On August 20th at 2210 hours, some 5545 nautical miles after leaving New Zealand in mid May, Iron Lady crossed the Equator at 151 degrees 41 minutes West. Sorry – no pictures this time, too slow a connection.

Weather conditions have been wonderful on this leg from the Marquesas to Christmas Island and last night was no exception. Gentle winds and following seas, a clear sky and a full moon were on tap for the crossing of the equator. We even had a little help from the current gods as Iron Lady made close to 11 knots SOG.

The crew gathered for a celebratory beer on the flybridge. Steve, acting as Neptune’s rep bestowed the ancient and honourable title of Shellbacks (I think that is what it is) upon Mark and myself including all the honors, rights and privileges associated with the same. We skipped the part where we got gold pierced earrings and had our heads shaved.

Lest our readers think it was all frivolity, we engaged in a scientific experiment to answer a question that has burned in the hearts and minds of men (and women) for eons. When a toilet is flushed in the northern hemisphere, the water circulates counterclockwise during the flush. In the southern hemisphere, it circulates clockwise. (As do the weather systems in both hemispheres)

The burning question is what happens at the equator where there is no corollas effect? Does the water just go straight down (or up – just kidding)? To answer this question, we flushed away as we crossed the equator. The answer – we don’t know for sure. We can confirm that a few meters south of the equator, the circulation was clockwise and a few meters north it was counterclockwise. Unfortunately we must have failed to flush when the toilet was precisely, dead nuts on the equator. From the fact that it changed direction in such a short distance, we can say yes, Virginia, there is most likely a point directly on the equator where the stuff goes down the holey freeholy without rotation. Definitive proof will have to be left to other intrepid adventurers.

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6 Responses to Equator

  1. Valerie says:

    Sorry to have to be the one to inform you (as I myself was utterly crushed after believing it for 50+ years) but that business about the Coriolis effect and drains swirling in the opposite direction in different hemispheres… is a myth. Water circles drains in an orientation dependent on various local factors, none of which have anything to do with which hemisphere they are in. It’s OK, you’re a shellback now, you can handle it…

    • myironlady says:

      Oh horror of horrors. My engineering profs lied to me and you are (maybe) right. Coriolis applies over larger scale systems like weather and not toilet flushes. I am heartbroken but our observations do stand – it went one way before the equator and the other after.

      We need our blog readers to weigh in on this ultra serious matter. Readers UNITE and RESPOND.

  2. Steve Dashew says:

    I can confirm from close observation that indeed Pete is correct. The accuracy of the observation depends upon proximity, which in the case of equator crossing analysis can be clouded by pre and or post preparation, which can lead to ever more precise analysis, unless of course you have your head over the rail – lee side please – looking for the magic yellow line.
    Having crossed said yellow line numerous times we verify it exists, as does the red line at 80 north, and the green flash.

    • myironlady says:

      There you have it sports fans. A definitive answer from Meister Dashew – who can argue with that (and no – we did not have our heads over the side lee or otherwise).

  3. Mike Dicks says:

    Swirl direction downloaded from wikipaedia
    It is a commonly held misconception that when flushed, the water in a toilet bowl swirls one way if the toilet is north of the equator and the other way if south of the equator, due to the Coriolis effect – usually, counter clockwise in the northern hemisphere, and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. In reality, the direction that the water takes is much more determined by the direction that the bowl’s rim jets are pointed, and it can be made to flush in either direction in either hemisphere by simply redirecting the rim jets during manufacture. On the scale of bathtubs and toilets, the Coriolis effect is too weak to be observed except under laboratory conditions.
    We tried the same test when sailing south across the equator a few years back and there was no change in direction????
    Good fun testing though

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