The One Minute Geographer: This Fragile Earth (5) Antipodes

Jim Fonseca
3 min readFeb 9, 2022
Map of antipodes from pw-patchworks.blogspot.com

When I grew up kids used to talk about ‘digging a hole to China.’ I imagine that comes from China being in the Northern Hemisphere on the opposite side of the globe from the United States. Maybe kids still say that. (More on that at the end of this post.)

But a real ‘antipode’ is the point on the earth exactly opposite another point going through the center of the earth. And if you dug that hole anywhere in the 48-state USA you’d come out not in China but in the Indian Ocean! In fact other than an odd island here and there, the only parts of the US that have antipodes on land are northern Alaska (antipodal with Antarctica) and Hawaii (with southern Africa).

As you can see on either map, very few places on land have other areas of land as antipodes. If you recall previous posts, this makes perfect sense when you think about. First, recall that only 29% of the earth’s surface is land, so that greatly reduces your chances of finding land on the opposite side. Second, recall the land and water hemispheres. The vast majority of land is on one side of the globe and the other is mostly water. So it turns out that land-land antipodes are only 3% to 4% of the surface of the globe.

You can hunt for these land-land antipodes on the two maps. (The two maps show the same thing using different projections.) Most of the overlap of land is Arctic territory with Antarctica in northern Canada, Greenland and Russia. Other than that, you see overlap between Argentina and China, New Zealand and Spain, Philippines and Brazil, Indonesia and Colombia — that’s about it!

Antipodes map by Kwamikagami on Wikipedia

Geography trivia: There are some rock islands inhabited only by penguins, about 450 miles southeast of New Zealand, called the Antipodes Islands because they are near the antipode of London.

One of the earliest mentions of ‘digging a hole’ to China was in Thoreau’s Walden where he wrote of a crazy guy in town attempting to do that. References to digging to China have been made on the Simpson’s, in Looney Tunes cartoons and on Sesame Street. You can read this online in an article on mentalfloss.com called “The Hole…

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Jim Fonseca

Geography professor (retired) writes The One Minute Geographer featuring This Fragile Earth. Top writer in Transportation and, in past months, Travel.