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18 September 2012 / leggypeggy

To the Middle of the World, not the Centre of the Earth

Pouring water near the equator

Pouring water near the equator—note the pouring technique

We headed out about mid-morning today with our first destination being the equator north of Quito, Ecuador.

There are some interesting facts and misinformation regarding this place.

In 1979, the Pichincha Province Council started work on a monument to mark the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World City). It replaced an earlier monument, and was meant to mark the exact equator.

Problem was, they were about 240 metres off the mark. Oops! But it doesn’t keep people from visiting and believing.

A couple of hundred metres north is the Intiñan Solar Museum. It too claims to be on the equator. This is not proven as they use civilian rather than military GPS to confirm the reading. This is where we visited and what a hoot! It’s more like a charlatan’s sideshow at the circus.

Our guide showed us a REAL shrunken head and explained the process—it takes three months.

Then he escorted us through some Ecuadorean cultural exhibits and a garden of totems contributed by other countries. These all were quite nice.

Finally came the array of demonstrations of proof, including the water one based on the Coriolis force.

Ecuadorean artefacts

Artefacts from an Ecuadorean tomb

Our guide emptied water from a portable sink positioned ‘on the equator’. The water drained straight down. Then he moved the sink north and south of the equator and showed how the water drained, counter-clockwise or clockwise.

Poor John saw through the technique pretty quickly. On the first demo, the sink had been stationary for a while, and the water emptied straight down quickly. On the two subsequent efforts, the guide poured the water into the sink from the left or right edge, depending on which way he wanted the water to drain. He pulled the plug so soon after filling the sink, that the water was already moving (although not visibly) in the direction he wanted.

The Coriolis force is real, but the truth is that it is simply too weak to affect such small bodies of water. Skip the sink or the toilet and try a hurricane or typhoon instead.

Sorry if this spoils the story for anyone.

One good thing came of outing. The guide managed to get the first photograph of most of our group!

Most of the group

Most of the group at the equator

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