The federal government has moved everything.
The Washington Monument has been moved 94.8 feet to the northeast and the Empire State Building has slipped 120.5 feet to the northwest. The water tank in Bismarck, N.D., went west 101 feet.
In a great national measuring project that took 12 years, geodesists have recalculated all the basic reference points in the system of points and lines called latitude and longitude -- the imaginary grid mankind uses to get a grip on where things are.
About 250,000 locations have been newly pinpointed for surveyors, engineers, regional planners, highway builders and the military. The points are used to set boundary lines, precisely locate space and defense installations, orient weapons systems, track missiles and satellites, route public utilities and track the movements of the continents, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which led the study.
In the last great measuring project in 1927, federal surveyor Jasper S. Bilby used portable sighting towers, plumb lines and sighting scopes carted from place to place, often on foot, to mark out angles and distances across the landscape of the United States.
This time high technology is helping. NAVSTAR global positioning satellites orbiting the Earth 12,000 miles up sent a continuous stream of signals to receivers at specific spots. The signals were used to get an exact position of a receiver -- its height from the center of the Earth and its precise latitude and longitude.
Because of mistakes in computation and less precise reckoning of where points were relative to the whole Earth, the earlier survey had some significant errors, said Elizabeth Wade of the National Geodetic Survey. So beginning last September, after years of taking data and crunching it in large computers, federal geodesists moved everything.
What it means practically speaking is that navigation charts and topographical maps will have to have their latitude and longitude lines renumbered. For most practical uses, the changes won't matter, unless a sailor tries to use the old charts with the new positioning information and finds himself unexpectedly arriving at some sandbar.
Property lines are calculated on the basis of local markers that will not be shifted, so there should be no effect on the drawing of property lines or boundaries. Those who use national markers however, including state highway departments, will eventually have to shift over to the new positions.
National borders, too, must be refixed.
The famous 49th parallel -- the line of latitude that forms most of the boundary between the United States and Canada, may no longer be the 49th parallel. Where the two countries meet on the Pacific shore, the latitude will shift about 66 feet.
Chief geodesist Bernard Chovitz said he still wasn't sure whether the line will shift 66 feet north or south. But then, he added, the 49th parallel may not have been exactly on the line of 49 degrees in the first place.
The new survey remeasured about 5,000 points, Wade said, and, using those new measurements, was able to recalculate the rest of the 250,000 survey points around the country. The new measurements are about 10 to 100 times more accurate, giving a positional error in one test of less than an inch in six miles.
A few of the regional monuments whose positions have shifted:
The head of the statue on the U.S. Capitol dome, 94.8 feet to the northeast; the state capitol dome in Annapolis, 98.5 feet northeast; the Richmond War Memorial, 99.8 feet northeast.
The biggest shift was in Hawaii: the flagpole in front of the Honolulu Judiciary Building jumped 1,480.8 feet to the southeast.