I learned something new today. I learned that Mount Everest is not the highest mountain on Earth. In a manner of speaking anyway.
Everest is generally reckoned to be the highest mountain because it stands 8850 metres above sea level. That would be it if it weren’t for one teeny little thing: the Earth is not a perfect sphere but bulges by some 20 km at the equator. There is a mountain in Ecuador called Mount Chimborazo which, while it stands only 6310 metres above sea level, is less than 2° from the equator. Because of the oblateness of the Earth this means it is some 2202 metres1 further from the centre than is Everest.
If the Earth had no oceans then distance from the centre would be a good candidate for measuring the height of mountains. To my mind it’s a better way of measuring it anyway so henceforth if anyone asks me which is the highest mountain in the world I think I’ll be tempted to say it’s Chimborazo. Just so long as I can remember how to pronounce it.
Posted 29 November 2004, 20:46 GMT