A north-south cross section of bomb-produced radiocarbon (14C) in the upper 1000 m of the central equatorial Pacific Ocean (CEP) was measured in April, 1979 during Leg 3 of the NORPAX shuttle experiment. The 14C shows an equatorial mixed layer depletion of ∼40‰ compared to subtropical surface waters. Upwelling of deeper, 14C depleted water maintains this minimum. Two subsurface tongues of high 14C water, found north and south of the equator, are associated with high salinity water and probably result from exchange with subtropical surface water. The continued increase in mixed layer 14C levels in the CEP (up to 1979) indicates the importance of 14C input from these subsurface 14C maxima. Equatorward meridional advection resulting from geostrophic flow is the predominant supply of water upwelling at the equator and controls the 14C distribution in the CEP. The results of multi-layer mixing model calculations indicate an upwelling transport rate of 47 Sverdrups (5S–4N) and a maximum depth of upwelling of 225 m (σ0 = 26.5). These equatorial circulation characteristics explain the 14C, ΣCO2, oxygen, salinity and tritium distributions measured during Leg 3. The time history of mixed layer bomb 14C concentrations in the CEP indicate an exchange time of 4–6 years between the subtropical and equatorial surface oceans.