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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

"I didn't know what day it was when you walked into the room," rasped Rod Stewart some time in the Seventies. Perhaps he was in the Phillipines, Alaska or Samoa.

It's New Year's Eve tomorrow. In the meantime (geddit?) here are some Quite Interesting facts about the International Date Line:

The Philippines, as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, long had its most important communication with Acapulco in Mexico, and was accordingly placed on the east side of the date line, despite being at the western edge of the Pacific Ocean. 00:01 Tuesday in London was 17:21 Monday in Acapulco and about 08:05 Monday in Manila. During the 1840s, trade interests turned to China, the Dutch East Indies and adjacent areas, and the Philippines was changed to the west side of the date line. Monday, 30 December 1844 (ending up as a 365-day year, despite being a leap year) was followed by Wednesday, 1 January 1845.

Until 1867, Alaska began Russia's day, with the date line following the partially defined border between Russian Alaska and British North America, including the colony of British Columbia. The day before the purchase by the United States took effect, it was Friday, 6 October 1867, in the Julian calendar (used by Russia at the time), which would have been 18 October in the Gregorian calendar. The time in New Archangel would have been 12:00 when it was 12:02, Thursday, 17 October, at the future site of Whitehorse, Yukon, and 12:49, 17 October, at the future site of Vancouver, British Columbia. With the transfer of governance, the date line was shifted (moving Alaska back a day), and the calendar was changed (moving Alaska ahead 12 days), and being effective at midnight the calendar moved ahead one day as well, for a net change of 11 days. Friday, 6 October, was followed by Friday, 18 October (not Saturday, 7 October).

Samoa changed in 1892, eight years following the international conference that would result in de facto development of the Date Line. The king was persuaded by American traders to adopt the American date, being three hours behind California, to replace the former Asian date, being four hours ahead of Japan. The change was made at the end of the day on Monday, 4 July 1892, so there were 367 days (1892 being a leap year), including two occurrences of Monday, 4 July.

The central Pacific Republic of Kiribati introduced a change of date for its eastern half on 1 January 1995, from time zones −11 and −10 to +13 and +14. Before this, the country was divided by the date line. This meant that the date line in effect moved eastwards to go around this country. As a British colony, Kiribati was centered in the Gilbert Islands, just west of the old date line. Upon independence in 1979, the new republic acquired the Phoenix and Line Islands from the United States and the country found itself straddling the date line. Government offices on opposite sides of the line could only communicate by radio or telephone on the four days of the week when both sides experienced weekdays simultaneously. A consequence of this time zone revision was that Kiribati, by virtue of its easternmost possession, the uninhabited Caroline Atoll at 150°25′ west, started the year 2000 on its territory before any other country on earth, a feature which the Kiribati government capitalized upon as a potential tourist draw. But Ariel and Berger comment that the international community has not taken this date line adjustment very seriously, noting that most world atlases still ignore this Kiribati dateline shift and they continue to represent the International Date as a straight line in the Kiribati area.[1

Suppose the Biltmore Clock, often referenced at this site, had been in Kiribati. What then?

Posted on 12/30/2009 3:47 PM by Mary Jackson
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