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Global Ideas Reporter | Reporter's Log

The equatorial water flow mystery

The sink water spin mystery from DW_Global Ideas on Vimeo.

Our reporter Joanna was very surprised when she found out which way water drains away when she was filming at the Equatorial Line in Uganda. Can you guess what happened?

We’re finished with the second day of shooting. We visited a village 70 kilometers south of the Ugandan capital Kampala. I said good bye to Teddy, a mother of three who set up a tailoring business thanks to solar lighting in her house. She gave us some delicious passion fruits from her garden as a present and went back to work.

A walk down a rough road took us back to the heart of the village. The driver however didn’t bring us back to Kampala but took the opposite direction instead. “Where are we going?,” I asked. “To a place you should have been to in Uganda,” was the answer. 20 minutes later we reached our destination… it was the equatorial line, the dividing line between the northern and southern hemispheres. There were some small shops along the side of the road selling souvenirs, clothes and snacks to tourists. That included potato crisps and shirts with “Muzungo” prints on it, a common word for white people in Africa.

My gut instinct told me “that’s the center of the world,” but my mind just said  “no, it’s the end of the world.” There were barely any cars on the road  going to Kampala and only a few people around, taking photographs.  We took the chance and jumped onto the famous Equator Memorial.  All together with the team and the Solar-Sister crew, we stood on the memorial straddling both parts of the world at the same time – one leg on the southern part of the world the other on the northern part. The “end of the world” feeling soon evaporated.

And there was one more special thing waiting for us – a water drain experiment. So let’s guess in which direction the water drains in the northern hemisphere. Can you believe it drains the other direction around in the southern hemisphere? That’s what the myth says. We watched how a guy tried to prove it.

Two basins were built at a distance of five meters in both directions of the equatorial line and a third one directly on the equator. He poured water into the first one in the southern hemisphere, calmed the water and put a flower into the water. And indeed, the water began draining clockwise. Then we went to the basin in the northern hemisphere, and the water poured the other way around. We were baffled! So what happened if the water was poured right on the equatorial line? Any idea? Right, it drained straight down! It was a trick! I wish I had paid more attention to physics back at school.

Watch the video, maybe you will spot a cheat. By the way, which way around does the water drain in your home country?


March 5, 2013