Formosa, the Dragon’s Triangle and the Meccan Antipodes

Orange indicates points of land that are antipodal to each other (from Wikipedia).

If you were to stand on any point of dry land and drill straight through the centre of the Earth and out the other side, your chances of finding yourself on the bottom of the ocean would be very good. The vast majority of the planet’s land, about 96%, is antipodal to ocean. The reason for this is that nearly 90% of land exists within one hemisphere, known as the land hemisphere. The land hemisphere is centred in France and encompasses Europe, Africa and North America, and most of South America and Asia.

Until well into the twentieth century, the European name for Taiwan was Formosa, from the Portuguese Ilha Formosa, or beautiful island. By coincidence, on the exact opposite side of the world is the Argentinian province of Formosa, named from the Spanish word for beautiful.

North of Taiwan, near Japan, is a region of ocean known as the Formosa Triangle, the Dragon Triangle or the Devil’s Sea. The area has a reputation for causing ships to vanish, reminiscent of the Bermuda Triangle. Bizarrely, the Dragon Triangle is antipodal to the Bermuda Triangle. Or it would be bizarre, except that both were largely inventions of one man, author Charles Berlitz. Most of the mythology surrounding the triangles was comprehensively dismissed in the mid 70’s by Larry Kusche.

Tematangi is an Atoll in French Polynesia in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. Otherwise
unremarkable, Tematangi is the nearest point of land antipodal to Mecca (it’s about 50 km
away from being the true Meccan antipodes). Theoretically, this makes determining the Qibla, the direction a Muslim should face when praying, difficult to determine on Tematangi. The direction can change dramatically depending on what part of the small island you’re on. In reality, I don’t know if any Muslims live on Tematangi.

A similar situation occurs in Mecca in that the Qibla varies greatly depending on where one is within the city. It’s often wrongly thought that Muslims face towards Mecca to pray. They are actually facing the ancient shrine within Mecca, the Kaaba and therefore, the location of the Kabaa determines the Qibla within Mecca.

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