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My Attempt to Find the Ecuadorian Equator

May 23rd, 2008 · 4 Comments

2008-04-23 Peru-Ecuador 2923As many of you know, I recently spent 2 weeks in Peru and Ecuador seeing the sites and working on content for our new travel site, MunchkinTravel.com. We took our 4 year old with us and he had the time of his life.  This is the second in a series of blog entries detailing some of the technology I saw on the trip.

2008-04-23 Peru-Ecuador 2931Ever since I saw my first GPS I’ve had an strange desire to go to geographically significant places. Last year we took a road trip to Bad Water, Nevada in Death Valley National Park which is the lowest place in the western hemisphere at -282 feet below sea level. This year we went to the equator near Quito, Ecuador.

First thing I found is that their are two "equator places" in Ecuador. The first is Ciudad Mitad Del Mundo or Middle of the World City. This is the bigger and more commercial place to see the2008-04-23 Peru-Ecuador 2970 Equator. This traditional site was based on work of 2 french geographers during the 1700s .  Interestingly enough, this is not the true location of the equator. It’s actually 240 meters to the north at what is called the Intiñan Solar Museum.

  The Intiñan Solar Museum is billed as the actual equator based on measurements taken by military GPS. This fun little museum has some fun equator experiments and Incan cultural exhibits.2008-04-23 Peru-Ecuador 2855 2008-04-23 Peru-Ecuador 2889





2008-04-23 Peru-Ecuador 2898They have a number of different sun dials which show you how the sun spends half of the year in the northern sky and the other half in the southern sky. No trip to the equator would be complete without trying to balance an egg on the head of a nail. Which I have to admit was pretty easy.

2008-04-23 Peru-Ecuador 2866One of the most mind bending demonstrations was of the Coriolis effect. This is the force that supposedly causes drains to flow in opposite directions depending if your in the northern or southern hemisphere. To demonstrate this behavior our guide took a mobile sink filled with water, pulled the plug, and tossed in some leaves to show the direction the drain was flowing. He did this 3 times: once on the equator (no drain rotation), once on the South side (clockwise), and finally once on the North side (counter-clockwise). Some say it’s a trick. Here’s the video for you to decide.

2008-04-23 Peru-Ecuador 2911 One thing was bothering me at both of these sites. My Magellan Explorist 600 GPS wasn’t reading all zeros for Latitude. So I started walking north, through the Intiñan Solar Museum  grounds, out through the parking lot, and finally out on to a busy road. And wouldn’t you know it, right on the far white line the counter hit Equatorzero. So dodging big trunks and heavy traffic, I got my picture to prove that I had been  to the Equator! 2008-04-23 Peru-Ecuador 2917

Tags: GPS · Technology · Travel

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gavin Stevens // Jun 3, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Thats funny man! lol I would have thought the equator would be prettier.. Where is the gold line?

  • 2 Cheryl // Feb 24, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    I was just at the Intiñan Solar Museum and saw the very same demonstration. All the information on the web makes it sound like the water draining clockwise/counter clockwise is a myth. What’s the truth, I mean, I saw it with my own eyes, but was there some trick?

  • 3 FER // Sep 5, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Cheryl wondered how they do the trick. It’s actually an easy thing to do in a couple of different ways. Unfortunately, the video doesn’t show enough to decide among the alternatives. The simplest approach is to angle the stream of water that you use to fill the sink. Aiming slightly left of center will yield a small net clockwise rotation of the water. When it drains out, conservation of angular momentum increases the speed as the water approaches the drain hole. The initial rotation can be quite low. A casual observer would be unlikely to notice a rotation of the water as slow as once per minute, but that would be enough to become amplified into a nice little whirling vortex when it reaches the drain. By comparison, the rotation of the Earth (responsible for the Coriolis acceleration) induces a rotation of only once in 24 hours. This is completely insignificant compared to the residual motions from filling the sink. Also note that near the equator, this Coriolis rotation occurs about an axis which is horizontal while the circulation of a vortex going down a drain is around a vertical axis. So Coriolis has essentially zero effect near the equator. Even in middle to high latitudes, the Coriolis effect is much too weak to influence common sinks and drains. It is, however, critically important in larger systems away from the equator (like tropical cyclones).

  • 4 cris // Dec 8, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    You should visit the real one, quitsato.org

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