Quito, Ecuador- When I was a kid someone told me the area surrounding the equator was the hottest place on Earth. Of course they meant this in general terms as far as the climate of center of the Earth is hotter than the poles. I didn’t perceive it this way and immediately thought of an [...]
When I was a kid someone told me the area surrounding the equator was the hottest place on Earth. Of course they meant this in general terms as far as the climate of center of the Earth is hotter than the poles. I didn’t perceive it this way and immediately thought of an uninhabited region full of canyons and rivers of lava. My imagination was adding in volcanoes erupting and a stark landscape of ash covering volcanic rock. Essentially, I imagined Mordor years before I read ‘Lord of the Rings’. My kid logic told me that if Antarctica and the North Pole are barren landscapes of snow with cliffs of ice and are bitterly cold then the hottest place on Earth should be as equally barren but with fire.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the equatorial line and I didn’t see any lava or erupting volcanoes. Obviously my imagination as a kid made the equator far more interesting than it is in reality but still, I thought it would at least be hotter. It was fairly cool but I guess it would be 7,933 feet above sea level. Ironically enough there was a volcano (Cayambe Volcano). It just wasn’t erupting.
Then it dawned on me. There’s no fire and ash because I’m not at the real equatorial line. This is the fake line, although, the large monument sitting here does make it look really official.
This very official monument was erected to commemorate the first Equatorial Mission to determine the Earth’s shape in 1743. The calculations used at the time, the geodetic datum, calculated that this was where the equator ran along the Earth. They almost had it right. Today we use the world geodetic system to calculate the equator which pegs the line 240 meters further north.
Ah ha! That’s why my mind wasn’t spatially warped and why there was no clear sun scorched demarcation line on the Earth’s surface at this monument. Only a yellow painted line. The sun’s rays were not falling straight on the Earth in this spot but at a slight slant giving the Earth’s atmosphere a greater opportunity to absorb their heat. At the real equator the sun should be punishing the Earth’s surface with extreme heat and UV rays. Real solar power. It’s going to blow my mind.
Not exactly…There is an interesting museum though called The Intiñan Solar Museum. They’ve painted a clear red line telling me that I’m now straddling the hemispheres.
Booyah! Two hemispheres at one time!
Yep, I’m that awesome. Sometimes I even amaze myself.
To commemorate such a feat I balanced an egg on top of the head of a nail and received my certificate proving that I’ve ventured to the center of the Earth. In my future home I will be sure to hang this in it’s proper place of honor next to my college diploma. Like ‘The Mystery Spot’ in Michigan this museum shows some interesting ‘experiments’ demonstrating the effects of the northern and southern hemispheres and it’s relation to the sun. One thing I didn’t know before going was that each day has exactly 23 hours 54 minutes and 4 seconds. This makes sense since we have leap year every four years but I’ve never thought about the exact time in a day. You learn something new everyday.
I’m assuming between both of these locations I was standing on the equator at some point during the day. But maybe I wasn’t. A hundred years from now I’m sure we’ll some other more exact way of calculating where the equator is and say it’s in a different spot. Even if I wasn’t standing exactly on this line I was mighty darn close to it and probably walked passed it several times throughout the day without even realizing it.
Some Other Geographic Fun Facts of Ecuador:
- Mount Everest isn’t actually the Earth’s highest point. If you want to stand as close as you can to outer space then you have to climb Mount Chimborazo sitting at 20,684 ft. While Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world (29,029 ft ) Chimborazo is 1.5 miles closer to outer space due to the fact that Earth is a little fatter in the middle than a perfect sphere should be.
- The Cayambe Volcano near ‘Mitad del Mundo’ is the only volcano in the world that straddles the equator.
- The country is about the same size as Colorado.
- Some say Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world but that’s not exactly true. It is real high though. If this volcano had a major eruption it would cause widespread damage throughout most of country. There are over a million people living in it’s impact zone (that fact isn’t too fun).
- The Ecuador Amazonian basin is only 2% of the entire Amazon basin but contains 1/3 of all it’s bird species.
Some Other Equator Photos: