Among all countries in the world, only twelve straddle the Equator. While among the countless cities within those twelve countries, only one sits right on this invisible line that separates the earth’s southern from the northern hemisphere. Pontianak, capital of the province of West Kalimantan – formerly known as West Borneo – has the distinction of being the only city in the world that sits right on the Equator, a fact that needs no international approval nor agreement. This is the very reason why the Equatorial monument was built here, although Pontianak’s founder, Syarif Abdurrahman Alkadrie was not in the slightest aware of this fact.
Using simple tools and methods, an unnamed Dutch geographer and explorer spearheaded a mission to find a city on the Equator. Eventually, in 1928, he found this city by the longest river in the Indonesian archipelago that was the sole urban setting right on the line of the Equator. He immediately marked the spot on the river bank of Kapuas Kecil (small Kapuas) with a simple pole and an arrow. Only 70 years later, when the monument had passed many renovations and reconstructions, that Indonesia’s Agency for Applied Technology made precise studies, made corrections to the exact spot of the Equator using geographic positioning system. Although the difference proved to be quite considerable, yet admiration to the original team of explorers remains and will never be forgotten.
The Equatorial monument was initially built from four ironwood pillars. The ironwood was locally obtained and constructed to keep up an arrow as symbol of orientation or reference. The Dutch word: ‘EVENAAR’ is clearly written on the arrow, meaning ‘equator’, or ‘Khatulistiwa’ in Bahasa Indonesia. It was later recorded that a globe was affixed to it in 1930, and a Dutch officer, by the name of Herman Neijenhuis was assigned to guard the monument from 1936 to 1940. Twice a year, the shadowless sunlight occurs here, as the sun reaches its zenith on the Vernal Equinox (March 21st – 23rd), and the Autumnal Equinox (September 21st – 23rd). These bi-annual events are commemorated here as visitors and locals enjoy a five-minute shadowless moment in the best ‘hot spot’ of Borneo.
The word Borneo is believed to originate from a remark made by Pigafetta and the explorer Magellan’s companions in 1521, giving the name ‘Burne’ to the entire island, described as being an extremely large island, for it took the sailors three months to circumnavigate it. Today, Borneo is a land found to be rich in coal, oil, and gas deposits, and remains one of the largest remaining tropical rainforest reserves in Indonesia.
While the town of Pontianak with its Equatorial Monument distinguishes itself as the only city in the world that sits right on that imaginary line called the Equator, separating the earth’s northern from the southern hemisphere.
Take a taxi, angkot, or a private or rented car to the west bank of Pontianak. You will reach a district called Siantan. The first thing to notice is a bridge crossing the Landak River which means that you have crossed the Kapuas river and are on the other side of the city. The monument is only 5 kilometers on the north end of the city. Due to heavy traffic along the way, the trip to the monument may take you between 30 to 40 minutes.
Find out about the history of the monument’s developments and renovations inside the dome. It is interesting how such a small museum can deliver “huge” facts about the site and astronomical data.
Take a picture of yourself right under the monument and take note whether you are on the northern or southern hemisphere. Also buy a souvenir from the museum. A certificate is printed out for you as you enter the museum.
Check the corrected spot of the zero degree and make a scientific experiment or two to prove the natural phenomenon as you stand on the ‘neutral zone”. They say that, you will tend to be more ‘balanced’ when you stand on one foot on the exact spot that is identified as being at zero degree.
You can take a river cruise to see the monument from the boat. It gives a more spectacular perspective as you watch the living culture of the people living on the ‘edge’.
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