Quito is a remarkable city with many things to do and see; and after a week there (March, 2012), I knew it was time to visit the equator. I went with my new friends, Jacco and Tamara, whom I had met the previous day in Quito. They were from Holland (Netherlands) and they were quite cool. However, I hate it when foreigners speak better English than I do. Grin.
So, we all took a cab to La Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world), which is a small village administered by the prefecture of the province of Pichincha, 22 miles north of Quito. The Mitad del Mundo memorial commemorates the achievement of French scientists in the early 1700s. They used measurements to pinpoint the equator and prove that the Earth is not a perfect sphere, but slightly flattened at the poles. The site contains a grand pyramid-shaped monument (picture above) and beautiful grounds.
It has since been determined, with the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, that the actual equator is some 240 metres (790 ft) north of the monument area. If you’ve come all this way to stand on the Equator, it’s a bit of a shock to hear that the Mitad del Mundo complex was built in the wrong place by a few hundred meters. Of course this is kept quiet by the museum, and you could easily miss the excellent Museo de Sitio Intiñan (Intinan Solar Museum). Its name means “Museum of the Path of the Sun” in Kichwa, and the family that owns and operates it has done a great job with the collection, which includes displays on local plants and indigenous cultures. I found this place to be much more fascinating, if only because it’s the “real deal” insofar as being able to demonstrate some weird phenomena, which even today I am not certain was due to being exactly on the equator or parlor tricks.
Regardless, the Intinan Solar Museum is more fun then the “middle of the world” museum, if only because of the science experiments I observed there. Visitors get to participate in science experiments showing how to balance an egg on its end at the tip of a nail on the equator line. Although I couldn’t balance the egg on the nail after several tries, other tourists – whom probably weren’t fueled with coffee – were able to do it. Ha. Click on the video below . . .
Similarly, you can do the sink test. If the little sink is exactly on the equator, the water goes straight down. If it is moved north of the equator, the water swirls counter-clockwise, just like water in your toilet at home. If the sink is moved south of the equator, the water swirls clockwise. The difference? The rotation of the earth and its magnetic pull, the guide says. Here is a video demonstrating all 3 phenomena . . .
How water drains at the equator, south of it, and north of it
I know what I saw and I believed the demonstration with my own eyes. However, I did some research online and according to scientists, “. . . the Coriolis force that causes cyclones to spin in different directions in the northern and southern hemispheres does not affect such tiny bodies of water, so the sink test is a trick. One online discussion of the phenomenon prompted one anxious person to write: “I am very worried. My upstairs bathroom clearly sits in a different hemisphere than my downstairs cloakroom, as the (water) spins in different directions to each other!” Grin.
Apparently, you are also weaker on the equator. This was really weird! Our guide had us clasp our hands over our heads and try to pull each others arms down and it was significantly harder to keep your arms up over the equator. Just a few feet to either side and you are noticeably stronger. Weird, but true. I’m guessing this has something to do with gravity and what I said above about the “. . . Earth not being a perfect sphere, but slightly flattened at the poles.” Who knows?
In conclusion, I enjoyed both museums, but the real reason to come are the experiments that you are invited to participate at the Intinan Solar Museum, which unequivocally prove this really is the site of the Equator – flushing water in opposite directions on either side of the equator line, walking along the line and feeling the strong gravitational pull on either side, and the nearly impossible task of balancing an egg on the Equator (you get a certificate if you can do it). If you ever get a chance to visit Quito, Ecuador, both museums are must see destinations!
You mean you didn’t converse in Dutch?
1700 and missed the mark by that little, I would have thought the margin of error is acceptable considering the poor lad standing at the North Pole holding the other end of the tape measure.
LOL . . . No Ed, they didn’t teach Dutch (or German for that matter) in the back water schools I went to. 🙂
Yeah, it’s weird that the “Fake Equator” is the one where they poured a lot of money into, insofar as monuments and buildings, but the family owned place is far more interesting.
Cool stuff, Blade. This looks like you are off to an excellent start. My wife and I spent our 10th wedding anniversary (2000) in Costa Rica. We flew in to San Jose, and drove to the Pacific coast. We went to Jaco, some Eco-lodge in the rain forest (Jesus-lizards, giant frogs, and iguanas all over the place), and stayed at the Hotel Mariposa up on the hill overlooking Miguel Antonio beach. Excellent snorkelling, but I still haven’t ever gotten certified to dive. Soon soon. Great time in CR. The drive back to the airport in San Jose was insane. Took a wrong turn somewhere, and the road was barely a lane and a half wide, and the cliffs were about 1000′ high. All the while surrounded by fog, rain, and trucks full of cows, pigs, sugar cane, or people. Craaaazy.
Get certified Chuck. You will absolutely love it. Actually, the best way to “ease” into SCUBA diving is by doing a “Discovery Dive.” Every resort and Dive shop offers them. Essentially, you receive 2-4 hours of morning safety and dive instruction training at a swimming pool (frequently at the resort you are staying at, if it’s large enough); then they take you out on 2 dives. These are no different than the dives I go on, e.g., time duration, things to see, etc. The only restriction is that they will only take you down 35-45 feet. However, who cares? Since that’s where MOST of the aquatic life hangs out anyway. Typically, in the Caribbean, the cost is no more than $100-150 dollars . . . in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, much less usually.
Yeah, Costa Rica is a blast and I know exactly where you were staying at, while in Quepos (you had Miguel Antonio beach, but I think you meant “Manuel,” right?). Funny that you mentioned the roads, because when I left Quepos with a friend, back across the Costa Rica border into Panama, we hit a stretch of road that was in disrepair, full of potholes, and construction going on, as well as the slow trucks carrying cows, pigs, etc. You’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy. LOL.
Cool. Yeah, the memory is a bit foggy with the names and places! Back when I was a kid, we went to Haiti (my dad worked for a manufacturing company and he was scouting cheap labor sites around 1971), and my older bro got certified, and was cleared immediately (he was 16, I was 10 and couldn’t do it) to go 110′ down. Crazy. I snorkelled, following their bubbles while they dove, and saw tons of 5′ barracudas and plenty of white-tipped sharks. When they showed up (about 25′ down) I stayed REAL close to the boat!
I forgot to mention – when you do the discovery dive, your two dives count as the 4 dive prerequisite for SCUBA dive certification. Both dives are valid for up to a year toward Open Water SCUBA Dive certification. You just have to ensure you get documentation of the discovery dive from the outfit you dive with.
Chuck, on a scale of 1-10 for fun factor – SCUBA is a 10 and snorkeling is a 3-4. SCUBA is the closest experience I will have to exploring another world, i.e., this is what Neil Armstrong felt like on the moon. Also, as you alluded to, it’s much safer. Underwater, I have a 360 degree view of that world. Conversely, I have little idea what is going on beneath me while snorkeling, surfing or swimming. When I dive, I know where everything is, including sharks.
Yeah, I’ve wanted to get certified for years, and I’m planning a trip to some place on the Yucutan this summer called Akuma beach. I guess I should check if they certify.
Akumal beach . . .
Do it. By the by, I got certified in Playa Del Carmen – it took 4 days. I was dating this gal who recently divorced her husband and they both ran a boutique hotel off of 5th Avenue in Playa. She lived in Washington D.C. (worked for some phone company), while he ran the Playa hotel. They were good friends even after the divorce and he actually married a German gal, who ran the dive shop adjacent to the hotel. So anyway, I am dating this woman and she says, “Hey, how would you like to go to Playa Del Carmen, stay at a hotel for free, and you can also get your SCUBA certification while you are there?” I said, “When do we go?” I had previously gone on a discovery dive in Grand Cayman and wanted to get my SCUBA certification ASAP, so what an opportunity, huh? Fast forward to the trip. I totally lucked out, insofar as having a Master Diver to instruct me personally (no other students), the cost was $350 and I did my book work on the beach while soaking up sun rays. The entire certification as I said earlier – took 4 days, including the open water dives.
My point Chuck is that you should go this route vs. getting certified in the States. If you only do the book work in the States and the dives at the resort, that’s good too.
Here is a site about Akumal dive shops . . . http://www.locogringo.com/dynamic/services.cfm?type=Dive%20Shop&location=Akumal
Cool! Thanks, Blade . . .
DOH! I thought this was going to be about wierd toilets around the world which I have often thought would make a great photo book. 🙂
LOL . . . Actually Micah, wouldn’t it be cool to have a house on the equator with one toilet in the N. hemisphere and the other in the S. hemisphere, where you could observe your sh*t flushing clockwise and counterclockwise. Damn, what the hell – have one directly on the equator and it would just flush straight down. Ha.
Too funny man. I found that part of your post interesting though. It makes sense but I had never thought of that. If all toilets in the house flushed at once something bad would happen I am sure. You must be getting excited to be on your way. I am jealous. The wife an I traveled a lot before kids but it is so expensive and I don’t know that the little ones really gain much from it so we’ll have to wait a little bit. Germany will probably be our next trip as we have family there and staying with them helps with much of the cost.
This was the trade off I made when I divorced in 2000. I only have one regret in life and that’s not having children. My ex was 11 years younger than me, so I always thought I had plenty of time. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t factor in her asking for a divorce . . . Too late to ask, “Umm, do you think you can stick around for a year, so we can pop one out?” It doesn’t work like that. Anywho, I have moved on . . . water under the bridge. I do a lot of volunteer work with “at risk” youth, so that helps alleviate the pain of not having my own children. My point is that you may be jealous of my upcoming trip, but I am jealous (but very happy for you) of you and anyone else who has children.
Such a shame that it’s built in the wrong spot. I love learning interesting tidbits like that.
I agree, but I found it sort of hilarious as well, that a mistake of this magnitude could be made, yet they still maintain the facade of it being the real one. Meanwhile, the “mom and pop” store (museum) has the “real thing.” Thank you for commenting TBM.
Ecuador is on our list, and this is good info on the mis-positioned equator. We saw the same water drain experiment on the equator in Kenya. I believe the science that this isn’t possible, but I’m still trying to figure out how they did it.
Yeah, I have no idea either (same deal with the other experiments they demonstrated on the equator). By the by, I just observed the “Mother” of all rain storms last night. This is the dry season here, but we had a gully washer unlike anything I have seen in years.