Tuesday, October 25, 2005

La Mitad del Mundo near Quito, Ecuador

On my recent trip to Ecuador, I made the obligatory pilgrimage to the Mitad del Mundo or "Middle of the World" monument about 22 km (14 miles) north of Quito. This 30-metre-tall (98 feet) cement pyramid topped by a globe is supposed to pinpoint the exact location of the equator, and a yellow line running from the monument allegedly marks 0 degrees latitude. Tourists (myself included) inevitably have their pictures taken standing with one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere. Little do they know that they are not really straddling the equator. Modern Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology has revealed that the equator actually lies 300 metres (984 feet) to the north of the current line. Plans are in the works to erect a new monument on the correct spot by the end of 2008 and to build a theme park around it. The old monument will remain. And who knows? It may prove to be more of a curiosity than the new one.

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