||[Nov. 26th, 2005|08:29 am]
We took a flight on the London Eye. Can the experience really be called a "flight" if you're connected to the Earth the whole time? -- this is how British Airways refers to the experience anyway.|
The Eye really is an absolutely stunning piece of engineering. Anyone terrified of heights could just stroll alongside the Thames to admire it from the ground. The Eye was conceived and designed by two London architects (husband and wife) who then went into partnership with British Airways and other companies to get it built.
It looks to me like the hybrid of a giant ferris wheel and the Queenstown gondola. The passenger capsules, however, are not dangling down under the influence of gravity, but are rotating within circular rings that remain on the outside of the giant rim. This gives the London Eye a very distinctive (and attractive) profile. There are 32 numbered capsules with each one able to hold 25 passengers. The irrational among us will be relieved to hear there is no capsule number 13; it has been missed out and replaced by a capsule numbered 33, just in case.
From a distance, the giant wheel looks as if it's rotating very slowly, but right up close it seemed kind of fast to us. In fact, it's rotating at 0.26 metres per second. Each passenger capsule, within its mounting ring, is rotating at the same speed as the wheel, only in the opposite direction, ensuring the capsule floor is always level.
Our flight took 30 minutes, and at the highest point we were 135 metres above London with a view of 360 degrees. There wasn't much we couldn't see from up there, but the notable landmarks and places that interested me included: the BT Tower, Cleopatra's Needle, and Waterloo Bridge towards the north; St Paul's and the Gherkin to the east; the Treasury, Ministry of Defence, Downing Street, St James Park, Buckingham Palace, and Nelson's Column towards the west; MI6 and MI5 headquarters, Westminster Bridge, and the Houses of Parliament with Big Ben to the south.
It's possible to see 40 kilometres in any direction from the highest point, but, despite us having a sunny day with blue sky, the very distant parts of the city were partly obscured by some grey winter smog.