Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Quito, Ecuador – Latitude 00° 00’ 00”

Latitude 00 00 00 sign Quito copy

On our way to the Galapagos Islands in the summer of 2007, we stayed in Quito, Ecuador for a few days. There are two equator-related tourist attractions in Quito. The monument at Mitad del Mundo was built before electronic global positioning devices were invented and, unfortunately, it is a few hundred yards away from the actual middle of the earth. Once this was discovered, an enterprising family built an unabashed tourist trap named Museo de Sitio Inti-Ñan located at the equator, or Latitude 00° 00’ 00”. The museum has a staff of English-speaking guides who take you through the replicas of native houses:

DSC00718 Museo de Sitio Inti-Nan guide

A burial site. The deceased is placed in a tight fetal position in a pot like the one on the right and the remaining artifacts are for the journey:

DSC00703 Museo de Sitio Inti-Nan burial site

Other artifacts:

 DSC00702 Museo  de Sitio Inti-Nan artifacts

A grizzly, shrunken head:

DSC00709 shrunken head

A Castor Bean plant:

 DSC00716 castor bean plant at latitude 00 00 00

I love the sundial indicating when it was morning (tuta manta), noon (pajta), or night (chisi). That would be a welcome brand of time-keeping! The native tribes did not have a numbering system; these numbers are a modern addition. Note how the numbers range from six to six because at the equator the sun always rises and sets at six.

DSC00707 Museo  de Sitio Inti-Nan sundial

There was a sign that claimed: “On the equator your weight is less than in your country because of the bulge of the earth. Thus being farther from the center of the earth, the force of gravity is less.”  And here I thought the earth was round. When I asked how much less my weight would be, they said it was about a kilo. Of course, we will ignore the fact that our mass remains the same. 

The guide then performed an experiment meant to demonstrate the Coriolus force. She placed a sink on the northern hemisphere, where the water drains counter-clockwise and then moved the sink a few feet over to the southern hemispehere where the water drains clockwise.  When placed exactly on the equator, the water drains straight down. She placed a few small leaves to help show the movement of the water.  

DSC00711 Museo de Sitio Inti-Nan coriolis experiment

DSC00713 Museo de Sitio Inti-Nan coriolis experiment

We were invited to balance an egg on a nail, a feat that can only be accomplished twice a year elsewhere on earth:

DSC00784 Equator Balancing Act

DSC00787 Equator Balancing Act

There are plenty of websites refuting the authenticity of these experiments. Regardless, I thought they were very interesting, entertaining and they underscore the unique properties of the equator.

My husband told me an interesting equator story about an aircraft that supposedly had polar confusion when it crossed the equator. The guidance system assumed its orientation to be relative to the North Pole. When it cross the equator, the guidance system thought the plane flipped over, so it “righted” itself into the upside down position. It is probably an urban myth, but at least one source reported that it was rumored that early versions of Microsoft’s F-16 Flight Simulator game had this same “feature” (as we software types like to call bugs). You can read more about it here


Gabby said...

Simply amazing. In my next life, I'm coming back as you. I wish I had the ability to travel that you have...but I can take vicarious pleasure, can't I? Castor plant looks like it's fit for the job. =)

Dutchbaby said...

In my next life I will learn to write like you, Gabby! Your comment about the castor plant is hysterical!

Sherri said...

I guess I missed the equator tourist attraction (looks interesting) I also missed Galapagos...huge mistake!

Extranjera said...

So, the burial stuff... no real corpses right? It always creeps me out when you walk into a museum and they make you look at an actual dead person and call the corpse an artifact...

Anyhoodles, experiments look interesting and I'm really liking your blog!

Anonymous said...

That was fascinating. Reall enjoyed your account of Ecuador... and the Ecuator. I loved your pictures as well. Very warm regards,


Ruth said...

I like the images of the stones.

We recently had a debate about whether the sun rises and sets exactly at 6 in Ecuador, and we looked it up on wiki, and apparently it ranges a very few minutes in the year. But still, I would find that so strange, when I am used to summer nights being light until almost 10.

Relyn Lawson said...

Oh what a beautiful, beautiful life you are living. My, oh my!

A Cuban In London said...

Excellent feature! And you also went to the Galapagos islands. I can't wait for that one. That's one of my dreams. My son is really into nature and I would love him to see all the rare species in the Galapagos.

Ecuador is one of those countries that you really have to visit. The contrast between countryside and city is very stark I have been told. I had a couple of Ecuadorian friends when I still lived in Havana and your post brought those memories back. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Emily said...

That looks like it was so much fun. I love experiments like that. It looks very pretty there too.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Postcards,

Missing the Galapagos Islands is a far, far bigger mistake than missing this tourist attraction.

Dear Estranjera,
There was not a dead corpse in that pot, but we were told that the shrunken head was real. They went through great lengths giving instructions on how to make your own shrunken head.

Welcome to dutchbaby!

Dear Kacper,
It always makes me happy when people tell me that they enjoyed my post. Welcome to dutchbaby!

Dear Ruth,
What did we do before google and wiki? Isn't it wonderful to have so much information right at our fingertips?

I bet Quito has no seasonality to speak of, being right there on the equator.

Dear Relyn,
I am truly blessed and I'm happy I can share a little bit of it with y'all.

Dear Cuban,
Anybody who loves nature would go nuts in the Galapagos Islands. It's like Disneyland times one thousand.

I will have a post of the nearby countryside coming up shortly.

Dear Jemm,
It was very entertaining and interesting. I think that the family did a great job on this attraction.

Yoli said...

Oh this is just stunning. Also my dear Dutch baby the dream of going to the Galapagos Islands has haunted my dreams since I was a small child. No place on earth holds more fascination a close second is Jordan.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Yoli,
I guarantee you that the Galapagos Islands will not disappoint your dreams.

Jordan huh? I'll have to look into that.

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