Zero latitude in Ecuador


In Ecuador, La Mitad del Mundo is a site 22 kilometers north of Quito that marks where the French geographical expedition marked the equator in 1736.

From the city, catch any bus that has a white sign saying “La Mitad” in the windshield. Ask around because they’re available in many places; more than one company goes there.

The actual monument, besides being a marker, is a good ethnological museum. On our visit in January ’06, an entry fee of $4 included an English-speaking guide. The area contains several restaurants, small museums and a tourist agency, Calima Tours.

For $5 per person, Fernando took my wife, Barbara, and me to the edge of Pululahua, an extinct volcano crater, the floor of which is now a thriving agricultural site. Fortunately, the incoming marine layer lifted enough so we could see the farmland below.

We then negotiated a fee of $8 per person to be taken to Pucará de Rumicucho, an ancient Incan site discovered only in 1950. Excavation was carried on for seven years and then abandoned. In the years between 1957 and 1970, local citizens “borrowed” many stones from the site to use in their own dwellings. Finally, in 1970 the Banco Central came up with enough money to preserve the site as a national monument.

On top of a hill at the site is a circular design with a smaller circle of rocks within it. Five years ago, using GPS technology, it was shown that this site’s latitude is 0°00'00". The latitude of La Mitad del Mundo monument is 0°00'08", placing it about 250 meters south of the equator.

Adjacent to the monument is the Solar Inti Ñan, an attraction that will remind you of other “mystery spots” you may have visited. This is on the true equator, and various phenomena associated with equatorial dynamics are demonstrated. If you accept it in good fun, it’s quite enjoyable, but don’t come away thinking you just experienced a great scientific demonstration.

If you want to know everything there is to know about the so-called Coriolis effect, check out www.ems.psu.edu/~fraser/Bad/BadCoriolis.html.

Let me just say there are no conditions under which you can demonstrate the Coriolis force by using a rectangular washbasin.

SAM KAMILOS
Carmichael, CA