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Tropic of Capricorn - 23˚ south

Avatar of inke inke - 21. September 2017 - Discover Namibia

The Canadian musician and speaker, Dave Carroll, and his wife at the signboard of the Tropic of Capricorn in 2015. Carroll achieved social media fame after United Airlines failed to adequately respond to damage caused to his valuable Taylor guitar.

You may have noticed signboards indicating the Tropic of Capricorn alongside the road south of Rehoboth and the Kuiseb Pass. Actually, in Namibia the Tropic of Capricorn cuts across the Erongo, Khomas and Omaheke regions! The signs have become more colourful over time as stickers are continually added by travellers who have stopped to acknowledge 23˚ south. 

But what is 23˚ south?

Everyone has heard of the Tropic of Capricorn but not everyone knows what it actually demarcates. The Tropic of Capricorn occurs at 23˚ south of the equator and is one of the five major circles of latitude marked on maps of the Earth. (The other major circles of latitude are the Tropic of Cancer, the equator, the Arctic Circle and the Antarctic Circle.) 

Twenty-three degrees south, also known as the Tropic of Capricorn, is the southernmost latitude that experiences the sun directly overhead at noon. From here southwards the sun appears at less than a 90˚ angle. 

The name ‘Tropic of Capricorn’ originated two thousand years ago, when the sun was in the constellation Capricorn at the time of the Southern Summer solstice. (It is no longer in Capricorn at this time but is now in Sagittarius.) And the word ‘tropic’ derives from the Greek word ‘trope’, meaning ‘a change of direction’ or ‘a turn’, referring to the phenomenon of the sun appearing to ‘turn back’ at the time of the solstices. (The sun reaches its zenith around the 21st December at the time of the Southern Hemisphere’s summer solstice, at the height of summer.)

The Tropic of Capricorn also passes through Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, as well as Australia’s Coral Sea. 

Ron Swilling

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