The Angry Corrie 18: Apr-Jun 1994

Really BIG Boring Squares and Conspiracy Theory

as uncovered by Grant Hutchison

March 24th

Thick cloud and fresh snow on the shoulders of Macdui today. Missed the path and eventually broke out into clear visibility with a view of Loch Etchachan from an unexpected angle. Puzzling over the map, I found that I'd wandered north of my true bearing, and was sitting pretty much exactly at grid reference 000000.

Grid references repeat themselves in squares a hundred kilometres on a side, and I had wandered on to the shared corner of four of these Big Squares. They were distinguished from each other (the map told me) by rather mysterious two-letter codes: NH, NJ, NN and NO.

I worried about this odd array of letters all the way down to Derry Lodge, but couldn't seem to get them to fit into any logical scheme.

March 25th

Got out the maps this evening. Laid out most of eastern Scotland on the living-room floor, then pushed back the furniture to add the west coast. Needed the kitchen floor for the Far North.

It's pretty clear. Twenty-five Big Squares are laid out in a five- by-five array to form a Really Big Square, with five-hundred kilometre sides. NA contains St Kilda and not much else, Lewis is in NB, Cape Wrath in NC, John o' Groats in ND, and NE presumably sticks out uselessly into the North Sea east of Caithness. Then NF to NK are laid out below these five. (There's no NI, which is what caused some of my confusion yesterday!) Then comes NL to NP, NQ to NU, and finally (falling off the edge of my map collection) NV to NZ across northern England. Then what?

I have only one English map, dating from a miserable Saturday spent on Scafell Pike in the company of about seven hundred other people. At the bottom of The English Lakes (South Western Area), just below NY, there's a Big Square labelled SD. This must be the start of a whole new Really Big Square for England!

So the Scottish Big Squares form a Really Big Square with prefixes N for North, and the English Big Squares take S for South, I reckon. Easy.

And so to bed.

March 26th

Not so easy. This morning, I woke up wondering about Shetland. Down to the local bookshop. Shetland is in Big Squares HU and HP! Another Really Big Square. Orkney's in HY, Fair Isle in HZ, Foula in HT, and then there's a drift of Skerries and Stacks across HW and HX.

And worse... London and points east have another Really Big Square, prefixed T. Difficult to accept my neat North and South interpretation in the presence of H and T. High up near the top of the map and Terrible place to live are all that springs to mind.

March 27th

By damn, it's clear that there must be an Absolutely Huge Square, made up of twenty-five Really Big Squares! The H, N, S, T layout of Really Big Squares seems to indicate that Britain lies in the centre of a huge Grid two thousand five hundred kilometres square!

What on Earth can it be for?

March 28th

All day spent plotting the extent of the Grid. It's monstrous. It extends north as far as the Arctic Circle, south as far as Italy and includes a big chunk of Scandinavia.

Also a massive section of the North Atlantic. There are Really Big Boring Squares here - C, G, F, L, Q, V and W are entirely water. M is saved from Boredom only by the presence of Rockall and a sliver of Irish coast north of Donegal Bay. D is redeemed by a few square kilometres of Norway north of Kristiansund, and O is almost entirely North Sea, except for the mountainous peninsula west of Oslo.

Another mystery: the OS claims that the Grid takes its origin from 49N, 2W (a point somewhere in the middle of the English Channel), which is actually at grid reference XE000000. It's not at a corner of the Grid. It's not even at the corner of a Really Big Square, and it's nowhere near the centre of the Grid or of Britain. What is the real significance of 49N, 2W? What is the true origin of the Grid?

March 29th

A shocking thought. Any spherical grid will become more distorted the further it stretches from its origin, as a result of the attempt to map plane squares on to a spherical surface. If 49N, 2W really is the Grid origin, then a Grid kilometre in the north of Britain could actually measure considerably more than a kilometre on the ground.

Is the whole thing just a plot to make Scotland seem smaller than it really is?

March 30th

Using grid references to the nearest kilometre, Reykjavik lies at AP6206, Paris is at YH1055, Berlin at UK3073, Geneva at ZQ2314, Milan at ZX6850, and Oslo at KQ9834. I find all this strangely chilling. What ambition has the Ordnance Survey in these far-flung lands?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Ordnance as: Military materials, stores or supplies; implements of war...

Oh my God.

March 31st

It's clear now. The Cod War was part of it. The Icelanders were the only people to recognise the territorial ambitions of the Ordnance Survey, when almost all of their coastal waters were annexed by the Grid. They fought back. The industrial heartland of Western Europe remains unsuspecting. Vulnerable.

The southern edge of the Grid chops off, almost exactly, the twelfth-century French territories owned by England: Normandy, Brittany, Anjou and Aquitaine. Can this be a coincidence? Can the grudge have lain dormant for eight hundred years?

April 1st

I'm at the heart of it now. I don't know what's going on, but I know where to find out. O is the key. The whole Grid is obviously designed around the O square.

There's a point on the Yorkshire coast between Scarborough and Whitby, which lies at the corners of four Really Big Squares: N, O, S, and T. This junction point is precisely on the coast, exactly on the high water mark. What are the odds against the corners of these squares, each five hundred kilometres on a side, falling so exactly on the coastline? Surely astronomical. This must be the real origin of the Grid.

I've tried to find it on a map. Sheet 94 chops off with its eastern edge exactly along the boundary of the N square. Sheet 101 extends to the northern edge of T, and then stops. So the O square does not appear on any Landranger map - and yet it does contain land! There is land below the high water mark - tidal beach. This beach disappears off the eastern edge of Sheet 94, and reappears at the northern margin of Sheet 101 - it must cross through O. It is the only piece of unmapped land in the whole of Britain, and the Grid has been designed to conceal it!

April 2nd

I thought I couldn't get any more frightened. But I can.

Fylingdales. The Early Warning radar domes on Fylingdales Moor are just a few miles away from the missing O corner. They must have been put there to protect whatever lies on that secluded stretch of Yorkshire beach.

The thing is this: I've seen pictures of this radar installation on TV; I've read about it in books. It's not secret. But it's not on the map, either!

This is something very big. Something very scary. But the way ahead is clear. I know where the answer to the mystery lies. I intend to go looking for it.

The journal breaks off here. There are no further entries except under October 27th: Mum's Birthday. The writer was reported Missing by his mother on April 6th. The diary floated ashore near Whitby, Yorkshire, on April 12th.

No trace of its owner has ever been found.

Ed. - Surely the true extent of the conspiracy can be gleaned from the entry for April 1st: "...exactly on the high water mark". The diarist had evidently grasped a half-truth, for does not the solemn vow of the Masonic Brotherhood include the exhortation to "Silence, under no less a penalty than that of having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the root, and buried in the sand of the sea at the low water mark"? Readers are advised to refer to TAC6, p17 for further thought...

TAC 18 Index