Talking about the equator, then, Ecuador is the right country to visit to be at the equator. Every year, millions of tourists visit the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, a popular theme park in Quito, Ecuador, which was designed and built to mark the world’s equator — the imaginary line that separates the Northern Hemisphere from the Southern Hemisphere — but unfortunately, it’s not geographically accurate.
Related media: Ecuador: Fake Equatorial Line
Missing The Center
The “Ciudad Mitad del Mundo” translates into English as “Middle of the World City.” It is a government owned track of land which is 26 kilometers (16 miles) north of the Ecuadorian capital of Quito. Tourists may be treated with cuisines, souvenirs, and an indigenous museum of native arts and crafts by local people, but it’s most popular for a 30 meter (100 feet) tall monumental globe and a painted yellow strip along the ground marking the equator of the Earth: latitude zero degrees (0°).
This seems like that dream summer vacation you might want; as tourists from around the world visit this magnificent place marking the Earth’s equator to have the chance to cross the equator, and probably marking “I crossed the equator” off their to-do list. Unfortunately, spoiler alert: they are at the wrong spot, and would have to walk north just a few more meters to make it happen.
The true equator is actually located 243 meters (800 feet) up north from the current monument location, according to GPS. That’s almost a couple of football fields measuring its distance — seems like a really big geographic flaw for a theme park whose entire existence is meant to mark the exact location of the equator of the Earth.
History Of The Equator
Once upon a time in the 18th century, an expedition of explorers called French Geodesic Mission, was set to precisely mark the center of the Earth in Ecuador. This was one huge debate as at the time: Is the Earth’s circumference greater at the equator or a the poles? To resolve this argument, the explorers had to measure one degree of the latitude of the equator. They measured the distance between mountaintops at the said location, and made comparisons with one degree of latitude further north in France.
For over a decade, scientists kept on measuring the distances just to be precise on their measurements. They finally arrived at the conclusion that, in fact, the Earth’s circumference is greater at the equator than at the poles. This discovery once and for all, proved that Isaac Newton was right: the Earth was indeed an oblate spheroid, a sphere that is slightly flattened at the poles than at the equator.
A couple of centuries later, in the year of 1936, and to commemorate this mission of the equator, the French American Committee of Ecuador sponsored the construction and development of a 10-meter (32 feet) tall monument at the location that was marked as the equator. Unfortunately, GPS technology was decades away from being invented, so the engineers had to build the monument at the wrong location, thinking it was the accurate location.
In 1979, engineers again constructed the more noticeable 30 meter (100 feet) monumental globe to replace the previously constructed one — also missing the accurate location of the equator.
Marking The Right Spot
In an effort to make things right, the government officials of Ecuador, recently commissioned new plans from New York architect Rafael Viñoly, the reconstruction of the monument at the accurate geographic location. The new monument to be constructed at the exact equator will stand at a height of 1,525 meters (5,000 feet), but estimates for the construction reached a staggering US$250 million.
Fortunately, for now, tourists hoping to stand at the accurate equator of the Earth can take a quick drive to Intiñan, a private site nearby where the accurate geographic location of the equator awaits.
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Fri, Dec 28, 2018.