Cover image for Latitude zero : tales of the Equator
Latitude zero : tales of the Equator
Guadalupi, Gianni.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Carroll & Graf, [2001]

Physical Description:
258 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
G80 .G83 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



It extends 24,000 miles, farther and longer than any other measure on earth. Yet the equator is a wholly imaginary construct, a human idea that has fascinated and challenged explorers for three thousand years--from the ancient Egyptian spice traders in search of the legendary land of Punt, to the fifteenth-century Portuguese who sought a route to the Indies, to the expeditions of Victorian naturalist Charles Darwin in the Galapagos Islands, off the Pacific coast of South America, at latitude zero. The equator--its location not only on the globe but also in the minds and exploits of navigators, travelers, poets, and dreamers since the dawn of civilization--is the magical thread on which the eminent Italian historian Gianni Guadalupi strings some of humankind's most intriguing lore and most amazing adventures in this original and riveting intellectual history. The mysterious source of the Nile and the enigma of the Congo's swell, the perils of the Doldrums ("the living death in life" in Coleridge's phrase) and the vicissitudes of El Nino, the quest for the lost Eden and the search for Eldorado, all fall within the compass of Guadalupi's extraordinary volume. So do the names of Columbus, Magellan, Don Lope de Aguirre, Sinbad the Sailor, Henry Stanley, Charles-Marie de la Condamine, and Dante Alighieri, who placed Purgatory on an island athwart the equator.

Author Notes

Gianni Guadalupi is an Italian historian and the author of more than twenty books
Antony Shugaar is the translator most recently of Niccolo's Smile: A Biography of Machiavelli. He lives in Northern Virginia

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

"The history of the world has almost always been written from a point of view situated around forty-five degrees north latitude," posits the author. Aiming to rectify this imbalance, Guadalupi has researched and retold tales of adventure, misadventure, and exploration that took place in proximity to the 24,000-mile imaginary line drawn across the girth of the earth. Some stories--Magellan's great voyage and Burton and Speke's search for the origin of the Nile, for instance--are well known, but the exploits of others--Francisco de Orellana (the "Unfortunate Conquistador" ), Elisa von Wagner (the "Nude Baroness" ), or James Brooke (the "White Raja" )will be less familiar or completely unknown to most readers. Brief but crowded with detail, these engagingly written stories are perfect jumping-off points for armchair adventurers or perhaps journey enough for commuting conquistadors. Guadalupi offers a wry view of the unintended mayhem wrought by the European interlopers, but because they wrote most of his source material, we may wait longer for a true shift in perspective. --Keir Graff

Publisher's Weekly Review

Several years ago, U.S. fighter pilots testing computer-guided navigation were surprised when the autopilot system flipped their planes as they passed over the Equator and into negative latitude. Of course, it was negative only according to the general belief that "the history of the world has almost always been written from a point of view situated around forty-five degrees latitude [i.e., the Northern Hemisphere]." Guadalupi (coauthor of The Dictionary of Imaginary Places) and Shugaar (translator of Niccolo's Smile) hope to unveil what has fascinated and often frightened explorers as they traveled along the equator, the longest line on Earth. The authors center their histories and themes on three places along Latitude Zero: South America and the Spanish search for mythic El Dorado; Africa and the geographical exploration of the Nile and Congo river systems; the South Pacific and seafaring adventure. Their project is more a revisitation of a worthy subject than a narrative of new discovery. The names, places and histories are familiar (Sir Walter Raleigh and his failed trip to find the city of gold; Stanley and Livingston tromping through the African hinterland; Magellan's incomplete circumnavigation of the globe; the eruption of Krakatoa). More discouraging is their desire to uncover tales of the equator while operating under historically Western European assumptions. (Their insistence on referring to Africa as the "Dark Continent" particularly lacks irony.) Although it doesn't demonstrate rigorous scholarship, this book is nevertheless well written and entertaining a good chronicle of adventure and attempted conquest. Illus. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Guadalupi (The Discovery of the Nile) and Shugaar, who translated Maruzio Viroli's Niccolo's Smile: A Biography of Machiavelli, argue that the equator is "the largest manmade object on Earth" and set out to honor this imaginary 24,000-mile line with stories of those who have traveled it, explored it, exploited it, and conquered those living on it. The book is divided into various geographical and historical sections e.g., "Antiquity," "South America," "Africa," and "Asia/Oceania" and concentrates on the last five centuries. The majority of the text focuses on big names in exploration like Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Richard Burton, Henry Morton Stanley, and David Livingston; the adventures of Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson are also covered. One fascinating tale involves the Galapagos Islands, a destitute but obsessed Austrian baroness, promiscuity, and a rash of suspicious deaths. Filled with stories that are well written and captivating, this study is recommended for public libraries. Margaret Atwater-Singer, Univ. of Evansville, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. vii
I. Antiquityp. 1
1. The Secrets of the Southern Seasp. 6
II. South Americap. 19
2. The Unfortunate Conquistador: Orellana, 1540-1545p. 24
3. The Mutinous Conquistador: Aguirre, 1559-1561p. 36
4. The Man Who Met the Amazons: Quesada, 1569-1572; Berrio, 1580-1590; Sir Walter Raleigh, 1595-1618; Bernard O'Brien, 1620-1634p. 45
5. Measuring the Earth: De La Condamine, 1735-1744p. 55
6. The Penelope of Riobamba, 1745-1770p. 65
7. The Nude Baroness: Elisa von Wagner, 1932-1934p. 75
III. Africap. 85
8. Joan of Arc of the Kongo, 1483-1706p. 89
9. The Impossible Lakes: Burton, Speke, and Grant, 1848-1858p. 98
10. The Nile Unveiled: Burton, Speke, and Grant, 1860-1864p. 108
11. The Missing Lake: Baker, 1864-1865p. 119
12. The Man-Eaters: Carlo Piaggia, 1863; Georg Schweinfurth, 1868p. 128
13. The Front Page: Henry Morton Stanley and Dr. Livingstone, 1866-1877p. 134
14. The Conquest of Equatoria, 1869-1873p. 150
15. The Calamities of Equatoria: Baker, 1873; Lord Gordon, 1880-1885; Stanley and Emin Bey, 1887-1893p. 160
16. Heart of Darkness, 1878-1905p. 181
IV. Asia/Oceaniap. 195
17. Maluku: Magellan and the Spice Islands, 1519-1521p. 199
18. The White Raja: Sir James Brooke, 1839-1868p. 214
19. Around the World in Thirty-five Hours: Krakatoa, 1883p. 235
20. Tusitala in Equator Town: Robert Louis Stevenson in the Gilbert Islands, 1889-1894p. 240
A Note on the Sourcesp. 249
Indexp. 252