When I was a kid, I was somewhat obsessed with this question of, “If you tunnelled straight down into the Earth and right through the core out to the other side, where would you emerge?” It seems like some in Britain think you’d emerge right here, in Australia – hence the use of the word “antipodean” for Australians and New Zealanders – and my dad used to tell me that from Melbourne you’d emerge in Scandinavia. Neither of these is really true; Australia sits pretty much exactly opposite the middle of the North Atlantic, so from Melbourne you’d emerge a few hundred kilometres west of the Azores. From the UK you’d emerge a long way directly south of New Zealand, and from Scandinavia, basically, directly east of that, in a really desolate part of the South Pacific. Not very exciting answers.

More satisfying is that, while most of the world’s landmass lies directly opposite ocean, there are some places that are antipodal to other lands. For example:

  • Much of Argentina and Chile is antipodal to China (with the very southern parts being antipodal to Mongolia and Siberia).
  • Most of northern New Zealand is antipodal to Spain, Portugal and Morocco. For example, Christchurch’s opposite is A Coruña in Galicia, Wellington’s is in Valladolid province, and Whangarei is the antipode of Tangier, Morocco.
  • Maritime southeast Asia is mostly antipodal to northern South America – countries like Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil.
  • Cambodia and southern Vietnam lie opposite to Peru.
  • The opposite side of the world from Taiwan is in Paraguay – with their capitals, Taipei and Asunción, being very close to (less than 100km off being) antipodes of each other.
  • Hawaii’s antipode lies within Botswana.
  • Easter Island is antipodal to part of Rajasthan, India.

Wikipedia has a pretty thorough list, if you’re interested in more specifics. It may seem like the kind of knowledge that has little practical use beyond trivia nights, but it does kind of help to explain if you’re curious about flight routes.

For example, a lot of Australians like travelling to Europe, but it’s so far away that, unless you were travelling from Perth in very recent years and willing to pay a premium for the direct (14,500km) flight, you had to change planes somewhere. Similarly, to reach the east coast of the US, you had to change planes somewhere on the west coast, usually Los Angeles. Before the pandemic hit, Qantas did trial runs and announced they were planning to roll out “ultra-long haul” flights from Sydney direct to New York (16,000km away) and London (17,000km away), with a flight time of 19–20 hours.1 Now two opposite ends of the earth are just over 20,000km apart, so I think you can see how close Sydney is to being the exact opposite side of the world from the midpoint between NYC and London – and how close these flights come to actually traversing half the distance around the world…

  1. Before the pandemic hit, Qantas also planned to roll out direct flights between Brisbane and Chicago, with a comparatively conventional 14,500km distance to cover – same as Perth-London. Those at least would’ve let you bypass LAX and get most of the way to the east coast. These did not get to launch before Covid-19 ground air travel to a halt, though. ↩︎