52 States in 8 Months

Freezing into 2009: the NYC ball drop

Posted in East coast trip by Ulf on February 21, 2009

On December 31 at roughly 10pm we went north. We started at 31st street where our Hotel was. At that time we did not yet know where to go. We thought about going to Central Park, hoping that there might be some fireworks. The other option was to somehow make it onto the Time Square to see the famous NYC Ball Drop. As we walked along the avenues, the city seemed to be quite empty. Would that mean that we can make it to the Time Square? Or is everybody else already at that place? That would also explain why nobody is around in 31st street.


As we reached the crossing of 42nd street and the Avenue of the Americas, we suddenly saw the ball! It was directly in front of us! We could not believe it. We stopped immediately and threw away all plans to go to Central Park. (Well, we later figured out that the road in front of us was closed anyway, so we would not have gotten any further without taking a detour.)


The Ball changed its color continuously. He could also show some patterns, but it was impossible to catch them with our cameras at that distance. The ball is only 12 ft in diameter which is less than 4m. It’s at a total height of 475ft (145m) above ground.

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If you think that dropping a ball is stupid, well, you’re probably right. But this is America! The background of the ball drop can be found in England. They installed their time balls in the early 19th century in harbors to synchronize the naval clocks. Accurate clocks were required to determine the longitudinal position of ships — obviously.

We however had better things to do than synchronizing our watches.  We were freezing! The weather people said it would be around 18 °F cold, but due to the wind it would feel like 2 °F. And they were right! I don’t know about the real temperature, but it did feel very much like those  2 °F (-16 °C)! Especially if you can’t really move as there are other people in all directions.

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I don’t know why we were still smiling in the pictures above. I guess we were smiling when our faces froze, so we couldn’t change that mimic anymore. Please notice that the Chrysler building was also visible. We could even see the Empire State building as one of the sky scrapers next to us reflected the green-and-red roof illumination.

This is how the actual Ball Drop looked like. The first picture was taken when the Ball just started moving (at 23:59 + a few seconds), the second one just before it completely came down (at 24:00 – a few seconds). The third picture was taken in 2009, finally :-).

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Look at the next picture! Why do all people look in the same direction? Is there anything special? ;-)


I tried to capture that moment on video. Well, my hands were shaking too much. I just could not hold the camera in a steady position. And the clock of some guy behind me was a little late, so I did not have the camera focused at the ball when it was turned off. This is all I got:

After that show, we decided to return to the Hotel. It was just way too cold out there. On the way we went past a couple of cab drivers. I don’t know why they tried to get onto the street at all. Maybe the NY taxis just don’t have a depot, so they have to be kept on the road all the time?


PS/1: This is how it looks like if professional cameramen film the ball drop.
PS/2: If you’re curious about the ball, go to New York! Wikipedia says it will be up there above the Time Square all through the year.


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