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The International Date Line around 180°

The International Date Line (IDL) is an imaginary line on the surface of the Earth opposite the Prime Meridian where the date changes as one travels east or west across it. Roughly along 180° longitude, with diversions to pass around some territories and island groups, it mostly corresponds to the time zone boundary separating −12 and +12 hours Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) (Greenwich Mean Time – GMT). Crossing the IDL travelling east results in a day or 24 hours being subtracted (so the traveler repeats the date), and crossing west results in a day being added. The exact number of hours depends on the time zones.

Contents

Geography

For part of its length, the International Date Line follows the meridian of 180° longitude, roughly down the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In order to keep from crossing nations internally, however, the line deviates to pass around the far east of Russia and various island groups in the Pacific.

In the north the date line swings to the east through the Bering Strait and then west past the Aleutian Islands in order to keep Alaska (part of the United States) and Russia, which are due north and south of each other in that region, on opposite sides of the line and in agreement with the date in the rest of those countries. As a result of this line-adjusting, the right to call itself "The Last Place on Earth" (that is, the latest place) goes to the westernmost Aleutian Island of Attu.

The date line passes equidistantly between the two Diomede IslandsLittle Diomede Island (US) and Big Diomede Island (Russia)—at a distance of 1.5 km (1 mi) from each island.

The date line circumvents the territory of Kiribati by swinging far to the east, almost reaching the 150° meridian.

In the South Pacific the date line swings east such that Wallis and Futuna, Fiji, Tonga, and New Zealand's Kermadec Islands have the same date but Samoa is one day earlier.

The International Date Line can cause confusion among airline travelers. The most troublesome situation usually occurs with short journeys from west to east. To travel from Tonga to Samoa by air, for example, takes approximately two hours but involves crossing the International Date Line, causing passengers to arrive the day before they left. This often causes confusion in travel schedules, like hotel bookings (unless those schedules quote times in UTC, but they typically do not since they must match domestic travel times, local transport, or meeting times). Some examples of time zone adjustments for real air trips are: Alaska-Siberia 21 hours, New Zealand-Cook Islands 22 hours, and Samoa-Tonga 24 hours.

If someone circumnavigates the globe in an airplane from east to west (the same direction as Magellan), one hour is lost for every 15° of longitude crossed, losing 24 hours for one circuit of the globe; compensation is provided by adding 24 hours when crossing the International Date Line (also from east to west). The International Date Line must therefore be observed in conjunction with Earth's time zones: the net adjustment to one's watch is zero. If one crosses the date line at precisely midnight, going westward, one skips an entire day; while going eastward, one repeats the entire day.

For two hours every day, at UTC 10:00–11:59, there are actually three different days observed at the same time. At UTC time Thursday 10:15, for example, it is Wednesday 23:15 in Samoa, which is eleven hours behind UTC, and it is Friday 00:15 in Kiritimati (separated from Samoa by the IDL), which is fourteen hours ahead of UTC. For the first hour (UTC 10:00–10:59), this phenomenon affects inhabited territories, whereas during the second hour (UTC 11:00–11:59) it only affects an uninhabited maritime time zone twelve hours behind UTC.

Cultural references

Inflight airplane monitor showing the crossing of the International Date Line between Alaska and Russia

The first date line problem occurred in association with the circumnavigation of the globe by Magellan's expedition (1519–1522). The surviving crew (a mere 18 men of 217 who departed) returned to a Spanish stopover sure of the day of the week, as attested by various carefully maintained sailing logs. Nevertheless, those on land insisted the day was one day later. This phenomenon, now readily understandable, caused great excitement at the time, to the extent that a special delegation was sent to the Pope to explain this temporal oddity to him. The protagonist in The Twenty-One Balloons also traveled toward the west.

The effect of ignoring the date line is also seen in Jules Verne's book Around the World in Eighty Days, in which the travelers, led by Phileas Fogg, return to London after a trip around the world, thinking that they have lost the bet that is the central premise of the story. Having traveled the direction opposite to the one taken by Magellan, they believe the date there to be one day later than it truly is. Lest anyone accuse Fogg of cheating by obtaining one extra day, this is not so. On average, each travel day was 18 minutes short of a full 24 hours, accumulating to one full day, which they failed to correct as we would by setting our calendar back a day in mid-Pacific.

The date line is also a central factor in Umberto Eco's book The Island of the Day Before, in which the protagonist finds himself on a becalmed ship, with an island close at hand on the other side of the International Date Line. Unable to swim, the protagonist's writings indulge in increasingly confused speculation of the physical, metaphysical and religious import of the date line.

De facto and de jure date lines

The IDL drawn on the map on this page and all other maps is now and always has been an artificial construct of cartographers—it is de facto. No international organization nor any treaty between nations has fixed the "straight line" segments and their junctions. All nations unilaterally determine their standard time zones, which are applicable only on land and adjacent territorial waters. These national zones do not extend into international waters. Indeed, the 1884 International Meridian Conference explicitly refused to propose or agree to any time zones, stating that they were outside its purview. The conference resolved that the Universal Day (midnight-to-midnight Greenwich Mean Time), which it did agree to, "shall not interfere with the use of local or standard time where desirable".

The nautical date line is a de jure construction determined by international agreement. It is the result of the 1917 Anglo-French Conference on Time-keeping at Sea, which recommended that all ships, both military and civilian, adopt hourly standard time zones on the high seas. The United States, for example, adopted its recommendation for US military and merchant marine ships in 1920. This date line is implied but not explicitly drawn on time zone maps. It follows the 180° meridian except where it is interrupted by territorial waters adjacent to land, forming gaps—it is a pole-to-pole dashed line. Ships must adopt the standard time of a country if they are within its territorial waters, but must revert to international time zones (15° wide pole-to-pole gores) as soon as they leave its territorial waters. In reality they use these time zones only for radio communication etc. Internally in the ship, e.g. for work and meal hours they use a suitable time zone of their own wish. The 15° gore that is offset from UTC by twelve hours is bisected by the nautical date line into two 7.5° gores that differ from UTC by ±12 hours.

Historical alterations

International Date Line in 1888

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]

Jewish date lines

The concept of an international date line is first mentioned in a 12th century Talmudic commentary[2][3] which seems to indicate that the day changes in an area where the time is six hours ahead of Jerusalem (90 degrees east of Jerusalem, a line running through the Philippines). This line which he refers to as the K'tzai Hamizrach (the easternmost line) is used to calculate the day of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. According to some sources it is alluded to in the Talmud (Rosh Hashana and Eruvin) as well as in the Jerusalem Talmud.

The date line poses a problem for religious travelers relative to the day on which to observe the Shabbat and Holidays. The Shabbat is on the seventh day of the week which is constant if one stays on the same side of the date line. The problem occurs when a Jewish traveler crosses the line and for whom it is Friday but for the city the traveler is visiting, it is Saturday. Most authorities hold that the traveler should keep his or her own calendar (so it is still Friday for the traveler) until the traveler meets locals for whom it is Saturday and only then would the traveler use the local calendar.

Notes

  1. ^ Ariel, Avraham; Berger, Nora Ariel (2005). Plotting the Globe: Stories of Meridians, Parallels, and the International Date Line. Greenwood Press. pp. 149. ISBN 0275988953. 
  2. ^ Rabbeinu Zecharya Halevi, Baal Hameor, Tractate Rosh Hashana, 20b
  3. ^ A Traveler's Guide To The International Dateline

External links

Coordinates: 0°N 180°W / 0°N 180°W / 0; -180


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

Noun

the International Date Line (singulare tantum)

  1. An imaginary line on the Earth's surface at 180° longitude, mostly through the Pacific Ocean, to the east of which the calendar date is one day earlier than to the west.

Translations

  • Dutch: internationale datumgrens f.
  • Finnish: kansainvälinen päivämääräraja
  • Japanese: 国際日付変更線 (kokusai hizuke henkousen)
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Wikipedia


Simple English


The International Date Line (IDL), also known as just the Date Line, is an imaginary line on the surface of the Earth, going from north to south in the Pacific Ocean. The date becomes one day later as one travels across it in western direction, and one day earlier as one travels across it in eastern direction.

The reason for this effect is that the countries on the eastern side of the International Date Line, (located in or outside eastern Asia) have the time zone 10-12 hours more than Greenwich. And the countries on western side of it (Alaska/Hawaii and other areas) have the time zone 9-12 hours less than Greenwich. So when travelling across the line, one's watch has to be adjusted 20-24 hours, depending on the time zones.

For example, New Zealand is twelve hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time while Hawaii is ten hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. When travelling from New Zealand to Hawaii the clocks must be switched 22 hours backwards, about one day.

Contents

Geography

International Date Line follows the meridian of 180° longitude down the middle of the Pacific Ocean for some time. So that it does not cross nations, it passes around the far east of Russia and other archipelagos in the Pacific.

In the north the date line turns to the east through the Bering Strait and then west past the Aleutian Islands in order to keep Alaska and Russia on opposite sides of the line. This is to keep it in agreement with the date of the rest of those countries. The date line passes equidistantly between the two Diomede Islands—Little Diomede Island (US) and Big Diomede Island (Russia)—at a distance of 1.5 km (1 mi) from each island.

The date line circumvents the territory of Kiribati by swinging far to the east, almost reaching the 150° meridian.

In the South Pacific the date line swings east such that Wallis and Futuna, Fiji, Tonga, and New Zealand's Kermadec Islands have the same date but Samoa is one day earlier.

The International Date Line can cause confusion among airline travelers. The most problematic situation usually occurs with short journeys from west to east. To travel from Tonga to Samoa by air, for example, takes about two hours but involves crossing the International Date Line, causing passengers to arrive the day before they left. This often causes confusion in travel schedules, like hotel bookings. Some examples of time zone adjustments for real air trips are: Alaska-Siberia 21 hours, New Zealand-Cook Islands 22 hours, and Samoa-Tonga 24 hours.

If someone travels around the globe in an airplane from east to west (the same direction as Magellan), they should subtract one hour for every 15° of longitude crossed, losing 24 hours for one circuit of the globe; but 24 hours are added when crossing the International Date Line (from east to west). The International Date Line must therefore be observed in conjunction with Earth's time zones: the net adjustment to one's watch is zero. If one crosses the date line at precisely midnight, going westward, one skips an entire day; while going eastward, one repeats the entire day.

For two hours every day, at UTC 10:00–11:59, there are actually three different days observed at the same time. At UTC time Thursday 10:15, for example, it is Wednesday 23:15 in Samoa, which is eleven hours behind UTC, and it is Friday 00:15 in Kiritimati (separated from Samoa by the IDL), which is fourteen hours ahead of UTC. For the first hour (UTC 10:00–10:59), this phenomenon affects inhabited territories, whereas during the second hour (UTC 11:00–11:59) it only affects an uninhabited maritime time zone twelve hours behind UTC.

Problems

Originally, the date line ran along the 180° meridian. This is a relatively good choice, because most of the time, there is no land there. There are however some problems.

Chukchi Peninsula

Looking form the north, one of the first places where the meridian runs over dry land is the Chukchi Peninsula, which is part of Russia. The whole peninsula has been declared part of the UTC+12. This means that the whole of Russia (and with it, the whole of Asia is on the same side of the date line.

Groups of islands

There are many groups of islands in the Pacific Ocean. These groups belong to states, who do not want some islands on one side of the date line, and the rest on the other. They have therefore decided to move the date line, so that all islands are in the same time zone. Examples of this are the Aleutian Islands, which lie on both sides of the 180 ° meridian. They are part of Alaska, and are therefore all in the UTC-10 timezone. The date line has a bump to the west, there.

There are a few Islands, east of the 180°, which belong to New Zealand. It was decided that they should have the same date than New Zealand, so the date line runs east of the meridian there.

Kiribati is a state consisting of many small islands, spread over a hunge portion of the Pacific; the meridian runs right through the state. Because the state needed the same date over all its territory, the date line was shifted east, the biggest shift to occur, in 1995. The easternmost island of Kiribati was renamed to Millennium Island, because it was the first part of the world which saw the new millennium.

The Philippines had very good trade relations with Mexico. They therefore decided they wanted the same date, date line to the west of the state. When the trade with China grew, this was inconvenient. They changed, after Monday, 30. December 1844, came Wednesday, 1 January 1845.

Problems with religion

Jews and Muslims do special things on a precise day of the week (usually Friday). This works well if the traveller stays on the same side of the date line. but there is a problem when travellers move across it. For the traveller it might still be Friday, but the place where he is might say that it is Saturday.

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