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La Mitad del Mundo
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2015-01-31 16:44:33 | Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador
Keywords: attraction, nature
One of the major attractions around Quito, is the official location of the Equator line dividing the planet in two hemispheres, a bit like there's just outside London the official line of the Greenwich meridian. In the case of Quito, it's kind of funny because they made a big tourist village around a monument located on the line drawn by a French measurement expedition 200 years ago, but it's not the actual location of the Equator line. The real location (measured by GPS) is just outside the tourist village trap, inside an interesting indian museum. Both locations are interesting for their own reasons, but I enjoyed much more my visit to the real location of the Equator line.

That translates as “Half of the world”, to indicate that the Equator line divides the globe in two hemispheres (North and South). This line yes was named by man, but it's also an important natural feature of our planet, since that's also the line where the circumference of the Earth is the largest (just over 40 000 km, or almost 25 000 miles). Also, this zone around the half of our planet is very special on numerous reasons and plays a great role in the control or expression of many huge natural phenomenons. Just consider the fact that close to the Equator line (within the two tropic lines), there are no real seasons, days are always the same length (about 12 hours of daylight) all year long.

Mitad del Mundo

Aerial view of the village, from the observatory level of the museum.

The exact position of the Equator line (even before it was named as such) was always of a great interest for scientists. Mathematicians and physicists have been working on measuring the planet for ages, even back to Ancient Greece and beyond. It's impressive to see how close many early measurements were to the reality when you consider the tools they had back then. Over 200 years ago, a team of French scientists came to current Ecuador country to take measurements in order to locate the position of the Equator line. Their calculations were good... but not exactly on point.

That's that measure taken 200 years ago that is the centre of the touristic village around La Mitad del Mundo. The park is fairly modern but sticks to the original determination. The calculations weren't that off... but the real position of the Equator line is just a bit North, just outside the park limits, within what's now the Itiñan museum (see below).

Within the park of La Mitad del Mundo, you'll see lots of souvenir shops and restaurants offering “authentic” food, etc. It's really just a Disneyland for tourists however, with tons of souvenir shops selling you “unique” 0 00' 00” (0 degree, 0 minute, 0 second) souvenirs in various shapes and forms. Yes, there's a yellow line indicating where the Equator line passes through allegedly and there's an interesting museum sitting right on it. The visit is interesting, for the museum and other exhibits in various pavilions on site, but since it's not the real location, all that seems a bit fake at the root. There are many price options for the entrance on the site and inside various attractions, I only recommend the museum which is the tower sitting at the middle of the site. Keep your extra money to visit the other museum next door to La Mitad del Mundo, much more interesting.

Itiñan musum

Various totems of civilizations.

Right next door to the circus of La Mitad del Mundo, there's a little open-air museum about the indians history in the area, and many facts related to the Equator line. It's also the location of the real Equator line, as measured by modern GPS systems. The GPS data from my devices (a Nexus tablet and my compact camera) didn't yield exactly the same data, but were pretty close (can't expect those small devices to be precise at 0.0001 degrees, they're not high precision instruments).  See the picture on top, of the real Equator line location.

On the site, during the guided tour (included in the admission price) you are presented various cultures of the past and present of Ecuador and at the end you finish with the Equator line facts and experiments.

You are invited to attempt various exercises that demonstrate the incredible influence of the Equator line. I'm not sure all these are real or not, but they do make a good entertaining show. I won't reveal you the experiments taking place, except for one, probably the most stunning one: the demonstration of the Coriolis effect. But if you want to know about the other experiments, comment below the post on my Web site and I'll reveal you one.

We all heard that South of the Equator line, water drains differently in the toilet bowl for example. Technically, in a toilet bowl, the shape of the bowl plays a greater role than Earth magnetism on the water evacuation flow. Well, in this museum, there's a demonstration that will leave you speechless about this effect. I've recorded a video to show it to you. I stitched up three video segments to show you the water flow out of a sink on the Equator line, then South and North of it.

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Sanctuary Las Lajas
Festival of lights
La Amistad Park
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