Thursday, January 27, 2011

Crossing the Equator

It’s always a bit of an adventure, crossing the equator, and although I’ve crossed many times before, crossing the equator never ceases to instill a certain other-worldly feeling in me. Crossing the equator brings us as much to another world as is possible. We will spend the next few weeks in the southern hemisphere. It’s summer here. Ocean currents and thermal winds go the other way and we are aliens to whoever we meet.

The equator is exactly 1296000.000 (that’s six raised to the power of four followed by a bunch of zeroes) nautical miles long, which may seem a miracle in an Intelligent Design sort of way but is far from it, in any way. One sea mile is defined as one arch-second of the equator. Since the equator, like any other circle, covers precisely 360 degrees, and every degree consists of 60 minutes, and every minute consists of 60 seconds, the length of one mile equals the circumference of the earth at the equator, divided by 360 x 60 x 60. When the mile was standardized, the equator was thought to be 2400192000 meters long, resulting in a standard length of the sea mile of 1852 meters.

Pushing mile after mile behind us, we’re headed for Antarctica. It may be the last time I see that great continent. In an emailed newspaper we read that international shipping agencies have decided to no longer allow larger vessels access to this great wild continent. That’s probably better for all of us, I must confess, but I’m glad I’ve been one of the very few who’s seen it, and will again, once more.

Crossing the Equator

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