The earth’s surface is approximately 70% covered with water, which part is thus uninhabitable by man. The 30% of the earth occupied by land surfaces is not in one single land mass, but is stretched out in an odd shaped assortment of continents and islands, all of which are either inhabited or potentially habitable by man.
Three of the seven great continents (Europe, Africa, Asia) are actually joined together, as are two others (North America, South America). During the glacial period, the sea level was lower and a land bridge across the Bering Strait connected Eurasia with the Americas. Australia was possibly connected to Asia by a land bridge across the Malaysian Peninsula and the islands of Indonesia.
The major land areas of the world have probably been connected together until fairly recent times, certainly within the period of man’s residence on the earth. By the Biblical chronology, in fact, this situation must have prevailed for some period of time after the great Flood and even until after the dispersion at Babel. The Bible says: "Of them (that is, of the descendants of Noah, after the Flood) was the whole earth overspread" (Genesis 9:19). Also, it says: "From thence (that is, from Babel) did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth" (Genesis 11: 9).
It is significant that ancient secular historians, as well as modem archaeological researchers, all agree that the development of civilization began somewhere in the so-called "Bible lands,"—not in Europe or America or China or South Africa, but rather somewhere in the region where Asia and Europe and Africa join together, most likely in the Tigris-Euphrates region. The ancient nations of Sumeria, Egypt, Elam, Assyria, and others of comparable antiquity, were all centered around this area. Similarly the beginnings of written communication, of transportation, of animal domestication, of agriculture, and of most other basic ingredients of structured human economies, are known to focus on this region.
At first, one might be tempted to offer these facts in support of the divine inspiration of the Bible, since the Bible does indicate that civilizations existed before the Flood and that therefore men carried with them aspects of that common civilized knowledge as they gradually spread around the world from Mount Ararat and the city of Babel. These facts do, of course, support the general historical accuracy of the Bible, but the historical fact that civilization began in this region does not in itself demonstrate that the writer of Genesis required divine revelation in order to report that fact correctly. He may simply have been a good historian. The rise of civilization in that region might be attributed to favorable physical and climatological conditions rather than to the Genesis story that Noah’s Ark landed in the vicinity. However, there may be a more subtle correlation between the Bible and geography than this, one which cannot be explained in terms of natural physical factors such as climate and soil fertility.
The argument might go like this: since God intended for man to "fill the earth" after the Flood (Genesis 9:1), and since the ark "rested upon the mountains of Ararat" the very day that God restrained the Flood from further destruction (Genesis 8:1-4, compared with Genesis 7:11), wouldn’t it be reasonable to think that God had arranged for the "port of disembarkation" to be located somewhere near the geographical center of the land which man was commanded to fill?
This may not be a necessary inference, but it does seem the most appropriate thing for God to do, since He was at this time acting completely in grace toward Noah and his sons. At any rate, it seems to be worth investigating as a hypothesis. There are a few Scriptural intimations to this effect, though no definite statement. For example, Ezekiel 38:12 speaks of the people of Israel as those "that dwell in the midst of the land" (King James Version). The latter phrase is better translated as "the navel of the earth." Many Bible commentators have interpreted this verse to mean that the land of Israel is located at the geographical center of the earth’s land surfaces.
There are also the various references to "the four corners of the earth," or better "the four quarters of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12; Revelation 7:1; Revelation 20:8). This is standard terminology for directional identification by which land areas are divided into four quadrants (northeast, northwest, southwest, southeast), with the "origin of coordinates" or "center," from which directions are measured, being placed at the focal point of interest. Invariably, in Scripture, this focal point, to which all directions are oriented, is assumed to be in Israel, or even more specifically, at Jerusalem.
It is significant that these "Bible lands" were not only the center of dispersion of the nations after the Flood when God told those who had been saved to go out and multiply and "fill the earth," but were also the center of dispersion of the news of redemption, when God told those who had been saved to go out into "all the world" with this witness. Once again, the interest of maximum efficiency in the accomplishment of God’s work of grace would have been best served, other things being equal, by seeing that this center of evangelistic outreach was established near the earth’s geographic center.
Though none of these arguments are fully convincing, we do have the feeling that it would at least somehow be appropriate for God to ordain the geography itself to be an expression of His love and concern for man. At least the subject is worth investigating. As a matter of fact, the location of the earth’s geographical center should be a matter of some value entirely apart from any theological considerations. In addition to its purely academic and esthetic interest, there could be innumerable future applications of the information. If ever there is to be a world administration, or a world communications center, or a world center of education or transportation or commerce or almost any organized activity of mankind as a whole, the most efficient location for such systems would logically be near the geographical center of the world’s inhabited lands.
Other things being equal, the cost of operating such systems would be minimized and the ease of utilizing such systems would be maximized if their hubs were located reasonably near the center of all the subsystems around the world that would have to be keyed into them. The location of the center of the earth is thus desirable not only esthetically and theologically, but also scientifically and economically.
Until the present time, however, such information could not have been acquired at all. In the first place, the geography of the earth’s land areas would have to be mapped with reasonable accuracy, and this was not accomplished until modern times.
However, the geography of the continents and islands is so intricately complex that there was no feasible way of calculating their center until the advent of the high-speed digital computer. If the earth had only one continent, and if it had a regular geometric shape (say a circle or rectangle), it would be easy enough to determine its center. But the actual situation is of course vastly more complicated.
The problem is basically to determine that point on the earth’s surface, the average distance from which to all other points on the earth’s land surfaces is a minimum. This point is defined as the earth’s geographical center.
(1) Divide all the earth’s land areas into small, equal, unit areas.
(2) Select one of these unit areas as a possible location of the earth’s center.
(3) Measure the distance along the earth’s surface from this reference area to each of the other unit areas, all over the earth.
(4) Add up all these distances and divide the total by the number of individual distances measured. The result is the average distance from the reference area to all the other unit areas around the world.
(5) Repeat the entire process in steps (1) through (4) above for each one of all the other unit areas around the world.
(6) Compare the "average distances" so calculated for all the different unit areas. The one for which the average distance turns out to be the smallest is the earth’s geographical center.
Actually, the calculation becomes feasible only if it can be programmed on a high speed computer. To accomplish the latter requires a knowledge of spherical trigonometry, geodesy, calculus, and computer science. In addition, there must be available accurate data on the earth’s land and water areas, arranged in a grid network tied to latitude and longitude. With these factors present, the computation then becomes quite feasible.
This particular research investigation was first proposed by Andrew J. Woods, M.S., a physicist with Gulf Energy and Environmental Sciences in San Diego. The project was sponsored by the Institute for Creation Research to the extent of providing funds for computer time rental and for publication of the resulting Technical Monograph. Mr. Woods performed all the analyses and programming on his own time. His results are summarized in the form of a project report, incorporated now in that Monograph. The theory behind the analysis, the computer results, and his conclusions are all given in detail there.
This fact is significant statistically. If we consider the Bible lands to be bounded roughly by Memphis (the capital of ancient Egypt) on the south and west (latitude 30°, longitude 31°), and Ararat on the north and east (latitude 39°, longitude 44°), this will include Babylon (latitude 33°, longitude 44°) and Jerusalem (latitude 32° , longitude 35°), as well as practically all the cities in which the events narrated in the Old Testament took place. The land area contained in this quadrangle (between latitudes 30° and 39°, and longitudes 31° and 44°), is approximately 440,000 square miles. The total area of the earth’s surface is approximately 197,000,000 square miles, 450 times greater.
Therefore, the probability that the earth’s center would happen to fall in these Bible lands is only one chance out of 450. This is highly significant, from a statistical point of view, even more so in light of the Biblical inferences to this effect, and is strong evidence of divine planning. The events could just as well have taken place, so far as chance is concerned, in any one of 449 other land areas of equal size elsewhere, land areas not containing the earth’s geographical hub.
The exact center of the earth, insofar as Mr. Woods’ calculations could determine, was found to be near Ankara, the present capital of Turkey, at latitude 39° and longitude 34°, on the same latitude as Mount Ararat and essentially the same longitude as Jerusalem.
Theologically speaking, it might have seemed more appropriate for this exact center to have turned out to be in Jerusalem, or else at Mount Ararat or possibly Babel. Of these three, it is essentially equidistant, about 550 miles, from Ararat and Jerusalem.
However, since there is no explicit statement in the Bible requiring the earth’s center to be precisely at Ararat or Babel or Jerusalem, all of the implications of Scripture in this regard are well satisfied if the center is somewhere in these Bible lands. Interestingly, the earth’s center at Ankara, together with Jerusalem, Ararat and Babylon form almost a perfect square.
As far as the needs of a potential center of world activities are concerned, these also would be met by a site anywhere in this region. Other factors besides that of precise centrality would of course have to be considered in the choice of such a location.
The calculations made by Woods indicate, in fact, that the average distance to all the world’s land areas varies only slightly for any central site in all this general region. For example, the average distance from the Ankara region was found to be 4,597 miles, whereas the average distance from the Jerusalem area is 4,612 miles and from the Ararat region is 4617 miles, a difference of only 15 miles and 20 miles, respectively, or about 1/3%. In terms of practical applications, the difference is negligible.
By way of contrast, the location of the earth’s "anti-center"—that is, the point with the greatest average distance to all the earth’s land areas, was found to be in the South Pacific, at a point of latitude -45° and longitude -150°. This point is east of the southern tip of New Zealand and west of the southern tip of South America, far from land of any kind. This would be the worst place to locate any kind of world activity center! The average distance to the land areas of the earth from this point was found to be 7,813 miles.
This article is included as Appendix B in the book Adventure on Ararat, available from I.C.R. (March 15, 1973), paper. For a full discussion of the above research study, with complete analysis, obtain the I.C.R. Technical Monograph No. 3, 7he Center of the Earth, by Andrew J. Woods, M.S. (published 1973).
* Dr. Henry M. Morris (1918-2006) was Founder and President Emeritus of ICR.
Cite this article: Morris, H. M. 1973. The Center of the Earth. Acts & Facts. 2 (2).