Monday, February 4, 2008

Equatorial Thoughts #1: Kiribati

Earth's equator, that imaginary line around the planet's midriff, passes through 13 countries (or 14 depending on whether you count Sao Tome and Principe as one or two). Given how cold it's been where I live, I've been fantasizing about the kinds of places that are consistently, predictably warm. Those countries through which the equator passes are a good place to start.

Here they are, with 2008 population projections:
  1. Ecuador [13,835,076]

  2. Colombia [44,459,803]

  3. Brazil [192,047,523]

  4. Sao Tome & Principe [157,847]

  5. Gabon [1,725,105]

  6. Republic of the Congo [3,702,311]

  7. Democratic Republic of the Congo [64,105,984]

  8. Uganda [29,395,836]

  9. Kenya [35,112,181]

  10. Somalia [12,692,376]

  11. Maldives [308,797]

  12. Indonesia [227,070,492]

  13. Kiribati [97,031]

So 624,710,262 people can visit the equator without having to go to another country. That seems like a lot of folks, although it is a miniscule percentage of the 6.6 billion humans who call Earth home.

What can we extract from this simple list? Are there interesting, amazing, astonishing, quirky, revealing facts to be gleaned? Are there nuggets here which could be battered or crafted into trenchant or dazzling commentary on the state of the world or the long reach of history? Well, let's hope so -- otherwise why am I bothering to write or you to read?


Kiribati: The only country on this entire planet which straddles both the equator and the international date line! To be honest, I had never heard of Kiribati. It's composed of three chains of islands and atolls north of Samoa -- the Gilbert Islands, the Line Islands, and the Phoenix Islands. Remarkably, both my father and father-in-law have been there, but it wasn't known as Kiribati then. Their visits were during WWII, when both were stationed in the Pacific and Christmas Island was a staging area used by US troops. Christmas Island is now known as Kiritimati Island.

Oh, Kiribati! (pronounced kee-ree-bosh). Split asunder in so many ways: hemispherically, temporally, linguistically (the native language is I-Kiribati -- a.k.a. Gilbertese -- but the official language is English) and physically (there are 33 separate atolls, though only a dozen or so are inhabited). Yet since achieving independence from the UK in 1979, they have managed to construct a peaceful republic, unlike so many of the countries on the equatorial list.

I wonder if any Kiribatians commute to work across the international date line? "Hey, boss, can I have Thursday off?" "Sorry, pal, it IS Thursday."

I also assume that line dancing originated in the Line Islands.


Old Cubs Fan said...

Well, those surgeons may have removed a lot of "stuff" but I'm glad to see they left your sense of humor. Keep posting - I'm diggin' it.

Greg said...

Thanks for the comment on my Oppen post. He's definitely worth seeking out. If there's a university library that you can access, you should find him there. Keep getting well, Pal!