By GEORGE ROBERTSON, M.D.
Ever since my visit to the equator years ago when I first saw the globe on its side, I have wondered where the top of the world was located. In our culture we always have our globes with the North Pole pointing up and our maps show the top to be the north. We referred to Australia as Down Under and think of New Zealand as being upside down.
On our last visit to Quito, Ecuador, we went out of town to a monument that was on the equator. It was a rock patio plaza with a line of black stones 2 inches wide that had been placed exactly in the center of the earth. A GPS unit showed a 00 0 degrees reading the sun could be viewed at noon to cast no shadow.
There were lines also identifying the 23-1/2 degrees tilt of the Earth’s rotation taking it to the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer when we have our longest and shortest days. The guide at the monument pointed out that at that spot there were visual references such as mountains and volcanoes on the horizon where the sun could be visualized as setting and rising and could be marked. They were the points which were used in the construction of pyramids and temples created by the ancient cultures and also used as reference points for planting and harvesting.
The word orientation comes from the root word orient which means facing the sun or East. When you stand on the equator and face the rising sun your left hand faces north. The root word for North is “ner” meaning left. So when we are properly oriented standing facing the rising Sun on the equator, our part of the world will not be up but will be to the left and the equator will be the equalizer or line of balance joining North and South.
You really do feel like you are on top of the world where you stand on the equator, but your mind still tells you that you live “up” north.
A fellow traveler told me when he was on a boat during World War II that the captain told them they would be sailing across the equator and when it happened they would feel a bump. He was especially sensitive after that to the ship’s vibration and motions and claims that he felt the bump. He was also a water witcher so he might have had some vibrations the rest of us can’t feel so if there are any well diggers out there tell me about your experience and let’s try to analyze this field.
And when someone tells you that you don’t know up from down, just nod your head in agreement because they’re telling the truth.
Editor’s Note: George Robertson is a physician with Family Medical Associates, PC, in Lebanon.