This post is mostly about latitude. And maps. And about how different parts of the world would line up if you could compare similar latitudes in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
Latitude is not complicated. It is simply an angle which ranges from 0° at the Equator to 90° at the poles. The North Pole is 90° North (90 N), and the South Pole is 90° South (90 S).
Places with the same latitude share exactly the same hours of daylight no matter what the season, but because of the tilt of the Earth, it makes a big difference whether a latitude has an “N” or “S” at the end. Latitudes north and south have exactly opposite seasons. Winter in the Northern Hemisphere is summer in the South.
But if you forget about the “N” or “S” and compare Australia with similar latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, you find a perspective very different from conventional maps.
Europe is much further north than Australia is south.
How much further? London (at latitude 51.5 N) is almost 1,000 kms closer to the North Pole than Hobart (42.8 S) is to the South Pole.
Even Invercargill (46.24 S), New Zealand’s southernmost city, is almost 600 kms closer to the Equator than London.
Pretty much all of Europe is further from the Equator than Melbourne (37.8 S), except for Athens (37.98 N).
This might explain why, according to Wikipedia, Melbourne is the city with the largest Greek-speaking population outside of Greece :) .
If Australia was in the Northern Hemisphere, Hobart (42.8 S) would be roughly level with Spain’s Bilbao (43.26 N), and just shy of Spain’s north coast, but most of Australia’s mainland would be on the African side of the Mediterranean with Sydney (33.8 S) about level with Casablanca (33.5 N) in Morocco.
Latitude-wise Australia is more African than European
When you flip the Northern hemisphere and superimpose it on Australia, Perth is much closer in latitude to Cairo or Tel Aviv than to anywhere in Europe.
Whether you flip the hemispheres or not, Africa is truly huge. It contains about a fifth of all of the land in the world and is almost 4 times the size of Australia.
Of course much of Africa is in the Southern hemisphere, where Capetown (-33.92 S) and Sydney (33.8 S) are quite close in latitude, while Darwin (12.5 S) is roughly equivalent to the northern tip of Madagascar – which is 1400 kms south of the Equator.
Madagascar may be an island, but it is huge – almost 600,000 sq kms – bigger than Spain or Germany – but still smaller than Australia’s Queensland (1.853 million sq. kms).
10% of South America is in the Northern Hemisphere
Superficially, it would make perfect sense for the Equator to separate North and South America, and for the Panama Canal – situated in that little squiggly bit that separates the two continents – to be exactly on the Equator. Not so.
Panama (8.9 N) is indeed the demarcation point between Central and South America, but it is almost 1000 kilometres north of the Equator, which is much further south, passing through Brazil, Columbia and, of course, Ecuador.
At latitude (0.01 N), Ecuador’s capital Quito straddles the Equator. It is 130 km closer to the meridian than tropical Singapore (1.3 N).
1,330 km further south , Lima (12.04 S), the capital of Peru is about level with Darwin (12.4 S), while Rockhampton (23.37 S) is at a similar latitude to Rio de Janerio (22.9 S).
Sydney (33.8 S) is more or less level with Santiago (33.44 S) in Chile and Buenos Aires (34.6 S) in Argentina. (Being in the Southern Hemisphere, the jacarandas bloom at the same time of year in all three cities).
South America’s southernmost city is in Tierra del Fuego. Ushuaia (54.8 S) is 1,330 Kms south of Hobart. Even so, it is still closer to the Equator than the UK’s Edinburgh [55.95 N]. Ushuaia is at a similar latitude as Australia’s Macquarie Island [54.3 S].
(According to the Australian Antarctic Division, it takes about 3 days by sea to reach Macquarie Island from Hobart – assuming good weather).
In North America, not in the USA
Australians sometimes seem fond of the fact that Australia is about the same size as the continental United States, and that’s true in terms of surface area, (both around 7.7 million sq kms) but latitude is a very different story. If the Southern hemisphere was flipped, some OZ-USA cities would pair.
Hobart (42.8 S) with Boston (42.3 N).
Melbourne (37.8 S) with San Francisco (37.7 N).
Sydney (33.8 S) with Los Angeles (34.05 n),
Brisbane (27.4 S) with Miami, Florida (25.7N).
But latitude-wise, the rest of Australia has more in common with Mexico and Central America.
Rockhampton (23.37 S) is a close match for Havana (23.11 N).
Townsville (19.25 S) with Mexico City (19.4 N).
Darwin (12.4 S) with Managua, Nicaragua. (12 .09 N).
In land area, Australia is more than twice the size of India.
In fact, Australia is larger than not just India, but the entire Indian subcontinent. India + Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal would easily fit inside eastern Australia.
Some city pairs – latitude-wise – moving away from the Equator
Townsville [19.25 S] and Mumbai [19.07 N]
Brisbane [27.4 S] and Kathmandu [27.71 N]
Perth [31.9 S]and Lahore [31.5 N]
Sydney [33.8 S] and Islamabad [33.6 N]
Adelaide [34.9 S]and Kabul [34.55 N]
East Asia in perspective
This map is interesting because the countries in blue (not counting Russia or Iran) account for over 50% of the world’s 7.5 billion population.
Just 4 of these nations, (China, Japan, South Korea, and India) account for over 50% of Australia’s total exports. All of the blue countries together, (excluding Russia & Iran), account for fully 2/3rds of Australia’s total exports.
Australia’s biggest trade deficit is not with any of these nations, but with the USA.
Although in opposite hemispheres, Australia and China both straddle the 30th parallel. China is about 25% larger than Australia in terms of land area.
Some city pairs by latitude -moving away from the Equator.
Rockhampton (23.37 S)- Hong Kong (22.39 N)
Perth (31.9 S) – Shanghai (31.23 N)
Canberra (35.02 S) – Tokyo (35.68 N)
Melbourne (37.8 S)- Seoul (37.56 N) – Beijing (39.9 N)
And finally, Hobart (42.8 S) shares a similar latitude to Russia’s Vladivostok (43.12 N) – who knew?
The maps in this article were created using this handy Interactive Equivalent Latitude Map
created by @ChrisPolis at
Like me, Chris is a fan of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel