The Equator in Ecuador

Although the equator runs through hundreds of places, one country that takes particular pride in its unique geographical location is Ecuador. In fact, the official name of Ecuador - the Republic of Ecuador literally translates to "Republic of the Equator". Its capital city of Quito, lies smack in the middle of the imaginary line.

The Equator was discovered and mapped out by a French geodesic expedition team that was led by an explorer named Charles-Marie de La Comdamine in the year 1736. La Condamine spent 10 years in Ecuador taking measurements and proved that the world is not perfectly round, but that it bulges at the equator. In 1936, the Government of Ecuador built a monument to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first geodesic expedition of the French Academy of Sciences. This was replaced by a 30-meter tall tower topped by a globe five feet across in 1979. The monument lies inside a park named “Mitad del Mundo” or “Middle of the World”. A thick yellow line runs through the grounds that supposedly marks the precise position of the equator.

However, a modern GPS unit shows that the actual equator lies about 240 meters to the north of the indicated line. When asked about the discrepancy, park officials said that the nearby land where the Equator runs is traversed by a ravine and that the ground there was not suitable to hold a monument, so the builders chose a different location.

Around half a million people visit Mitad del Mundo each year. Although many are aware of the discrepancy, that doesn’t stop them from taking a photo of themselves with their feet on either side of the yellow line.

But just a two-minute drive from the Middle of the World, is a local private attraction, known as the Intiñan Solar Museum. There is a sign on a gate saying that its location is “calculated with GPS” to be exactly at 0 latitude. Tour guides here will demonstrate tricks which are supposedly possible only on the Equator, such as water flowing both counter-clockwise and clockwise down a drain due to Coriolis effect, balancing eggs on end or weakening of muscles due to latitude, although these has been debunked as urban myths or simply bad science.