Latitude with an attitude: 0 Degrees 0 minutes, 0 seconds

By: 
Roger Harnack
Publisher

Teenagers and sober adults looked like drunken sailors trying to walk a straight line.
They tried to balance an egg on the head of a nail.
And they watched as water in a basin drained straight down, then spiraled clockwise, then counter-clockwise.
Nearby, there is a rock carving from Easter Island and several exhibits on South American Indian tribes, including the Warmani, which are found deep in the Amazon jungle in parts of Ecuador, Brazil and other South American countries. The Warmani shrunk the heads of their enemies until about 1970 and still live mostly unclothed in the Amazon.
Less than a mile away, street vendors sold cooked Guinea pig on a stick.
Welcome to the "middle of the world," latitude 0 degrees, 0 minutes, 0 seconds.
Colville Interact students and chaperones learned things are different here -- at the equator -- today, June 23.
The group lathered up in suntan lotion, large hats and sunglasses, and headed to Mitad Del Mundo on a fun-filled visit turned science and history lesson on Day 8 of their adventure in Ecuador.
The country's name is derived from the equator.
En route to their destination, tour guide Pablo Salazar of Quito, Ecuador, provided the tour group with a science and history lesson.
He also cautioned them that at about 10,000 feet, they would feel the effects of the suns's radiation, even in the temperature was cool.
There wasn't any snow at the site, which is at about the equivalent elevation of Mount Rainier's Camp Muir, which sits on a glacier.
The group learned that the "center of the world" actually has two places -- the initial location determined during a 1736 expedition led by Charles-Marie de la Condamie, and the actual location determined by GPS in recent years.
A 128-foot monument erected from 1979-1982 was built about 240 meters (about 790 feet) south of the true equatorial line in San Antonio, Ecuador, and has become a favorite tourist stop.
But at the true center of the world, Mitad Del Mundo, things get interesting.
For example, with careful movements, an egg can be balanced on the head of a name because gravity pulls the yoke straight to the bottom.
And when you try to walk a straight line, heel-to-toe, you can feel the centrifugal of the Earth's rotation pulling you off the actual equatorial line. The result is that those who attempt the challenge struggle to keep their balance.
The group was fascinated by the water-basin demonstration.
On the equatorial line, water poured into the basin drained straight down. But when the basin was moved just a few feet north of the line, the water spiraled clockwise down the drain. And when the experiment was moved south of the line, vortex reversed and spiraled counter-clockwise.
In addition to the science and cultural lessons, students stopped at El Patio Restaurant in Calacali for a organic lunch featuring food produced in the vicinity. The chef, Alfredo, took time to explain the importance and local connection of the meal, urging the group to buy local food supplies whenever possible.
The day included a trip to the cloud forest for a possible glimpse of a nearby volcano. But the clouds were too thick for the view that was hoped for.
The Colville group wrapped up their day back in Puembo, where they dined at San Jose de Puembo.
The opening course -- octopus -- had tour group members squirming in their seats until they took the first bite.
On Monday, Colville Interact heads to a hot springs and for a hike about 12,000 feet -- about the same elevation as South-Central Washington's Mount Adams and 2,000 or so feet higher than the summit of Western Washington's Mount Baker in Whatcom County.
On Tuesday, the group will fly to the Galapagos Islands, the location where Charles Darwin formulated his theory of evolution during the 1800s.
Check back daily to keep up with the Colville group as it continues its Ecuador adventure.

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