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In geography, the antipode (//) of any spot on Earth is the point on Earth's surface diametrically opposite to it; the antipodes of a region similarly represent the area opposite it.[note 1] A pair of points antipodal (//) to each other are situated such that a straight line connecting the two would pass through Earth's center. Such points are as far away from each other as possible, a great-circle distance of up to 40,075.017 kilometres (24,901.461 mi) on the equator.
In the Northern Hemisphere, "the Antipodes" may be used to refer to Australia and New Zealand, and Antipodeans to their inhabitants. Geographically, the antipodes of Britain and Ireland are in the Pacific Ocean, south of New Zealand. This gave rise to the name of the Antipodes Islands of New Zealand, which are close to the antipode of London at about , and opposite of . The antipodes of Australia are in the North Atlantic Ocean, while parts of Spain, Portugal, and Morocco are antipodal to New Zealand.
Approximately 15% of land territory is antipodal to other land, representing approximately 4.4% of the Earth's surface. Another source estimates that about 3% of the Earth's surface is antipodal land. The largest antipodal land masses are the Malay Archipelago, antipodal to the Amazon Basin and adjoining Andean ranges; east China and Mongolia, antipodal to Chile and Argentina; and Greenland and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, antipodal to East Antarctica. There is a general paucity of antipodal land because the Southern hemisphere has fairly little land, and of that, the antipodes of Australia are in the North Atlantic Ocean, while the antipodes of Africa are in the Pacific Ocean.
The antipode of any place on the Earth is the place that is diametrically opposite it, so a line drawn from the one to the other passes through the centre of the Earth and forms a true diameter. For example, the antipodes of New Zealand's lower North Island lie in Spain. Most of the Earth's land surfaces have ocean at their antipodes, this being a consequence of most land being in the land hemisphere.
The antipode of any place on Earth is distant from it by 180° of longitude and as many degrees to the north of the Equator as the original is to the south (or vice versa); in other words, the latitudes are numerically equal, but one is north and the other south. The maps shown here are based on this relationship; they show a Lambert azimuthal equal-area projection of the Earth, in yellow, overlaid on which is another map, in blue, shifted horizontally by 180° of longitude and inverted about the Equator with respect to latitude.
Noon at one place is midnight at the other (ignoring daylight saving time and irregularly shaped time zones) and, with the exception of the tropics, the longest day at one point corresponds to the shortest day at the other, and midwinter at one point coincides with midsummer at the other. Sunrise and sunset do not quite oppose each other at antipodes due to refraction of sunlight.
If the geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) of a point on the Earth's surface are (φ, θ), then the coordinates of the antipodal point are (−φ, θ ± 180°). This relation holds true whether the Earth is approximated as a perfect sphere or as a reference ellipsoid.
In terms of the usual way these geographic coordinates are given, this transformation can be expressed symbolically as
that is, for the latitude (the North/South coordinate) the magnitude of the angle remains the same but N is changed to S and vice versa, and for the longitude (the East/West coordinate) the angle is replaced by its supplementary angle while E is exchanged for W. For example, the antipode of the point in China at 37° N 119° E (a few hundred kilometres from Beijing) is the point in Argentina at 37° S 61° W (a few hundred kilometres from Buenos Aires).
The word antipodes comes from the Greek: ἀντίποδες (antípodes), plural of ἀντίπους (antipous), "with feet opposite (ours)", from ἀντί (antí, “opposite”) + πούς (poús, “foot”). The Greek word is attested in Plato's dialogue Timaeus, already referring to a spherical Earth, explaining the relativity of the terms "above" and "below":
For if there were any solid body in equipoise at the centre of the universe, there would be nothing to draw it to this extreme rather than to that, for they are all perfectly similar; and if a person were to go round the world in a circle, he would often, when standing at the antipodes of his former position, speak of the same point as above and below; for, as I was saying just now, to speak of the whole which is in the form of a globe as having one part above and another below is not like a sensible man.— Plato
The term is taken up by Aristotle (De caelo 308a.20), Strabo, Plutarch and Diogenes Laërtius, and was adopted into Latin as antipodes. The Latin word changed its sense from the original "under the feet, opposite side" to "those with the feet opposite", i.e. a bahuvrihi referring to hypothetical people living on the opposite side of the Earth. Medieval illustrations imagine them in some way "inverted", with their feet growing out of their heads, pointing upward.
Yonde in Ethiopia ben the Antipodes, men that haue theyr fete ayenst our fete.
(In Modern English: Yonder in Ethiopia are the Antipodes, men that have their feet against our feet.)
Pomponius Mela, the first Roman geographer, asserted that the earth had two habitable zones, a North and South one, but that it would be impossible to get into contact with each other because of the unbearable heat at the Equator.[note 2]
From the time of St Augustine, the Christian church was skeptical of the notion. Augustine asserted that "it is too absurd to say that some men might have set sail from this side and, traversing the immense expanse of ocean, have propagated there a race of human beings descended from that one first man."
In the Early Middle Ages, Isidore of Seville's widely read encyclopedia presented the term "antipodes" as referring to antichthones (people who lived on the opposite side of the Earth), as well as to a geographical place; these people came to play a role in medieval discussions about the shape of the Earth. In 748, in reply to a letter from Saint Boniface, Pope Zachary declared the belief "that beneath the earth there was another world and other men, another sun and moon" to be heretical. In his letter, Boniface had apparently maintained that Vergilius of Salzburg held such a belief.
The antipodes being an attribute of a spherical Earth, some ancient authors used their perceived absurdity as an argument for a flat Earth. However, knowledge of the spherical Earth was widespread during the Middle Ages, only occasionally disputed — the medieval dispute surrounding the antipodes mainly concerned the question whether people could live on the opposite side of the earth: since the torrid clime was considered impassable, it would have been impossible to evangelize them. This posed the problem that Christ told the apostles to evangelize all mankind; with regard to the unreachable antipodes, this would have been impossible. Christ would either have appeared a second time, in the antipodes, or left the damned irredeemable. Such an argument was forwarded by the Spanish theologian Alonso Tostado as late as the 15th century and "St. Augustine doubts" was a response to Columbus's proposal to sail westwards to the Indies.
The author of the Norwegian book Konungs Skuggsjá, from around 1250, discusses the existence of antipodes. He notes that (if they exist) they will see the sun in the north in the middle of the day and that they will have seasons opposite those of the Northern Hemisphere.
The earliest surviving account by a European who had visited the Southern Hemisphere is that of Marco Polo (who, on his way home in 1292, sailed south of the Malay Peninsula). He noted that it was impossible to see the star Polaris from there.
The idea of dry land in the southern climes, the Terra Australis, was introduced by Ptolemy and appears on European maps as an imaginary continent from the 15th century. In spite of having been discovered relatively late by European explorers, Australia was inhabited very early in human history; the ancestors of the Indigenous Australians reached it at least 50,000 years ago.
To make the longest distance trip around the planet a traveler would have to pass through a set of antipodal points. All meridians can be crossed in one hemisphere—indeed, by walking around one of the poles—but such trips are shorter than a maximum circumnavigation. On the other hand, the greatest straight line distance that could in theory be covered is a trip exactly on the Equator, a distance of 40,075 kilometres (24,901 mi). The Earth's equatorial bulge makes this slightly longer than a north-south trip around the world along a set of meridian lines, which is a distance of 40,008 kilometres (24,860 mi). Any other closed great circle route starting on the equator and traveling at an angle between 0° (an equatorial route) and 90° (a polar route) would be between 40,075–40,008 kilometres (24,901–24,860 mi). In all of these cases, after half the world is passed every subsequent point will be antipodal to one already visited.
There are no non-stop scheduled flights between any two antipodal locations by commercial airline service—or anything even close. There is currently no commercial aircraft capable of travelling between antipodes at full load non-stop. (The current record holder Boeing 777-200LR's maximum range is rated at 17,395 km (10,809 mi).) There are also regulations regarding pilot's work time, so relief crewmembers would be needed.
The longest non-stop scheduled flight was the Singapore Airlines Flight 21 from Newark, New Jersey, to Singapore, covering about 16,700 km (10,400 mi) in about 17 hours and 52 minutes of flight time, and this was far from a journey between nearly antipodal locations. Among flights with fuel stop and crew-change stop but still same flight number, Air New Zealand has one of the longest: Auckland–Los Angeles–London, at 19,240 km (11,960 mi) over Los Angeles (18,360 km (11,410 mi) directly).
A hypothetically perfect antipodal flight would be Tangier Ibn Battouta Airport, Morocco (IATA: TNG), to Whangarei Aerodrome, New Zealand (IATA: WRE), whose designated locators are 10,800 nautical miles (20,001 km) apart, the maximum possible distance, but their actual runways cross in projection. However, with only a length of 3,599 ft (1,097 m), Whangarei's runway is too short to accommodate any current (as of 2015[update]) commercial jet airliner, especially one with the required range. Traveling between them would presently need at least three plane changes, e.g. Paris–Los Angeles–Auckland.
Other near-antipodes major city pairs include:
Around 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by oceans, and seven-eighths of the Earth's land (when excluding Antarctica) is confined to the land hemisphere, so the majority of locations on land do not have land-based antipodes. About 15% of the earth's land has an antipodes on land. Rough calculation shows that of the 29% of the earth that is covered by land, if 15% of that has antipodes on land, then about 4% (0.15 x 29% = 4.35%) of the earth's surface has antipodes that are both land surfaces. Spilhaus estimates this at about 3%.
The two largest human inhabited antipodal areas are located in East Asia (mainly eastern China) and South America (mainly northern Argentina and Chile). The Australian mainland is the largest landmass with its antipodes entirely in ocean, although some locations of mainland Australia and Tasmania are close to being antipodes of islands (Bermuda, Azores, Puerto Rico) in the North Atlantic Ocean. The largest landmass with antipodes entirely on land is the island of Borneo, whose antipodes are in the Amazon rainforest.
Exact or almost exact antipodes:
To within 100 km (62 mi), with at least one major city (population of at least 1 million):
Other major cities or capitals close to being antipodes:
Gibraltar is approximately antipodal to Te Arai Beach about 85 km (53 mi) north of Auckland, New Zealand. This illustrates the old yet correct saying that the sun never sets on the British Empire; the sun still does not set on the Commonwealth of Nations.
The northern part of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France, is antipodal to some thinly populated desert in Mauritania, a part of the former French West Africa. Portions of Suriname, a former Dutch colony, are antipodal to Sulawesi, an Indonesian island spelled Celebes when it was part of the Netherlands East Indies. Luzon, the largest island of the Philippines, is antipodal to eastern Bolivia. As with the British Empire, the sun set neither on the French Empire, the Dutch Empire, nor the Spanish Empire at their peaks.
Kiritimati, the largest island of Kiribati and the largest coral atoll in the world, is antipodal to Salonga National Park, which is the largest national park of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the largest tropical rainforest reserve in Africa.
Point Nemo, the point in the South Pacific Ocean most distant from any other land, is precisely opposite a desolate piece of desert in western Kazakhstan.
Null Island, , at the intersection of the prime meridian and the equator, has its antipodes at , at the intersection of the antimeridian and the equator. This point lies northeast of Nikunau in the Gilbert Islands and southwest of Baker Island, a United States territory.
As can be seen on the purple/blue map, the Pacific Ocean is so large that it stretches halfway around the world; parts of the Pacific off the coast of Peru are antipodal to parts of the same ocean off the coast of Southeast Asia. For example, the island of Ko Chang - which is the second or third largest island in Thailand - is nearly antipodal to San Lorenzo Island, which is the largest island of Peru.
The following countries are opposite more than one other country. (Antarctica is considered separately from any territorial claims.)
|Country||No. of antipodal countries||Antipodal countries|
|New Zealand||12||Mainland: Spain, Portugal, Morocco, UK (Gibraltar)|
Chatham Islands: France
Kermadec Islands: Algeria
Cook Islands: Chad, (Penrhyn) Central African Republic, (Mangaia) Libya, (Pukapuka) Cameroon, (Nassau) Nigeria
|France||12||Mainland: New Zealand (Chatham Islands)|
Southern & Antarctic Lands: Canada, United States
French Guiana: Indonesia
New Caledonia: Mauritania, Western Sahara
Wallis and Futuna: Niger
French Polynesia: Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Ethiopia
|Brazil||9||China, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia|
|Indonesia||8||Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Suriname, Guyana, France (French Guiana)|
|Peru||7||Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, China|
|United States||7||Mainland: France (Southern & Antarctic Lands)|
Hawaii: Botswana, Namibia
Palmyra Atoll & Kingman Reef: DR Congo
American Samoa: Niger, Nigeria
|United Kingdom||7||Falklands: China, Russia|
Gibraltar: New Zealand
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands: Russia
Pitcairn: Saudi Arabia, UAE
|China||6||Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, UK (Falkland Islands)|
|Niger||5||Samoa, Tonga, United States (American Samoa), France (Wallis and Futuna), New Zealand (Niue)|
|Antarctica||5||Greenland, Canada, United States, Russia, Norway|
|Malaysia||4||Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Colombia|
|Argentina||4||China, Taiwan, Mongolia, Russia|
|Chile||4||China, Mongolia, Russia; Easter Island: India|
|Kiribati||4||Phoenix Islands (Orona): Nigeria; Line Islands: DR Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan|
|Russia||4||Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, United Kingdom (Falklands etc.)|
|Australia||3||Mainland: Bermuda (UK), Portugal (Azores)|
Heard Island and McDonald Islands: Canada
Christmas Island: Colombia
|Ecuador||3||Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia|
|Philippines||3||Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay|
|Vanuatu||3||Mauritania, Senegal, (Mere Lava) Mali|
|Paraguay||3||Taiwan, Japan, Philippines|
|Mali||3||Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands|
|Colombia||3||Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia (Christmas Island)|
|Nigeria||3||New Zealand (Tokelau, Cook Ils), United States (American Samoa), Kiribati|
|Canada||3||Antarctica, France (Kerguelen), Australia (Heard Island and McDonald Islands)|
|Tuvalu||2||Ghana, (Nanumanga, Nanumea) Ivory Coast|
|Fiji||2||Mali; (Rotuma) Burkina Faso|
|Solomon Islands (Temoto)||2||Guinea, (Tikopia) Mali|
|Uruguay||2||China, South Korea|
|Sudan||2||France (French Polynesia), Kiribati|
|Mauritania||2||France (New Caledonia), Vanuatu|
|Algeria||2||Tonga, New Zealand (Kermadec)|
|Central African Republic||2||Kiribati, New Zealand (Cook Ils)|
|Saudi Arabia||2||France (French Polynesia), UK (Pitcairn)|
|DR Congo||2||Kiribati, United States (Palmyra, Kingman Reef)|
|Japan||2||(Ryukyu) Brazil, Paraguay|
|South Korea||2||Uruguay, Brazil|
|Norway||2||(Svalbard) Antarctica, (Peter I Island) Russia|
|Portugal||2||Mainland: New Zealand|
Azores: Australia (Melbourne)
Countries matching up with just one other country are Morocco, Spain, Chad, Libya, Cameroon (with the Cook Islands of New Zealand); Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia (with French Polynesia); Senegal (Vanuatu); the UAE (Pitcairn); Ghana, Ivory Coast (Tuvalu); Burkina Faso (Rotuma in Fiji); Guinea (Solomon Islands); India (Easter Island); Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand (all with Peru); Singapore (Ecuador); Brunei, Palau, Micronesia (all with Brazil); Venezuela and Suriname (Indonesia).
Of these, the larger countries which are entirely antipodal to land are the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Fiji, Vanuatu, Brunei, and Samoa. Chile was as well prior to its expansion into the Atacama with the War of the Pacific.
In a number of cases on extraterrestrial bodies in the Solar System, unusual geologic features (e.g., jumbled terrain or unique volcanic constructs) are located antipodal to major impact basins. It has been hypothesized that this results from focusing of some of the seismic waves (p-waves and surface waves) produced by an impact at its antipode.
Only about three percent of the surface of the earth is anitpodal land.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Antipodes maps.|