If you are worn out and irritated, long for solitude and as much distance from the damaging mental static that radiates from the Nation’s Capital. Then here is the spot you seek.
I’ve gone as far as I can go — which was precisely my goal: to travel as close as possible to the exact other side of the planet from Washington, D.C. Cartographers know this as the “antipode” — pronounced AN-teh-pode — the global opposite of any given place. Provided I can get up on this slippery, steep-sided, barnacle-encrusted, seal-inhabited rock, I will have put myself as close to Washington’s antipode as I possibly can.
If you dig a hole straight down from the U.S. Capitol you don’t hit China. You hit a speck of water in the lower Indian Ocean. And this rock before me now, Cumberland Rock, just off the extreme southwestern tip of Australia, a rock named after a 19th-century ship that sank on a connecting reef, is certifiably the nearest land mass to the District’s antipode. You can’t get closer and still have solid ground under your feet.
Now breathe deeply. Not a whiff of shit to be discerned.
If you’re a burned-out Washington automaton, and you really, really, really, REALLY want to get away from beeping faxes and bimbo blather, this is where you come: Cumberland Rock, Australia. The end of the Earth. It’s 100 feet long, 50 feet wide and extends maybe 30 feet above sea level.
Unfortunately, this rock isn’t the true antipode of the Capital, just the nearest piece of dry land.
As it happens, Doyle and a colleague clambered up to the very top of the Capitol dome in 1993 when the Statue of Freedom was brought down for renovation. There, with the aid of more than 10 different satellites, the geodesists took an ultra-precise reading of the Capitol’s position on the planet, accurate to within five centimeters. Good enough for me, I say. The numbers are:
38 degrees 53 minutes 23.31643 seconds north latitude
77 degrees 00 minutes 32.61537 seconds west longitude
Using this data, Doyle then gave me the Capitol’s antipodal position, calculated “through the Earth-mass center” using the North American Datum of 1983. The numbers are:
38 degrees 53 minutes 23.31643 seconds south latitude
102 degrees, 59 minutes, 27.38463 seconds east longitude
So I had my spot. But I was soon deflated to learn the antipode — 12,507 miles away — was in the middle of a big watery nowhere, way down in the lower Indian Ocean near a giant rend in the ocean floor called the Diamantina Fracture, 741.6 miles southwest of Australia. The sea here is seriously deep — 15,912 feet, enough to fog anyone’s face mask. Only a few wayward trawlers ply the area, seeking hapuka fish. The surrounding waters are known as some of the stormiest and loneliest anywhere in the world.
Why lonely? Because there’s absolutely no land in the immediate neighborhood — no islands, no reefs, no rocks, no coconut bras, no grilled conch. Just water. Not exactly fantasy material.
Diamantina Fracture, it figures. We all knew that the Suck in Washington DC was bad. And at it’s Antipode is the Abyss.