Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Standing on the Equator Line

Quito, Ecuador (9500 feet above sea level and 13 miles from the equator) ---For the first time in a very long time, there I was, land locked. But I was oh so close to standing on the actual equator. I felt like it would be a lot different than sailing over it. And I wanted exposure to this invisible place on the globe. So I got up early, caught a "share van", and set off to the Mitad del Mund (Spanish: Middle of the World).

The van dropped me outside gates which looked much like an amusement park entrance. Here you have two choices for standing at the equator; you can visit Mitad del Mundo or the Museo Solar Inti Nan both claim that they not only run along the equator but are the center point.

Why the different opinions? The development of modern technology.
Turns out the ancients established the mid world point with using their understanding of the stars and directions.
Then back in 1743 they determined the line was close but different. As technology increased, they kept moving it. In 1936 they built a 10-meter monument, only to be moved in 1979... 7k to the next "spot".
Mitad del Mundo's huge monument stands in the wrong spot
Between 1979 and 1982, a 30-meter-tall monument was constructed to mark the point where the equator passes through Ecuador at that time at Mitad del Mundo. But oops, once the GPS was used, truth was uncovered and it was really 240 meters north. Regardless, "Mitad del Mundo" is the called official site.

However, I chose to visit a local private attraction to the north. The "GPS" spot.  It claims to be built to mark the TRUE location of the equator.

This humble spot is dwarfed by the "attraction" a few blocks away. It is set up with displays of local houses and explains the different cultures of Ecuador. However at the point where the guide showed us a large area in the hut full of adorable guinea pigs squeaking and running around and then said "yum, yum," I felt ill. I knew this is a delicacy in Ecuador and I had seen roasting little bodies at street side vendors. But to see them alive and running about made me queasy!

Following a walkway that curled around the compound, a space opened and there it was. The equator line. Yes, it's an actual line painted on the cement. Guides explain what effects the equator has on the Earth and demonstrate this with activities that can only be performed at the "equator". I watched as they moved a sink on one side of the line and poured water in it, then pulled the plug and the water drained clockwise. Move the sink to the other side...only about 1-1/2 feet and it drained counterclockwise! So what happens when they set it in the middle, right on top of the line? It goes straight down!

They also had us balance eggs on the end of a nail and informed us that we weigh .2 pounds lighter on the line.
It was a good day. I had stood at "the line"...I thought. But then after researching some more later, many believe that the REAL line is a few more feet in front of this location in the middle of a busy road and that the sink routine is like a slide of hands and works being anywhere close to the line. Regardless I'm in Ecuador feeling extremely overheated. So hot that the middle of the earth, the Equator has to be close.

No comments: