Mitad del Mundo

Mitad del Mundo

As its name implies,  Ecuador was derived from the word “equator” because of its central position on the planet.   A French mission came to Ecuador in 1736 to map the exact location of the equator.  They calculated that it was located about 20 kilometers north of the center of the Ecuadorian capital of Quito. This monument called Mitad del  Mundo  – “The Middle of the World” – was erected to mark the “exact” location of the equator. Or so they thought…..

Straddling the equator in Ecuador

Here we are balancing on the equatorial line that was mapped in 1736 and which was reconfirmed by another French mission in 1899.  With the advent of GPS, it was determined that the French missions miscalculated the line by 240 meters to the north!


Equatorial Line according to GPS

And here we are on the “real” equatorial line as measured by the GPS.  It was said that the ancient Ecuadorian tribes had always believed that this was the exact location of the middle of the world. A private museum, Intinan Solar Museum, was built along this line. The museum conducts several  interactive “scientific” experiments that they said can only be done on the equator.


Balancing egg in Inti Nan Museum in EcuadorOne of the experiments was the balancing of egg on a head of a nail. The museum claimed that the equator is the only place where you can do such balancing because of the absence of gravity along the equator. Some people did it successfully but most people didn’t.


Equatorial Line according to GPSA museum staffer was discussing the coriolis effect, which in this case was described as the force that affects the movement of water in both side of the hemisphere.  It was explained that the water swirl clockwise south of the equator and counterclockwise north of the equator.


Experiment in Inti Nan Museum in EcuadorShe then conducted an experiment to demonstrate that the corialis effect can in fact be observed from just within few feet of the equator.  A sink was place right on the equator and the water went straight down the drain without any vortex. The sink was moved few feet to the southern hemisphere and the water whirled into clockwise direction. Then the sink was moved few feet to the northern hemisphere and the water circled into counterclockwise direction.  There’s the corialis effect! Or was it?

Curious, we did some research when we got home. Here are some of our findings:

“..the Coriolis force is quite small, and its effects generally become noticeable only for motions occurring over large distances and long periods of time, such as large-scale movement of air in the atmosphere or water in the ocean.” – Wikipedia

The corialis effect produces measurable effect over huge distances and long periods of time, neither of which applies to your bathroom. Toilets and sinks drain in the direction they do because of the way the water is directed into them or pulled from them.” –  from

So was the sink experiment staged?

Balancing on equatorial line in Inti Nan Museum, Ecuador

Another scientific claim was that if you walk on the equitorial line with your eyes close you would have a difficulty wallking in a straight line because of lack of gravity.  But isn’t it hard to walk in a straight line anywhere if your eyes are closed?


 Experiment on strenght on equator, Initinan Solar Museum. Ecuador

The museum guide was demonstrating here that she could control the arms of the much larger person because one’s muscle lose much of its resistance on the equator. Another scientific claim was that a person loses a pound when standing on the equator.

The experiments were cheesy and hokey but they were fun. Anyway, there are also interesting cultural stuff that you can see and do at the Inti Nan Museum.

Shrunken head in Intinan Solar Museum, EcuadorBe amazed or be shocked at the exhibit of the “shrunken heads.” In the olden days, the barbaric tribes shrank the heads of the enemies they killed and show them off as battle trophies. Barbaric indeed.


Shrunken head in Inti Nan Museum in EcuadorLike Keith, you can stand next to a hanging shrunken head and compare which of you has  better facial features.


Blowing indigenous dart in Inti Nan Museum in EcuadorYou can also try indigenous Ecuadorian blow darts and try your luck at shooting at a cactus leaf.


Exhibit in Inti Nan MuseumThere are also exhibits of ancient tribal homes, burial grounds,  a guinea pig breeding ground, etc.


And there’s a pleasant cactus garden decked with huge earthen wares where you can relax.

Is the Equator and the museum worth visiting?  If you have half a day to kill while in Quito, we say why not? It is easy to reach from Quito by cab, bus or you may join a bus tour and the entrance fee to the museum is quite inexpensive ($2).  And beside, it’s fun to say that you have straddled the two equatorial lines – both the inaccurate one with the real monument and the accurate one with the inaccurate science.


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About Marisol

Taking you on our journey one photo - and footstep - at a time.

11 responses to “Ecuador: The Tale of Two Equators

  1. Jan Sullivan

    This is fascinating! I like how you did your own research about the scientific claims. There must be a lot of gullibles out there who would just buy into everything that was claimed. Those shrunken heads are scary!

    • Traveling Solemates

      Jan, I admit the first time I went to the museum I kinda bought into it. On the second visit 6 years later, I guess I was older and wiser —and skeptic! But it is a fun place to visit.

  2. kira

    What a fun, interesting post! I’d like to be able to straddle the equator or equators!! Ok, which one is the official one?

    • Traveling Solemates

      Kira, although the line in Inti Nan has been proven accurate per the GPS reading, the line in Mitad del Mundo is still considered official one by the government.

    • DS

      Neither line is accurate. The real equator per GPS is 405 feet north in the middle of the road.

  3. Carrie Sieber

    Didn’t realize that there’s actually a concrete equatorial line. I thought the equator is just something virtual like the orbit:) Nice info guys!

    • Traveling Solemates

      We thought so, too, Carrie. But apparently the equatorial line is measurable, therefore, you can determine its location.

  4. Bama

    Interesting story about Ecuador! I didn’t know that there are two different measurements of the exact position of the equator. By the way I think I would call those ‘scientific’ experiments as pseudoscience. :) You took some great pictures of places that I really want to go!

    • Traveling Solemates

      Hi Bama, they’re definitely pseudoscience Glad you enjoyed the photos, Just visited you blog and it looks very interesting. Love its layout. Looking forward to see more of it. Thanks for dropping by. -Marisol

  5. Sarah

    Fun photos and good information! How easy was it to travel between the “official” equator line and the “mapped by GPS” equator line?

    • Hi Sarah, they’re about 240 meters away from each other, so its within an easy walking distance.

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