The equatorial island of Sao Tome — Transcontinental Times

Sao Tome and Principe : The charming island nation of Sao Tome and Principe is one of the few places in the world where the equator crosses.

The other 12 countries are Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia and Indonesia. In the Maldives and Kiribati, it passes through their territorial waters.

Equator Island

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In Sao Tome, the equator crosses right through Islet of Ilheu das Rolas, located a few kilometers from its southern tip, before heading east to the African continent. Also known as “The Island of Ecuador” or the “Dove Island”it is located at an elevation of over 300 feet above sea level.

The Portuguese cartographer proved it, and the navigator Gago Coutinho visited São Tomé sometime between 1915 and 1918. During his scientific expedition to map the island, he proved that zero latitude indeed crossed Ilhéu das Rolas at the instead of passing between the islet and São Tomé, as had been previously assumed.

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The island is only two square kilometers in size and is only 6 degrees longitude from the Prime Meridian line. It is also the closest land mass to coordinates 00N 00E.

Photo credit: Raghu Gururaj

The main symbolic attraction of the island is a small monument erected in 1936 which marks the geodetic point on the equator. A beautiful marker in the form of a stone structure and a tile mosaic world map on the floor under the monument indicate the location of the crossing of the equatorial line. Between April and August, the monument’s shadow points southwest, implying that the sun is several degrees north.

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I experienced the sensation of being at the center of the earth by standing on the imaginary line 0, with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere. The weight of a body is said to be reduced by less than a kilo on the north side due to the gravitational inflection there. I had no way to verify this.

From a purely geological point of view, Sao Tomeans are proud of their geothermal heritage and consider their country as the center of the world. But living in this extremely isolated, albeit beautiful, island nation, I could hardly feel this centrality in a larger sense.

Typical of all places touched by the equator elsewhere, locals say that here, too, sunrises and sunsets occur within minutes.

Besides the thrill of standing in different hemispheres, a lookout point offers breathtaking, 360-degree panoramic views of the Lama-Porco and Francisco volcanic peaks, the surrounding pristine beaches, fishing villages, and the lush island of Sao Tome at a distance. close.

A lighthouse on the islet, built in 1929 and measuring 100 feet, serves as a vantage point for passing ships and, occasionally, dolphins. The Pestana Equador resort on the island is a monopoly business entity and, therefore, the largest employer.

This satellite resort islet is populated by less than 150 inhabitants whose life is linked to foreign tourists. Some, however, depend on subsistence farming and fishing.

The only way to reach this islet is to take a ferry from the fishing village of Port Alegre, at the southern end of mainland Sao Tome. The journey takes just 20 minutes and is best known for the magical views of the mighty Atlantic, cool volcanic cones in the distance, and windswept sandy beaches that await the destination.

Although its distance to land may be close, the short boat ride is an adventure. The 20-minute boat ride feels longer and risky at times due to the massive, deep waves, especially when the seas get choppy, challenging the rickety canoes. These waters are sometimes home to humpback whales that circle the island between July and October.

A popular walking path in the village leads to a verdant forest which contains the equator point, a botanical garden, a fishing village, a banana plantation and rows of clusters of almond trees.

A rare geological landmark, the trip to this center of the world has become an obligatory stop for most visitors. At least, its symbolism is undoubtedly a instagrammable place to be.

Also Read: The Beautiful Blue Lagoon of Sao Tome

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