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Mar 22 2014

Brief history of Equator line monuments in Ecuador

The Equator is an imaginary line on the globe that is equidistant from the North and South Poles, dividing the Earth into Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

So where does the Equator line cross Ecuador?  At latitude 0° of course! But where does this occur in the real, physical world?

The exact specification of the equator is, in fact, somewhat variable and dependent on the chosen mathematical datum. More on the Equator (Wikipedia).

Equator line monuments map

With today’s modern technology, which includes GPS (Global Positioning System) the answer to this question appears on your screen … voila! However, before the age of GPS, determining this was not as easy and instant.

Apparently there have been a number of ‘Equator line’ monuments built in the past.

THE EQUATOR LINE TIME LINE & MONUMENTS

SAN ANTONIO DE PICHINCHA – The first known recorded results were apparently obtained in 1743 by Geodesic Mission of the French Academy of Sciences, led by Louis Godin, Pierre Bouguer and Charles Marie de La Condamine. From 1899-1906, General Georges Perrier, also with the backing of the French Academy of Sciences, was sent to lead a mission to verify that result.

Later, in 1936, with the support of the French American Committee, Ecuadorean geographer Dr. Luis Tufiño built a 10-meter monument in San Antonio de Pichincha to commemorate the first Geodesic Mission.  This is the modern day “Mitad del Mundo” or ‘Middle of the World’ that most people refer to.

GUACHALA Humberto Vera, in his book “Mitad del Mundo”, indicates that La Bola de Guachalá (the Guachala Ball) – a small concrete globe – was erected by Ecuador’s Military Geographic Institute (IGM – Instituto Geográfico Militar) in 1949.  Modern calculations put this monument some 142.8 meters south of the true equator line.

Personally, this is my favourite equator line monument – as unasumming as it may be.  May be it is because as a young child I visited it, or perhaps because little has changed since then, or maybe because its less crowded and not so ‘touristy’.

“La Bola de Guachalá” Equator monument at Guachala.

CALACALI – In 1979, the original monument erected in San Antonio de Pichincha was moved 7 km to the west, to the town of Calacalí and is located near to, but not on the, true equator line.  According to modern calculations, the Calacalí monument is actually 164.9 meters south of the Equator line.

Original Equator line monument moved to Calacali.

SAN ANTONIO DE PICHINCHA – The new and much larger (30-meter-tall) monument, Museo Etnográfico Mitad del Mundo, was constructed between 1979 and 1982 to mark the point where the equator passes through the country in the geodetic datum in use in Ecuador at that time. According to recent calculations, this monument is a whopping 240.3 meters south the the true Equator line.

Present day Equator monument at Mitad del Mundo.

In the course of time, other “new” equator line sites have popped up on the grid, including the Sun Dial (built by Quisato), some 100 meters or so from the Guachala equator line globe monument, and Intiñan which is located just around the corner from the more popularly known and visited Mitad del Mundo main monument.

Quisato Sun Dial

Coincidentally, I just received an email from Dr. Larrie D. Ferreiro, author of “Measure of the Earth” and “Ships and Science”

My new book “Measure of the Earth”, about the Geodesic Mission to the Equator (1735-1744), will be out in May 2011:

It was the Geodesic Mission, led by Bouguer and La Condamine, that gave Ecuador its name when it acheived independence in 1830. The new Quiport airport is being built directly on top of the survey baseline that they laid out in 1736.

This Mission is an important aspect of the Ecuador’s culture and history, and I expect that my readers will be very interested in visiting Ecuador as a result.

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  1. James

    I just read a book the equator. Author travels the whole world at the equator or as close as possible. The autor is Thurston Clark,

    1. Robin Slater

      Yes, it’s called “Equator: A Journey” by Thurston Clarke ISBN-13: 978-0380729418

  2. April

    I really enjoyed this article. I left a link in my recent blog post about our upcoming trip to Ecuador. I can’t wait to see the equator, where ever it is! http://www.notquitewonderwoman.com/ecuador-post-1-pre-trip-40-days-away-the-countdown/

  3. Mike Hamilla

    I’ve traveled to the Mitad del Mundo monument, and another one, also just north of Quito. I heard so many reviews that it was a waste of time. Bit we thought it was one of the most interesting of “museums”, which is how it’s classified.

    We saw anacondas, parrots, and others, as well as what they said was a true shrunken head. There were some really interesting exhibits, demonstrations, and experiments, that revealed the power if the Equator.

    I first traveled there in May of 2013, while on a month long trip to EC. Then, I returned in October of the same year. This time, I spent a month in the Pacific coast area, to get residency paperwork started. Then, arrived in January 2014, and we’re permanent residents on the warm coast. Quito and Cuenca were just way too cold to ever consider as a place to live.

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