The Tower of the Sun – Marking the True Equator
Although it has become common knowledge that Mitad del Mundo in Quito is not actually placed on the equator, it remains a popular tourism destination with visitors posing over the painted yellow line indicating where it was believed the equator splits the earth into the northern and southern hemispheres. The village surrounding the large equatorial monument offers many items of interest, with homes, stores, museums and cafés, along with smaller monuments memorializing men who lost their lives in various historic conflicts. Visitors can also travel a short way down the road to a smaller, privately owned museum which claims to be built on the equator. Known as Museo de Sitio Intiñan , this interesting attraction features a number of interactive activities demonstrating unusual phenomenon which occur only at the equator, such as balancing an egg on the head of a nail, and water going down a drain either clockwise or anticlockwise, depending on which hemisphere you are standing in.
Now with the benefit of modern GPS, experts believe they have pinpointed exactly where the equator is located and the government of Pichincha Province have made known their plans to build a tower almost a mile high, to be named the Tower of the Sun, to mark the true equator. Designed by Uruguay-born New York-based architect Rafael Vinoly, the $250 million tower will feature a number of levels below the latticed metal spire, containing shops, museums and viewing platforms. It will reportedly have a pressurized elevator to carry visitors to a height that would be approximately three miles above sea level. The structure itself will be almost twice the height of the current highest structure in the world – Burj Khalifa in Dubai which is more than 2700 feet tall. It is anticipated that the new structure, which is expected to break ground at the beginning of 2014, will be a huge tourist attraction in the Ecuadorian province.
Interestingly, the circumference of the earth is larger at the equator, than it is when measured through the north and south poles. This is due to the centrifugal force generated by the earth rotating, as it moves objects away from the center of gravity. As the Earth rotates it bulges at the equator where the centrifugal force is greatest. So when visitors stand with one foot in either hemisphere, they are also standing astride the widest part of our planet – an awesome experience indeed!