The Equator

The pre-Hispanic people of the Kingdom of Quito knew that they lived at the equator and modern Ecuadorians take pride in their position in the middle of the world.

The Equator crosses Ecuador 20km north of the capital, Quito.

Ecuador is the only country in the world where mountains are found at a zero degrees latitude.

Curious phenomena that occur on the equator:

  • you weigh less. This is due to the bulge in the earth of 0.3 percent, partly a result of the planet's rotation
  • bathwater drains straight down the plughole. In the southern hemisphere it spirals in a clockwise direction, in the northern hemisphere the direction is anticlockwise (if all other factors are removed). The spiralling flow is due to the Coriolis effect, which acts in the opposite direction (but very weakly) in the two hemispheres1,2.
  • it is easier to balance things, such as an egg on the head of a nail *
  • so-called 'green flash' sunsets are most commonly seen at low latitudes over the ocean making the Galapagos Islands an ideal place to view them. These fleeting events occur when the bright sun sets into a clear horizon. The blue of the sky gets scattered and the red of the sunset gets bent so much that for the last instant the sun appears emerald green.

*These 'scientific facts' are demonstrated in simple experiments at the eclectic Inti-ñan Museum situated at 00°.00'.00'' latitude according to modern GPS measurements, and 200m from the Mitad del Mundo Middle of the World monument which has been erected on the spot where a French Geodesic Mission led by Charles-Marie de la Condamine determined to be the equator in 1736. Their demonstrations are not very scientific, but they are great fun!

The pre-Hispanic people in Ecuador had solar observatories and temples to the sun, e.g. at Ingapirca and Cochasqui. They knew they lived at the equator. Quito's name means 'centre of the earth' in the Quichua language. They had accurate sun dials for telling the time and an agricultural calendar which indicated the two equinoxes - 21 March and 23 September where the sun is directly overhead at noon on the equator and the two solstices - 21 June and December 21. This told them when to sow or harvest their crops.

References on the Coriolis effect:

1. Shapiro, 1962, Bath Tub Vortex, Nature, v 196, pp 1080-81 (Northern Hemisphere)

2. Trefethen,, 1965, The Bath Tub Vortex in the Southern Hemisphere, Nature, v 207, pp 1084-85

Start planning your trip to Ecuador

Let us know what kind of trip to Ecuador you are most interested in, and when you are thinking of travelling. Our travel experts know Ecuador extremely well, and will be delighted to offer some initial ideas and advice, and to develop a more detailed design for your holiday as your ideas evolve. Our Ecuador brochure, which you can order here, includes a section on the Galapagos Islands too.

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Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands
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