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The name Ecuador, translated literally means 'Equator', simply because the Equator runs right through the middle of the country. The capital, Quito, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When the Incas arrived on the scene in the latter half of the 15th century, they began a process of trying to absorb the native tribes into an Incan Empire. Emperor Huayna Capac liked Quito so much that he made it the second capital of the Incan Empire. After Capac's death in 1527, a bitter civil war ensued, the defining battle was fought and won on Ecuadorian territory and still today the battle is looked upon with pride, being the first and only time Ecuador confronted and defeated a bigger nation.
As the Incan Civil War still raged in 1531, the Spanish arrived and with them came common germs and diseases and as a result large numbers of the native population died as a they had no immunity to things such as the common cold. The conquest of Ecuador was born out of trickery and deceit. Ecuador gained independence from Spain in 1830.
Ecuador are the guardians of one of the most famous islands in human history, The Galapagos Islands. In 1979 UNESCO declared it to be a National Heritage for Humanity. The Galapagos is probably the most protected region on the planet as the realisation that tourism and increased publicity of the rare and unique creatures can do harm to the delicate balance. Armed patrols have been sent to stop illegal fishing in the area as it was discovered that this drove away the White tipped Reef Shark.
The White Tip is also targeted along with the Hammerhead Shark for their fins which sold for a huge profit. The fins are cut from the live shark which is then thrown back only to sink and drown. The fins themselves are used in Shark Fin Soup (below) as well as for medicinal purposes. This practice is very common in China where the soup is used for special occasions such as weddings.
There are 43 volcanoes situated in Ecuador, 15 are found on the Galapagos Islands. Volcanoes are formed as the Tectonic Plates move and grind against each other causing fractures in the earths crust allowing super-heated moulten rock to rise to the surface. The Galapagos traces the movement of these plates because each island is formed from an erupting volcano deep under the sea and over time a line of islands was formed as the plate moved.
Quito, the capital city, is situated on the eastern slopes of Pichincha, an active Stratovolcano and has a population of 2.5 million. A number of 'monuments' have been erected to showcase the fact that the Equator passes at a certain point. The precision of this is a matter of opinion as the line that determines the Equator is in various locations within Quito, by as much as 240m (790ft). A few locals have set up their own private attraction to show the effects of living on the Equator, like for example that water flows in both directions due to the Coriolis Effect, a phenomenon caused by the rotation of the earth.