Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Latitude Zero

We are now cruising in the Tropic of Capricorn which has started from the Latitude of 22.5 degrees South to last till Equator at latitude zero; then would start Tropic of Cancer for another 22.5 degrees North. Between these two Tropics lie the hottest areas of the world. Goa is at latitude of 18 degrees North.

LATITUDE ZERO – Tales of the Equator
Gianni Guadalupi and Antony Shugaar
Stories of great explorers and eccentrics who braved the exotic equatorial regions of the Earth

The history of the world has almost always been written from a point of view situated around forty-five degrees north latitude. Consider a territory bounded on the south by Cairo (thirty nine degrees north latitude) and on the north by Saint Petersburg (sixty degrees north latitude), we are looking at the stage on which Western civilization has developed. London lies just above fifty-one degrees, Paris is around forty-nine degrees and Rome stands at forty-two degrees north latitude. Asia lies a little further south. North America lies at nearly the same latitude as Asia.
The band of territory between the 30 and 60 degrees north latitude may not have a monopoly on the world’s history, but it has had a virtual monopoly on the world’s history writing. Most of the Earth’s publishers, broadcasters, universities and libraries look on the world from this relatively narrow swath of territory. Latitude, then, is destiny.

Great stories have been told in recent years about the exploration of the rooftops of the world (South and North Poles). But the tales of the Equator have largely been told piecemeal or overlooked entirely.

The Equator is the largest man made object on Earth. The imaginary line drawn along latitude Zero is longer than any other straight line that can be drawn on the Earth’s surface. It is the fastest moving point on the Earth, gets more sunlight than any other point, and the equatorial sun stands still, straight overhead.

To the people of the ancient world things that we take for granted, like sky, sun, or changing seasons, were much more substantial. For us, for example, cerulean might be an attractive designer colour; however, for the ancient world cerulean was the colour of the sky reflected on the surface of the sea. For them, sky and sea were both vital and immediate factors in life.
In waterfront taverns, tales of all kinds are told of adventures and misadventures of all kinds. Islands of serpents; or of men with forked tongue speaking with two different persons at the same time; or the island of the rukh bird whose egg was as large as the dome of a mosque; another island was inhabited by the karkadann which could spear an elephant on its horn; or another island which concealed the copper urns into which Solomon, the wisest man on Earth and who loved Queen Sheba, had sealed the evil spirits.

The Greek philosopher Eratosthenes compared the noonday shadow at Alexandria and Aswan, and from the difference he was able to calculate the curve of the Earth between those two points.
People of the ancient world had a number of amusing and astonishing understanding of the world, however, they also got a lot things right. They were incredibly brave people and took great and arduous journeys to explore the world without the advantage of mechanized boats and ships or telecommunication satellites, or GPS.

For some humility and understanding: a squad of U.S. fighter jets using computer-guided navigation crossed the Equator not too many years ago, flying in perfect formation, wingtip to wingtip, autopilot engaged. As they crossed Latitude Zero, their navigational systems flipped them over, still in perfect formation. Half a dozen pilots hung head down, safe and sound, but frightened and quite confused.

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