Discover UNESCO sites – The Struve Geodetic Arc

The Struve Geodetic Arc is a triangulation chain stretching from Norway to the Black Sea, through 10 countries and over 2,820 km. It includes 265 main station points and 258 main triangles. Which were carried out between 1816 and 1855 by the astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve. He was the first one to provide […]

The Struve Geodetic Arc is a triangulation chain stretching from Norway to the Black Sea, through 10 countries and over 2,820 km. It includes 265 main station points and 258 main triangles. Which were carried out between 1816 and 1855 by the astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve. He was the first one to provide the accurate measuring of a meridian and to help establish the exact shape of the planet.

It was an extraordinary example of scientific collaboration among scientists from different countries. Furthermore, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List as a memorable ensemble of the chain made up of 34 commemorative plaques out of the origin.

Photo Credit: Vilensija via wikimedia.org
Photo Credit: Vilensija via wikimedia.org

The “triangulation” measurement system solved the problem of determining the size and shape of the world, since it was confusing all natural philosophers since the 4th century BC.

Thanks to this system, it become possible to measure long chains of triangles, such as the geodetic arc. The inscribed property includes 34 points. Six in Finland, five in Belarus, four in Norway, Sweden and Ukraine, three in Estonia and Lithuania, two in Russia and Latvia and one in Moldova.

These marks take different forms: small holes drilled in rock surfaces, cross-shaped engraved marks on rock surfaces. But also solid stone or brick with a marker inset, rock structures with a central stone or brick; individual bricks, as well as specially constructed “monuments” to commemorate the point and the arc.

Outstanding Universal Value

In 2005 UNESCO added The Struve Geodetic Arc to the World Heritage List. Thus it recognized the site as an “Outstanding Universal Value” according to the following criteria:

  • II Criterion : to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design.
  • IV Criterion : to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history.
  • VI Criterion : to be directly or tangibly associated wit events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.
Photo Credit: Stefan Krasowski via flickr.com

The Struve Arc is indeed an extraordinary example for the interchange of human values. Its results are directly associated with humans wondering their world, its shape and size. Scientists are also linking it with Sir Isaac Newton’s theory that the world is not an exact sphere. Therefore, it is simultaneously an example for collaboration between monarchs of different powers, for a scientific cause.

Integrity, authenticity, protection and management

All components of the Struve Arc are linked to one chain and a number of the Arc sites belong to national state geodetic reference networks that confer integrity.

The inscribed components of the property have special characteristics and connotation on a technological and scientific level. All points are maintained in their original location and changes are limited to some later constructions marking the locations.

All countries involved were collaborating for the inscription of the arc. Moreover, they were locating and investigating the sites of historical measurements by using available geodetic observation data. In addition, each State Party provided legal protection to the geodetic points for the cultural heritage.

Also, each State authority is responsible for the conservation and management of the Struve Geodetic Arc.

Further Promotion

Based on the resolutions of the Coordinating Committee, national representative organizations actively promote the Struve Geodetic Arc. This happens via different tasks, such as the producing post stamps and envelopes; making promotional movies and educational books and articles; preparing exhibitions; translating documentation; restoring geodetic instruments and other materials, and even minting commemorative coins for the Struve Geodetic Arc.

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