This goliath ferris wheel stands 135m tall above the County Hall building on London's South Bank. It was constructed on barges floating on the river Thames, before being hoisted into position over a two day period. After some delays, it took its first passengers on the 1st of February 2000.

It supports 32 enclosed observation pods, each capable of carrying 25 people, who pay about £10 each for the 26 minute trip all the way round. Tickets must be booked in advance to be certain of a place. Perhaps because it is sponsored by British Airways, there is a really daft queuing and check-in system, and rides are known as "flights".

The wheel stops only rarely, for cleaning; and passengers board and disembark as each pod moves slowly past.

On a quite dull afternoon, April 25, 2000, I was able to see all the way to the Crystal Palace in the south east and to Alexandra Palace in the north, a distance over 19km. Faraway landmarks like the Albert Memorial, Queen's Tower, the Millennium Dome and Telecom Tower were clearly visible. Even the Empress State Building! Hyde Park lay spread out before us like a tiny formal garden.

A further visit on Bonfire Night 2001 gave me a vantage point to observe all of the capital's fireworks displays, from tiny milk-bottle rockets in backyards, to the massive displays in public parks.

People working at the Ministry of Defence, just across the river from it have been advised to keep net curtains closed to protect state secrets from prying eyes riding on the wheel.

The structure is the fourth tallest in London (after Natwest Tower, Canary Warf Tower and the Telecom Tower), and took seven years to design and build. Early plans included powering the motion from turbines placed in the river, but this idea proved unworkable.

A triumph of Engineering.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.