It’s odd that I keep getting random search engine hits on the phrase, “closest antipodal national capitals” when I’ve never covered the topic on the Twelve Mile Circle, and other websites have covered it rather extensively. The whole topic of antipodes in general seems to receive an inordinate amount of attention. I found a trio of other
useless fascinating facts as I researched this further.
The antipode of a place on earth is its exact opposite, drawing a line straight through the middle of the earth. As a child I was told that if I dug a hole through the planet I’d end up in China. I got about a half metre when I gave up. I learned soon enough that this was false, but I worried that if I ever dug that hole then my home would be flooded by the Indian Ocean. Oh, the joys of childhood.
The two national capitals that come closest to being antipodes are Asunción, Paraguay and Taipei, Taiwan. Either one is only 86 kilometres from the antipode of the other, as reported in a 2001 discussion on The Math Forum. I examined this with a rather brute-force method, a tool available on the Antipodes Map website. I had a lot of fun generating maps like the one featured in this screen shot.
SOURCE: Generated from Antipodes Map
The author on The Math Forum took a much more sophisticated approach, producing great circle calculations that considered Earth’s oblateness as well as more traditional antipodal calculations (i.e., based on lat/long coordinates). He found little difference in the basic order of the closest antipodal capitals using either method.
- Asunción, Paraguay – Taipei, Taiwan, 86km
- Madrid, Spain – Wellington, New Zealand, 159km
- Bogotá, Colombia – Jakarta, Indonesia, 194km
He identified others that might also figure into the mix depending on how one defines "capital,"
- Adamstown, Pitcairn Islands – Manama, Bahrain, 143km
- Adamstown, Pitcairn Islands – Doha, Qatar, 164km
- Mata-Utu, Wallis and Futuna – Niamey, Niger, 184km
I think I’m disinclined to include this second set. The Pitcairn Islands are a British Overseas Territory. Wallis and Futuna is an overseas territory of France. Neither is a sovereign nation. I decided to list them here anyway because they’re still remarkable in a sense.
Other Interesting Antipodes
I wish I could take credit for finding these but in fact they’re widely available on many different websites. I’ll provide links for those sites I that I thought were particularly well done.
Taiwan used to be called Formosa. The antipode for one small corner of the island falls in Argentina, in the province of Formosa. It appears to be coincidental. Taiwan’s former identification came from Portuguese explorers and Argentina’s from Spanish sailors. Formosa derives from "beautiful" in the 16th Century parlance of both languages. There are plenty of beautiful places on earth and that’s why I think it’s probably just an interesting coincidence.
There seems to be a nearly endless discussion on the Intertubes about Mecca’s antipode. Theoretically someone with a ship and a little determination could sail to the antipode, and pray towards Mecca legitimately in any direction. This possibility is discussed particularly well on the EVS-Islands Blog, "Thoughts – Antipode of Qibla at Mecca and the Antipode of Tematangi Atoll FP."
There are very few portions of the Lower 48 United States that have dry land antipodes. Two tiny spots in Colorado are included in the total. The US Highway Endpoints website features the Colorado Land Antipodes along with a couple of great interactive Google Maps that they’ve customized for this specific purpose.