My journey to the middle of the world

In 1736, a team of French explorers traveling through Ecuador attempted to mark the exact location of the Equator– that imaginary line separating the Northern hemisphere from the Southern. Well, their GPS devices must have been on the fritz, because they marked it about 250 meters from its actual location. Still, the Mitad del Mundo (“Middle of the World,”) monument was built on that erroneous location, surrounded by a park and shops that sell more Equator-related memorabilia than you can shake a stick at. (Side note: Everyone who visits the Mitad del Mundo is not actually required by law to take that same dorky photograph that I am seen in here, but it sure seems that way.)

My visit to the very touristy Mitad del Mundo may have been a bit disappointing, but my trip to the “real” Equator, the Museo Solar Inti Ñan, was surprisingly enjoyable. Though it’s less visited and marked by only a small road sign, it was one of the highlights of my trip to Ecuador, partly because of some truly mind-blowing tricks that can only be done exactly on the Equator.

We’ve all heard that water going down a drain rotates in a different direction in different hemispheres. But what happens when the drain is directly on top of the Equator? Check out this short Youtube video to find out, and compare it to these two. Cool, huh?

Here’s another neat trick. We were just a couple steps away from the Equator, and our guide told us to put one of our hands on top of the other. Then he said, “Now don’t let me push your hands down.” He pushed down on our hands as hard as he could while we resisted. Our hands didn’t move. Next, we stood directly on the Equator and did the same thing, and he pushed our hands down easily.

My friend and I repeated the experiment without the guide and the result was the same– we really were weaker on the Equator. Now, I have no idea why this is the case (I was sick the day they taught physics in high school), and I’m not in a hurry to find out. Without an explanation, it will always seem like magic, and I want it to stay that way.