In a particularly upsetting turn of events, government surveyors have proven the Washington Monument is 10 inches shorter than has been advertised for more than 130 years. Did it shrink? Start slouching? Sink into the ground? Actually, the answer is more simple—surveyors measured from a different starting point this time around. But the aluminum cap on top did get melted a little bit, ~by lighting.~
According to Dru Smith, chief geodesist with the National Geodetic Survey, modern international standards require a different base point than what was likely used in the 1880s. The Council of Tall Buildings now measures from a building's lowest open-air pedestrian entrance, but the original 1884 measurement (555 feet 5 1/8 inches) is believed to have used four brass markers:
Those markers remain in place 9 inches below ground off each corner of the monument. It's possible the markers were at ground level in the past. A new plaza was installed around the monument more recently, and "it's clear that what was ground level has changed over the years," Smith said.The only observable height change to the monument is due to a rounding of the tip, first observed in 1934, and now confirmed to show about 3/8 of an inch melted off. Also, the ground around it has sunk by about 2.2 inches since 1901, but that's because the ground around it is a frigging swamp. Lest tourists freak out about the diminution of our once-great nation, by way of its proud pencil (which, by the new standard should be 554 feet 7 11/32 inches), the National Park Service is protecting them against this devastating development. Spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles says that "for our purposes we'll still use the historic height rather than the architectural height, since they're measured from different places."
· Washington Monument loses 10 inches in newest measurement [Chicago Tribune]