If you like traveling around the world, why not start at its center? La Mitad del Mundo, which means “The Middle of the World” when translated in English. La Mitad del Mundo is located in the Province of Pichincha, Ecuador. The country’s name came from the equator, which is the imaginary line that divides the north and south hemispheres of the Earth. While there are thirteen other countries worldwide with the equatorial line passing through them, La Mitad del Mundo’s altitude makes it more unique than the other equatorial attractions since it makes the city located at a point farthest from the Earth’s core.
What is the Equator?
The equator is the line perpendicular to the Earth’s axis that divides the Earth into the North and South Hemispheres. If you measure the equator’s distance from each of the poles, you will get the same value. The equator is also the Earth’s region with the farthest distance from the Earth’s core brought about by the equatorial bulge phenomenon. The equator is also the region where the Earth’s gravitational pull is the weakest.
The Mitad del Mundo Monument
In 1736, a group from the French Academy of Sciences went to Quito, Ecuador to determine where the equatorial line is located. This Geodesic Mission was significant in resolving the scientific debate focused on the Earth’s circumference. The Mitad del Mundo Monument was built to commemorate the 1736 Geodesic Mission. The monument features a 30-meter-tall structure with a giant globe on top. The monument is surrounded by a plaza where the four directions are imprinted on large stones. The equatorial line is represented by a painted yellow line that runs through the middle of the plaza. You can see most tourists standing over the yellow line claiming to have stepped on both hemispheres simultaneously.
The Intiñan Museum
However, GPS technology revealed the Mitad del Mundo Monument to have been misplaced by approximately 240 meters from the actual equator. The Intiñan Museum used this misplacement to claim its share of tourists by claiming that they are the equatorial line’s real location. The museum exhibits the historic culture of the Ecuadorian people by showing traditional homes and demonstrating how the Ecuadorian tribes manage to shrink their enemies’ heads to serve as battle trophies. The Intiñan Museum offers a guided tour package that includes participating in testing different scientific phenomena which can only be demonstrated when you are in the middle of the world. These scientific demonstrations include observing the different ways water spins as it drains from the Coriolis effect, and balancing an egg on top of a nail head.
The Quitsato Sundial
To make things more complicated, Ecuador has a third middle of the world monument; however, it is significantly distant from the two monuments previously mentioned. Eighty kilometers north of Quito lies a spot in Cayambe where the Quitsato Sundial was built. This is the location where your GPS devices will register a true zero latitude location.
Different theories may attribute to the confusion on the exact placement of the Mitad del Mundo. Several scientists believe the theory that the equator is not a line but rather a 5-kilometer broad strip. If this theory is true, it is then impossible to stand at both hemispheres simultaneously.