Just a jump to the left . . .

. . . of the International Date Line, that is. Samoa  (formally “Western Somoa” in the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean) is . . .

 . . . skipping Friday and going straight to Saturday as it shifts its time zone forward by 24 hours in a bid to move into line with Australia and New Zealand.

Samoa is currently the last country to see the sun go down each day, but the change in the international dateline will make it the first to see the sun rise.

The dateline, which runs through the middle of the Pacific, currently runs to the west of the island nation, meaning that it is 11 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.

Carols, prayers and a speech from prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in the last hour of Thursday (local time) will move the country straight into Saturday.

“In doing business with New Zealand and Australia, we’re losing out on two working days a week,” the prime minister said, explaining the change.

“While it’s Friday here, it’s Saturday in New Zealand and when we’re at church Sunday, they’re already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane.”

Once the switch is made Samoa will be one hour ahead of Wellington and three ahead of Sydney.

Source: 774 ABC Melbourne

If you look at a map of that part of the world, and where the International Date Line (IDL) is situated, this change makes a whole lot of sense. Although Samoa only lies several hours “east” of Australia and New Zealand, it was a day behind them. In fact the whole IDL in that area seems rather arbitery. Which shows that if you’re living on a small island in the middle of the Pacific, life is confusing! It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “island time”.

Map source: Wikimedia Commons (click on map to enlarge)

We were sitting and wondering about some of the consequences of this .  .  .

  • What if your birthday was supposed to be today? Do you celebrate it on the Saturday? Or do you get to skip this year and stay the same age?
  • There will be no births or deaths recorded in Samoa for Friday 30 December 2011. It sounds like a 24-hour alien abduction took place!
  • What about scheduled sporting events? Imagine a 5-day cricket test match, suddenly being shortened to 4 days. In a game which already has a complex set of rules governing who wins, this would be a serious complication!
  • How does this affect people’s salaries and wages? Do they lose  a day’s wage? Who would voluntarily want to do that? “Sir, I really wanted to come to work on Friday, but you wouldn’t let me!”. According to the source article guests “staying in Samoa’s hotels this week will not be expected to pay for a day that does not exist, but employers must still pay staff for the Friday that never was.”
  • What about scheduled flights? Are they cancelled – or do the pilots get told by air traffic control that they are coming in way too late to land!

So many things to think about . . . But then Samoa must be used to these big changes. In September 2009, Samoans had to start driving on the left-side of the road, as do most other countries in the region.

Of course, if you were alive 120 years ago, you would be fine because the “switch will reverse a decision made 120 years ago to move to the east of the International Dateline because most of Samoa’s trade at the time was with the United States and Europe.” [ Source: 774 ABC Melbourne ].

Wishing everybody a Happy New Year and good health, happiness and loads of fun for 2012!

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Categories: News, Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)


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17 Comments on “Just a jump to the left . . .”

  1. December 30, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    Thanks — I had no idea this was happening.

    The quote about reversing “a decision made 120 years ago to move to the east of the International Dateline” makes it sound like, instead of redrawing the Date Line, they physically moved the islands.

    • December 31, 2011 at 7:23 am #

      Yes, I agree . . . it often sounds like the IDL is a real, fixed landmark and everything shifts around it.

  2. December 30, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    Life is so complicated!

    • December 31, 2011 at 7:23 am #

      Thank goodness Australians know what time-zone they’re supposed to be in! 😉

  3. December 30, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    I knew this was happening but hadn’t thought what it might mean for babies born tomorrow in terms of their birthdays. Great questions, Lisa.

    Happy New Year to you and Willy from Sara and me!


    • December 31, 2011 at 7:25 am #

      It is quite a thing to lose a day completely!

      A Happy New Year to you and Sara too! 🙂

  4. December 30, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    This is incredible – I didn’t know about any of this either – totally fascinating! Very intriguing questions you asked there, Lisa.

    Happy New Year to you and Willie and of course the pup!

    • December 31, 2011 at 7:26 am #

      I wouldn’t have known about it either, but Willie saw a news item about it. When he first told me, I thought he was joking and had to look it up online.

      Happy New Year to you, Richard and your kitty! 🙂

  5. Lu
    December 31, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    How interesting! I also hadn’t a clue that this was happening…

    Happy New Year to you, Willie, Rosie & Lucy – May you all have a fantastic 2012!!

    • January 2, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

      Notes from Africa is THE place to come to for weird (but often true) stories! 😉 Thanks for the New Year wishes . . . don’t forget about Lucy, the cat.

  6. January 3, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    Happy New Year!

    Now I`ll be trying to figure out all the ways a skipped day could impact life- all day…. Thanks.

    • January 3, 2012 at 6:18 am #

      Hey, I’ve started a new game! 😉 Always happy to provide entertainment to my readers . . .

  7. January 6, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    Heh. I visited the Cook Islands and crossed the date line (they’re much further away, so it kind of makes sense) but the jump of a day, even in normal conditions, was strange – as was the return trip, when we arrived home ‘before’ we left!

    It must be bizarre to have the whole country shift like that. Though on the flip side; I wonder how many will really notice that much? After all, the tide, the sun, the trees – none of them pay attention to the calendar date.

    • January 8, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      I hadn’t thought about the fact that people routinely have to go back or forwards a day when they travel in that part of the world. Suppose it only really impacts the business world, since it has no effect on natural rythyms.

  8. January 6, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    oh boy – thank goodness I don’t live there because it was my birthday! Or maybe it would have been good because then I could claim to stay the same age for another year – but then I do that already anyway 🙂

    • January 8, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      A belated Happy Birthday to you! So are you starting to count backwards now . . . or have you gone the “I’m 40-plus” route?! 😉

      • January 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

        Thank you Lisa. No – I have just had my 7th 40th birthday 🙂

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