Standing 20KM north of Quito the Mitad del Mundo is a thirty-meter tall, stone clad monument, topped by a 4.5-meter diameter globe weighing five tonnes. A white line, representing the Equator line runs through the monument and dissects its East and West face. A sign on the line proudly announces “Equator: Latitude 0’0’0′”
Finding the exact equator was the subject of many studies, the most notable of which was carried out by Frenchman Charles Marie de La Condamine in 1735. As well as establishing the equator line La Condamine undertook the first scientific exploration of the Amazon and brought Rubber to the western world.
La Condamine’s results were verified by the French Academy of Sciences in 1936 and a ten meter monument was then constructed to mark the middle of the earth. The present monument was built between 1979 and 1982 and lies 7km to the west of the original monument.
While the line of the Equator has been undisputed for almost three hundred years the advent of GPS technolgy put an end to that: showing that the monument is a little of course — about 240 meters south of the true equator. I’m sure that La Condamine wouldn’t have been too disappointed with that news though, given that he found the central line between two points that are approximately 20,014km (12,436 miles) apart.
The news also doesn’t seem to come as a disappointment to the thousands of visitors who each day delight in the opportunity to hop between the northern and southern hemispheres, with an obligatory photo being taken as one crosses the line.
While you are doing the same, perhaps you would like to ponder the abnormalities of being at this point on the planet:
– Due to the spin of the earth the regions around the equator bulge, making the earths radius about 21,000m (68,900ft) greater at the equator than at the poles. Taking this into account you are standing further away from the center of the earth than if you were on the summit of Mount Everest. Which makes the tallest point the summit of Chimborazo volcano in the Andes of Ecuador, with an elevation above sea level of just 6,310 m (20,703 ft) .
– Places along the equator witness the fastest rates of sunrise and sunset on the planet: the transition from day to night takes only minutes.
– The earth’s rotational speed at its axis (the equator) is 1,675kmh (1,041mph).
– Almost half the world’s rain forests are concentrated in just three equatorial countries: Brazil, Congo and Indonesia. Equatorial rain forests are home to almost half of the world’s animal and plant species.
– The regions around the equator have the greatest concentrations of natural diversity, but also the greatest concentrations of human poverty.
– The Sun, in its seasonal movement, traverses directly over the equator only twice each year, on the spring and vernal equinoxes.
– The spin of the earth causes large vortices, such as tornadoes, to spin to the right in the northern hemisphere and the left in the southern hemisphere. This is known as the Coriolis Effect. There can be no tornadoes at the equator however because of the centrifugal force from the rotating earth.
– The Coriolis Effect is very weak and will not work on small vortices, such as a bathtub of water. The direction of the water entering the plughole is more to do with plumbing than the hemisphere. Sorry!
Matt Scott has spent the majority of his adult life working and traveling abroad. A keen writer and photographer his work has appeared on line and in print in publications around the world. He currently lives in Paris where he works for an active travel company.