To the antipodes, and beyond

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In my Off The Beaten Track radio slot earlier this week, internist I spoke about some of the curious maps in a book by British author and columnist Frank Jacobs appropriately called Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities.

Jacobs has collected and created maps ancient and modern, maps fictional and real, maps seemingly of every inch of earth, and beyond earth. There’s a map of the first moon walk. There’s a map of California as an island. There’s an inverto-map which asks, What if all the earth’s land were water, and all the water were land?

One of the maps that intrigued me most was a map of antipodes, which is to say places that are exactly opposite each other on the planetary globe. An antipode is the place you would end up if you could drill a hole through the centre of the earth and use it as a tunnel.

For almost all countries, that spot is in the sea (see map). That’s because 70 per cent of the planet is ocean. Bits of northern Canada and Russia map on to Antarctica, parts of Chile and Argentina with China, Indonesia with Brazil. The antipode of Rarotonga is close to Mecca.

New Zealand is one of the few countries where a good chunk of land has a terrestrial antipode—mostly parts of Spain and Portugal.
However, if you’re south of Christchurch, or north of Paeroa, you’re out of luck: your antipode is in the sea.

If you turned Auckland’s Sky Tower upside down and used it as a drill, it would come out in the autonomous community of Andalusia near a town called Ronda. If you took the steeple of the Christchurch cathedral and did the same you would end up in another autonomous community, Galicia, not far from Foz.

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And if you were a mouse on the New Zealand subantarctic islands actually called the Antipodes, apart from making your last will and testament (the islands’ mice are destined for eradication in 2016) your antipodean rodent would be making ratatouille near Cherbourg, France.

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