Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Equator Ecuador Mitad del Mundo

The Southern Hemisphere (I think!) as seen from Mitad del Mundo

Middle of the World, that´s what they call the Equator here in Ecuador, a country itself named for that world-dividing line. This spot, owned by the district or province, has been designated as ´´official´´ and it is one of the main tourist attractions of the Quito area. So one Sunday we got on the bus and made our way out to Mitad del Mundo to see what it was all about.


Well, it´s mainly about Tourists having their pictures made on the line, of course. French tourists holding their flag, little kids trying to balance on the yellow line, blase young backpackers shoving each other back and forth. Half a dozen people tried to get the monument pinched just so between their fingers or balanced on their palms while being harangued by their official photographers.


The site is developed with a 100-foot tower topped by a globe. There´s an ethnographic museum inside.  There are several subsidiary small museums on the premises (one containing what might be the world's largest cockroach) as well as restaurants and snack bars, first aid facilities, llamas, and did I somehow neglect to mention the shopping opportunities?




There is  even a church, with a yellow line running right up the center aisle. With, apparently, a service in progress, I hesitated to see just how how far the middle-line went. In the next section a band wearing hats and ponchos was warming up. 

It's all kind of fun, part of the experience of Ecuador on a sunny Sunday.



Trouble is, this attraction is apparently in the wrong place,
0.0022 S, and 78.4558 W, off from the true equator  by a couple hundred meters. Oh well.





I was thinking that whoever built the monument, first in the 1930s and then with bigger stones about 1980, must be thinking 'Let's pretend everything's fine. Just keep smiling!' But in fact, my Wikipedia friends offer a better reason:


" In the modern datum of the World Geodetic System (WGS84), which is used in GPS systems and computer mapping products like Google Earth, the equator is placed about 240 meters north of the marked line. This discrepancy is partially due to increased accuracy but primarily due to a different choice of mapping datum. Similarly, the line marking the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich in England is roughly 100 meters from the exact zero of longitude as indicated by GPS receivers."

WGS84 is what we (that is, our trusty Furuno GPS) use to navigate with as well. We're thrilled, mostly, to have a mere 250-meter error. 

So, there is an alternate attraction, the privately owned Inti Ray Solar Museum, around the corner and up a dusty road, where the equator´s location has been ´'verified by GPS'. According to my iPhone, this one isn´t quite right either, but let´s not quibble!



Best to call it an amusement park. In addition to the various statues, totems and reproductions of Amazonian villages, even a real shrunken head,  there are a few location-specific 'educational exhibits'.




The gold-painted sink was my favorite. A bucket of water poured straight down the drain illustrates that exactly on the equator there is no swirl of the Coriolus effect.Water goes straight down the drain. Lo and behold, a mere ten feet to either side, our guide Adriana could make that drain swirl its leaves clockwise or counterclockwise to make her point. Do you think it had anything to do with which corner of the sink she emptied the bucket in?





She´s a fun girl. She can also balance an egg on a nail, only on the actual equator of course, and walk the line exactly with her eyes shut, despite her muscles, or balance,  being debilitated by 'special gravitational effects' at the equator. We tourists could not perform either task, not even for an official certificate.


From there we headed for one of the many Sunday eating places (a shade tent and plastic furniture do not a restaurant make) that had appeared along the highway and were serving a smokey 'mixed grill'. There were half a dozen places all serving the same thing, all in a row, but this girl put her heart into attracting customers and she got Doug and me.
And that's what's happening in the middle of our world. How about you?


Which should make this the view of the Northern Hemisphere
To tell the truth, I´ve gotten a little confused about which panorama is which. We´ve been travelling away from the boat for a month and a half, and I´ve lost lots of photos to the demons of SD card viruses and write errors in internet cafes, plus there are no photo editing programs I understand. There are things that just can't be done on an iPhone, no matter what They say.

PS I found it interesting that the point on earth furthest from the center is also here in Ecuador. Wikipedia reports:
With a peak elevation of 6,268 metres (20,564 ft), Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador. ...While Chimborazo is not the highest mountain by elevation above sea level, its location along the equatorial bulge makes its summit the farthest point on the Earth's surface from the Earth's center.