started the library.

Once inside the library, we were given access to some pretty amazing stuff, including a real map book used by a real pirate named Basil Ringrose! We were also able to view a copy of the Catalog of the Stars from 1712. The document was being prepared by a gentleman named John Flamsteed however it was published by Edmund Halley per the encouragement of the Royal Society as Flamsteed was taking too long to prepare his final draft. Needless to say Flamsteed was not pleased, and attempted to burn as many of the published copies as he could.

After the library a few of us hiked up the hill to the Royal Observatory to see the Prime Meridian. We saw the watches built by John Harrison that solved the Longitude problem and allowed sailors to accurately map and sail the open seas. We also waited in the queue and took our turn standing on the Prime Meridian Line, although some tourists though it was okay to line jump, needless to say we were not pleased!

After we soaked up all we could in Greenwich we hopped back on the boat and got off at the Tower of London. We saw the spot where Anne Boleyn died, the Tower where the two Princes were murdered (now named the Bloody Tower), the ravens that guard the tower (apparently there must always be at least six, or England will fall), the infamous Crown Jewels and the armor of Henry VIII (it changed quite a lot over his lifespan). Although the Tower wasn’t always used as a prison so many terrible things happened there, it’s hard to think of it as anything other than the place where Henry VIII (and others) sent so many to die.

What a day…

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