Sunday, April 10, 2011

Around the World by Equator Part One: the Western Hemisphere

In the middle of the Gulf of Guinea, south of Ghana and east of Gabon, there is a point. It's not noticeble - there are no markers or anything. But it's the centre of the world, by one way of looking at it. This little dot is 0° by 0°... the intersection of the Equator and the arbitrarily-defined point where the eastern hemisphere meets the western hemisphere - where Rudyard Kipling is proven wrong, as the twain do assuredly meet.

The Gulf of Guinea is a part of the Atlantic Ocean. As we head west, we head directly into the ocean itself. It's pretty empty... fish here, garbage there. For ages and ages there's nothing at all. No islands, no atolls (note to self: Google 'atoll' one day)... just water. The coast of Brazil runs diagonally, so as we go due west, land seems to get closer to the south of us.

Until we finally hit land... And island or two, large in size in fact by island standards. Not very noteworthy, though: they're in the rather voluminous delta of the Amazon: a big river requires a big mouth. We reach the mainland in a city called Macapá, the capital of the state of Amapá. We're far north by Brazilian standards, actually - not far from French Guiana.

As we go inland, we enter the Amazon Rainforest, of course. After all, the two big Brazilian things named 'Amazon' are likely to be found in the same place. No cities, not much in the way of civilisation at all, but nature at its most... vivid.

We hit a town, São Gabriel da Cachoeira. Amazon Indians and Brazilian army personnel. Population 13,000. It's near the border with Colombia, which we cross. The Colombian side of the border is still the Amazon, still pretty remote. Few dots on the map. This is FARC land.

Amazingly, we don't enter Peru... Peru's northermost point is mere minutes from the Equator - literally. It's located at 00°01′48″S. But we do enter Ecuador. Obviously... the country of Ecuador would have a pretty stupid name if the Equator didn't intersect it (though don't tell the people of Equatorial Guinea that). As we go west, we start to really enter Ecuador's population base. Its capital, Quito, is not on the Equator, but it's pretty darn close. As we reach the community of Pedernales, we set foot in the Pacific Ocean.

This is going to be a long and boring journey... but it starts off interesting, at the Galapagós Islands, land of Charles Darwin and the turtles. We only hit one of them, Isabela, and only briefly... but it's the last land we'll see for a long, long time.

Miles pass. Really, hundreds and hundreds, thousands and thousands... a horridly long time with nothing but fish for company. This is why any hack writer who wants an 'adrift at sea' or 'shipwrecked on an undiscovered island' story chooses the Pacific. It really redefines 'empty'. The Sahara is like a party by comparison.

At some point, we 'enter' the nation of Kiribati. And by 'enter' I mean this: if you took a map of the world and 'circled' Kiribati, we'd be in the area that you circled. But Kiribati is simultaneously huge and tiny: it's a collection of hundreds of islands scattered across a huge area of the Pacific.

We're half-way across the Pacific when we get merely near land - the tiniest of islands, Jarvis Island. It's uninhabited by humans, but there are plenty of birds. So many, in fact, that it's one of those 'guano islands' that the USA liked to claim back in the day, when bird crap was a valuable commodity. Amazingly, this island is not in Kiribati - it's American soil.

But we don't touch Jarvis Island. We merely see it pass by through our binoculars. And then it's back to the big blue. Baker Island, a similar deal, passes by.

Technically, some of Kiribati's islands are in the southern hemisphere, some in the northern. Some are in the eastern hemisphere, some are in the western. But that particular dot, 0° by 180°, is nearer to American soil than to Kiribati soil. Yet it's still merely a point, an abstract dot on a map. Nothing but fish in reality. Yet it's the terminus of the first half of our journey. Trust me... the second half is more interesting.

1 comment:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...