AskDefine | Define antipodean

Dictionary Definition

antipodean adj : relating to the antipodes or situated at opposite sides of the earth; "antodpodean latitudes"; "antipodal regions of the earth"; "antipodal points on a sphere" [syn: antipodal]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • a UK /ˈæn.tɪp.əʊˌdɪi.ən/ /"

Extensive Definition

In geography, the antipodes (from Greek αντίποδες, from anti- "opposed" and pous "foot"; ) of any place on Earth is its antipodal point; that is, the region on the Earth's surface which is diametrically opposite to it. Two points which are antipodal [ænˈtɪpədəl] to one another are connected by a straight line through the centre of the Earth.
In vernacular British English and Irish English, "The Antipodes" is sometimes used to refer to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and "Antipodeans" to their inhabitants. Strictly speaking, the antipodes of Great Britain and Ireland are in the Pacific Ocean, south of New Zealand. The antipodes of Australia are in the North Atlantic Ocean, while parts of Spain, Portugal, and Morocco are antipodal to New Zealand.


The antipodes of any place on the Earth is the place which is diametrically opposite it — so situated that a line drawn from the one to the other passes through the centre of the Earth and forms a true diameter. For example, the antipodes of New Zealand's North Island lies in Spain. Most of the earth's land surfaces have ocean at its antipodes, this being a consequence of most land being in the northern hemisphere.
An antipodal point is sometimes called an antipode, a back-formation from the Greek plural antipodes, whose singular in Greek is antipous.
The antipodes of any place on Earth must be distant from it by 180° of longitude, and must be as many degrees to the north of the equator as the original is to the south; in other words, the latitudes are numerically equal, but one is north and the other south. The map shown above is based on this relationship; it shows a Lambert azimuthal equal-area projection map of the Earth, in pink, overlaid on which is another map, in blue, shifted horizontally by 180° of longitude and inverted about the equator with respect to latitude. This map allows the antipodes of any point on the Earth to be easily located.
Noon at the one place is midnight at the other (although daylight saving and irregularly-shaped time zones affect this in most places); seasonally, the longest day at one point corresponds to the shortest day at the other, and midwinter at one point is contemporaneous with midsummer at the other.
In the calculation of days and nights, midnight on the one side may be regarded as corresponding to the noon either of the previous or of the following day. If a voyager sails eastward, and thus anticipates the sun, his dating will be twelve hours in advance, while the reckoning of another who has been sailing westward will be as much in arrears. There will thus be a difference of twenty-four hours between the two when they meet. To avoid the confusion of dates which would thus arise, it is necessary to determine a meridian at which dates should be brought into agreement, known as the International Date Line.

Mathematical description

If the coordinates (longitude and latitude) of a point on the Earth’s surface are (θ, φ), then the coordinates of the antipodal point can be written as (θ ± 180°,−φ). This relation holds true whether the Earth is approximated as a perfect sphere or as a reference ellipsoid.


The Greek word is attested in Plato's dialogue Timaeus, already referring to a spherical Earth, explaining the relativity of the terms "above" and "below": The term is taken up by Aristotle (De caelo 308a.20), Strabo, Plutarch and Diogenes Laertius, and was adopted into Latin as antipodes. The Latin word changed its sense from the original "under the feet, opposite side" to "those with the feet opposite", i.e. a bahuvrihi referring to hypothetical people living on the opposite side of the Earth. Medieval illustrations imagine them in some way "inverted", with their feet growing out of their heads, pointing upward.
In this sense, Antipodes first entered English in 1398 in a translation of the 13th century De Proprietatibus Rerum by Bartholomeus Anglicus, translated by John of Trevisa: (Translation: Yonder in Ethiopia are the Antipodes, men that have their feet against our feet.)

Historical significance

The term plays a certain role in the discussion about the shape of the Earth. The antipodes being an attribute of a spherical Earth, some authors used their perceived absurdity as an argument for a flat Earth. However, knowledge of the spherical Earth being widespread even during the Dark Ages, only occasionally disputed on theological grounds, the medieval dispute surrounding the antipodes mainly concerned the question whether they were inhabitable: since the torrid clime was considered impassable, it would have been impossible to evangelize them, posing a dilemma between two equally unacceptable possibilities that either Christ had appeared a second time in the antipodes, or that the inhabitants of the antipodes were irredeemably damned. Such an argument was forwarded by the Spanish theologian Tostatus as late as the 15th century.
Saint Augustine (354–430) argued against people inhabiting the antipodes:
Since these people would have to be descended from Adam, they would have had to travel to the other side of the Earth at some point; Augustine continues:
The author of the Norwegian book Konungs Skuggsjá, from around 1250, discusses the existence of antipodes. He notes that they (if they exist) will see the Sun in the north in the middle of the day - and that they will have opposite seasons of the people living in the Northern Hemisphere.
The first European who actually visited the Southern Hemisphere and returned to write about it was Marco Polo (on his way home, sailing south of the Malay Peninsula in 1292). He noted that it was impossible to see the star Polaris from there.
The idea of dry land, inhabited or not, in the Southern climes, the Terra Australis was introduced by Ptolemy, and appears on European maps as an imaginary continent from the 15th century. In spite of having been discovered relatively late by European explorers, Australia was inhabited very early in human history, the ancestors of the Indigenous Australians having reached it at least 50,000 years ago.

List of antipodes


Around 71% of the earth's surface is covered by oceans; thus the majority of locations on land do not have land-based antipodes.


To within 100 km, with at least one major city (pop ≥ 1 million): Taiwan (formerly called Formosa) is partly antipodal to the province of Formosa in Argentina.

Cities and Geographic features

Gibraltar is antipodal to a land location on Great Barrier Island about 130 km from Auckland, New Zealand. This illustrates the old bromide that the sun never set on the British Empire; the sun still does not set on the British Commonwealth.
The northern part of New Caledonia, still an overseas territory of France, is antipodal to some thinly-populated desert in Mauritania, a part of the former French West Africa. As with the British Empire, the sun never set on the French Empire at its peak, either.
Santa Vitória do Palmar, the most southerly town of more than 10,000 people in Brazil, is antipodal to Cheju Island, the southernmost territory of the Republic of Korea.
The Big Island of Hawaii is antipodal to the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
Desolate Kerguelen Island is antipodal to an area of thinly-inhabited plains on the border between the US state of Montana and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.
St. Paul Island and Amsterdam Island are antipodal to thinly-populated parts of the eastern part of the US state of Colorado.
South Georgia Island is antipodal to the northernmost part of Sakhalin Island.
Lake Baikal is partially antipodal to the Straits of Magellan.
By definition, the North Pole and the South Pole are antipodes.

Popular culture

In 2006, Ze Frank challenged viewers of his daily webcast the show with zefrank to create an "Earth sandwich" by simultaneously placing two pieces of bread at antipodal points on the Earth's surface. The challenge was successfully completed by viewers in Spain and New Zealand.
The May 19th, 2008 Official Lost Audio Podcast gave credence to a theory that the Island is located at Tunisia's antipode, which is in the south Pacific east of New Zealand.
In November 2007, during the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the Russian documentary filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky presented his plans to make a film about antipodes.


External links

antipodean in Catalan: Antípoda
antipodean in Czech: Protinožci
antipodean in Danish: Antipode
antipodean in German: Antipode
antipodean in Estonian: Antipood
antipodean in Spanish: Antípodas
antipodean in French: Point antipodal
antipodean in Korean: 대척점
antipodean in Italian: Punti antipodali (geografia)
antipodean in Hebrew: נקודות אנטיפודיות
antipodean in Dutch: Antipode
antipodean in Japanese: 対蹠地
antipodean in Norwegian: Antipode
antipodean in Polish: Antypody
antipodean in Portuguese: Antípoda
antipodean in Russian: Антипод
antipodean in Finnish: Antipodi
antipodean in Swedish: Antipod
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