What a difference a day makes - A tale of the Samoa international date line (2022)

I arrive at the tiny Apia airport, on the island of Upolu, in Samoa, barely one hour before my flight but the counter, and the entire airport for that matter, hasyet to open. There are a few passengers sitting and chatting around the hall and a line of suitcases queueing in front of the unmanned check-in counter.

The entire set-up looks more like a bus stationthan an international airport. It is not the first time I am acquainted with the place, I landed in the same tarmac a week before, from Fiji, which now seems like a buzzing metropolis.

I try counting the number of passengers and realize that, either the plane will be empty, or it will be tiny. There are, however, more kilos in all the small mountains of luggage scattered around than in human weight, despite the severely obese American Samoan population.

Eventually, the personnel from Samoa Air shows up and starts checking in. The owners of all the suitcases come up to the rescue. Both passengers and luggage are weighted in.

There is no place to wait or buy any food or drinks so I sit down and scrutinizethe tarmac, looking for the aircraft. I see a small 19-seater propeller plane. As soon as I step into the plane I see astrange 2-1 seat configuration: the 2-seater right side of the plane isa bench without a separationarmrest in the middle.

(Video) Samoa to skip Friday in time zone change

Our luggage makes an entrance and is strapped on the empty seats, at the back of the plane, as if each suitcase was a passenger. That is why there were so few passengers checking-in, suitcases were countedas passengers.

For such a short flight, people seem to betraveling with their entire lives. It must be the Pacific version of the trip North Africanimmigrants in France make through Spain every summer, mattresses and all strapped on the car roofs.This is one of only two ways to reach such an isolated South Pacific Island, the other one being via Hawaii..

The reality of the bench-style seats is apparent as soon as I get to my seat: they are big enough for two “regular-sized” passengers or one large Samoan. The issue is that, in my case, they are trying to fit the skinny tourist with an oversized local and it just is not working. Half of my body and my left leg end uphanging off for the entire flight. Needless to say, I know what seat to ask for on the way back.

When I land on American Samoan soil I am, effectively, in the US, and I have traveled back in time: it was, again, my birthday!

“Wouldn’t it be cool to do this on New Year’s Eve?” I think to myself.

I left Western Samoa on the morning after my 32nd birthday. I celebrated my birthday onSavaai, the smaller of the two main Samoan islands, with fabulous white sand beaches and hotels mimicking the local “fale” houses withno walls, just a roof.

(Video) The INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE reveals the truth about SATURDAY SABBATH!

The sound of the waves, about a meter away from my beach hut, had lulled me to sleep on thatspecial day I had devoted to myself. Saavai has a unique way of welcoming the very few tourists whomade it to that end of the world. Locals hang bananas on the bus station for tourists to enjoy and there are no dogs. Practically nobody wears shoes and given the way everybody lives, in the open, it is about the safest place in the world.

In the evening,back on the main island of Upolu, I met my Spanish dive instructor. It was indeed a revelation to find another Spaniard on this remote Pacific island. We bought Indian take-away and devoured it in his jungle hut with rats fighting on the roof and cockroaches running around.

It was comfortable to be able to speak a familiar language and laugh the way you can only laugh with someone youshare a list ofchildhood TV programming with. We had to leave the leftovers in the boxes, on top of the mosquito spray bottles to prevent the cockroaches and other insects from accessing them.

I walk out of the tiny plane in Pago Pago, American Samoa’s capital, asthe feeling on my left leg slowly returns. I am greeted by American Border Police who does not pay much attention to the usual US security protocols. Island Life at its best.

In fact, the security checks were so thin that, on the way back, I managed to board the plane without my passport being stamped as there was no officer when I passed through the Immigration Control so, unknowingly, I just went through.

After almost two months roaming the quieter Pacific islands, American Samoa was a shock. Within the first hour I drive pastseveral petrol stations, two McDonald’s and a few shopping malls. With it, also comes the second most obvious difference: obesity, something which is starting to be a theme in some South Pacific nations but which is extreme in American Samoa,affecting as high as 94% of the population according to the World Health Organization.

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American Samoans are twice the size of their neighbors half an hour flight away. Instead of the usual built frames and strong men that have made New Zealand’s rugby team unbeatable, I see large bellies. Originally from the same ancestors, American Samoamother land’s penchant for fast-food and the relatively cheap price of junk foodcompared to the expensive imported healthy options is havinga terrible impact on the wellness and health of the population.

This tiny American unincorporated territorythrives on tuna fishing, with a canning factory in the middle of the island clearly standing out, and smelling the part. Itssecond most important role is as a naval strategic position South of the Pacific.

The recruitment center for the Army on Pago Pago ranks firstin number of soldier enlistment in the entire US. The economic hardship on this isolated part of the world, where traditional self-sufficient agriculture was long ago abandoned, pushes the youth to enlist.

But, despite their high levels of patriotism, Samoans are only US nationals, butnot citizens and so they can’t vote for President. The island is the southernmost US territory and, together with Jarvis Island, the only South of the Equator.

After spending the night on a traditional fale in Samoa, the brick and mortar buildings on the American side are a contrasting sign of development. The ways of life are also dramatically different.

The two Samoa split at the end of the 19th century during the Treaty of Berlin when the World’s Powers divided the world. Western Samoa became German territory at first and eventually achieved independence from New Zealand in 1962, being the first island-state in the Pacific to do so.Fifty years later,the differences between the two countries are extreme.

(Video) Samoans prepare to lose a day when international dateline is shifted

Whereas Western Samoa evolved slowly and is still a lost paradise of white sand beaches, rugged mountains, cliffs and incredible beauty, American Samoa has fewer sand beaches, it is significantly smaller and it is one of the least visited places in the world. Not that Samoa receives a whole lot more visitors.

On my trip down to the Tourism Office I ended having the tourist officer all to myself on a personal tour of the island. She had not seen a tourist in days. It is believed that fewer than 5,000 people make it to this last frontier.

The level of development that American Samoa experienced also gave way to modern life while leaving the traditional ways of life, the Fa’a Samoa, in the past. American Samoa has been largely Americanized and chief titles or traditional ceremonies have generally disappeared.

Despite the apparent level of development that hits the visitor as soon as the airport is left behind, a look under the skin makes it obvious that American Samoa is not the happy go lucky neighbor of Western Samoa. Despite their geographical proximity, the two countries are as far from each other as their time difference.

Standing at either side of the dateline, Western Samoa wakes up first in the world, every day, whereas Samoans are the last ones to go to bed. It is therefore the same time in both places, only a day apart.

One can’t help but wonder if progress and modernization is what has made the difference between the two and if, after all, this was good or bad for the population.

(Video) Why Samoa Skipped December 30, 2011

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American samoaDatelineSamoa

FAQs

Why did Samoa change International Date Line? ›

Before 1892, Samoa was, like it is now, on the west side of the International Date Line. But during the late-1800s, Samoa's main trade partners were located on the west coast of the United States, and the U.S convinced Samoa to jump to the American side of the line. That shift resulted in an extra day, not a lost one.

Is Samoa on the International Date Line? ›

The IDL now passes between Samoa and American Samoa, which remains on the east (American) side of the line. Tokelau is a territory of New Zealand north of Samoa whose principal transportation and communications links with the rest of the world pass through Samoa.

How far is American Samoa from the International Date Line? ›

American Samoa, however, stayed on the other side of the border – leaving it 25 hours behind Samoa. Samoa isn't the only place the international date line bends (quite literally) its rules for.

Why did Samoa skip a day in 2011? ›

2011 time zone change

Prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi stated that the change was intended to improve business with New Zealand, Australia, China, and other places in Asia.

What country lost a day? ›

Samoa, a small Pacific island nation, skipped a calendar day and crossed the international dateline on December 30, 2011.

Where in the world does the day start? ›

The international date line, established in 1884, passes through the mid-Pacific Ocean and roughly follows a 180 degrees longitude north-south line on the Earth. It is located halfway around the world from the prime meridian — the 0 degrees longitude line in Greenwich, England.

What is the importance of International Date Line? ›

The International Date Line provides a standard means of making the needed readjustment: travelers moving eastward across the line set their calendars back one day, and those traveling westward set theirs a day ahead.

What time is it at the International Date Line? ›

When the time is 11:00PM on Sunday, October 23 in International Date Line West, it is 07:00AM on Monday, October 24, 2022 in New York. International Date Line West is 8 hours behind New York.
...
Time in International Date Line West and New York.
International Date Line WestNew York (+8h)
Mon 08:00PMTue 04:00AM
Mon 09:00PMTue 05:00AM
Mon 10:00PMTue 06:00AM
21 more rows

How does the International Date Line work? ›

The date line, also called the International Date Line, is a boundary from which each calendar day starts. Areas to the west of the date line are one calendar day ahead of areas to the east. The date line runs from the North Pole to the South Pole through the Pacific Ocean. It is not a straight line, however.

Which country is closest to International Date Line? ›

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.

What was the first time zone? ›

The Prime Meridian (Greenwich Meridian) defines the center of the first time zone in the world. This means the Prime Meridian time zone spans from 7.5°W to 7.5°E. Then, the next time to the east spans 7.5°E to 22.5°E.

Which country time zone is first? ›

Kiribati – pronounced Kiribas – is the only nation on Earth to permanently trespass into GMT+14: the earliest time zone in the world.

What's the last time zone? ›

For any given date, the latest place on Earth where it would be valid, is on Howland and Baker Islands, in the IDLW time zone (the Western Hemisphere side of the International Date Line).

How many time zones are there? ›

The world is divided longitudinally into time zones, with each hour difference roughly 15 degrees apart. Due to some countries having half hour time zones, there are more than 24 times zones in the world.

Which part of the world is furthest ahead in time? ›

The International Date Line passes through the Line Islands. The ones that are parts of Kiribati are in the world's farthest forward time zone, UTC+14:00.

What is Samoan food? ›

Meals consist of green bananas and taro (boiled or roasted), sapasui (Samoan chop-suey), pisupo (canned corned beef), povi masima (corned beef), mutton flaps, turkey tails, palusami/lu'au (coconut cream and onion cooked in taro leaves), kale (curry), rice, bread, fruit, sandwiches, soups, fish, mamoe (lamb), beef or ...

Which country changed time zone? ›

Outside of Europe and North America, changing the clocks is also practiced in Iran, most of Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, Cuba, Haiti, the Levant, New Zealand and parts of Australia. This chart shows countries and regions which practice time change (daylight savings) and those who have done so in the past.

When did Samoa change its time zone? ›

The nation of Samoa also observed the same time as the Samoa Time Zone until it moved across the International Date Line at the end of 29 December 2011; it is now 24 hours (25 hours in southern hemisphere summer) ahead of American Samoa.

Is 12am the next day? ›

12:00AM is in the next day/at the start of the day. The previous day ended at the end of the last second of the previous day which was 11:59:59PM. The next second is the first second of the next day: 12:00:00AM to 12:00:01AM. (Think of it as/Often it is referred to as 00:00:01.)

Why does the day start at 12? ›

The reason a new day starts at 12:00 goes back to ancient Egypt when the day was measured using sundials. The shadow on the face of a sundial tells the time, and the shadow depends on where the sun is in the sky. "When the sun is highest overhead and the shadow goes straight up to the top of the sundial, that's noon.

What time does the day end? ›

Midnight marks the beginning and ending of each day in civil time throughout the world. As the dividing point between one day and another, midnight defies easy classification as either part of the preceding day or of the following day.

Why was the International Date Line moved? ›

In order the improve trade and travel connections with New Zealand and Australia it was decided to move the islands to the Asian side of the International Date Line. This was put into effect by announcing that Thursday, 29 December 2011 would be followed by Saturday, 31 December 2011.

When did Samoa change its time zone? ›

The nation of Samoa also observed the same time as the Samoa Time Zone until it moved across the International Date Line at the end of 29 December 2011; it is now 24 hours (25 hours in southern hemisphere summer) ahead of American Samoa.

When did the International Date Line change? ›

Drawn up in 1884

The 180° meridian was selected as the basis for the International Date Line because it mostly runs through the sparsely populated Central Pacific Ocean. This was decided at the International Meridian Conference in 1884 in Washington, D.C.

What country moved the International Date Line in 1997? ›

Kiribati, which few people have heard of and even fewer can pronounce, insists that it has moved the international date line in such a way that it will be the first country to usher the world into the next millennium.

Where is the first time zone? ›

The Prime Meridian (Greenwich Meridian) defines the center of the first time zone in the world. This means the Prime Meridian time zone spans from 7.5°W to 7.5°E. Then, the next time to the east spans 7.5°E to 22.5°E.

What is the International Date Line also called? ›

The International Date Line (IDL), also known simply as the Date Line, is an imaginary line on the surface of the Earth opposite the Prime Meridian (0°) that offsets the date as one travels east or west across it.

What happens when you cross the International Date Line? ›

When you cross it, you either gain or lose a day depending on which way you are traveling. If you are traveling westward, you gain a day, and if you are traveling eastward, you lose a day.

Which time zone is last? ›

For any given date, the latest place on Earth where it would be valid, is on Howland and Baker Islands, in the IDLW time zone (the Western Hemisphere side of the International Date Line).

What is the biggest time difference? ›

You can see that the most extreme time zones are +14 hours at Line Islands (Kiribati), and -12 hours in and around Baker Islands (US). Therefore, the maximum possible difference between times on Earth is 26 hours. That means that at 11:00 PM of a Monday in Baker Island, it is 1:00 AM of a Wednesday in Line Islands.

Which country time zone is last? ›

It is also referred to as the "latest time zone" on Earth, as clocks in it always show the 'latest' (i.e., most advanced) time of all time zones. UTC+14:00 stretches as far as 30° east of the 180° longitude line and creates a large fold in the International Date Line around the Pacific nation of Kiribati.

What city is at the date line? ›

Gisborne, North Island New Zealand is the closest city to the International Dateline, and so you sees the sunrise before any other city in the world.

What is the importance of International Date Line class 6? ›

The International Date Line provides a standard means of making the needed readjustment: travelers moving eastward across the line set their calendars back one day, and those traveling westward set theirs a day ahead.

Which country is close to International Date Line? ›

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.

What are 2 purposes of a map? ›

Maps present information about the world in a simple, visual way. They teach about the world by showing sizes and shapes of countries, locations of features, and distances between places. Maps can show distributions of things over Earth, such as settlement patterns.

What are 4 ways in which places can receive names? ›

religion, origin of its settlers, ancient history(founder or famous person), and features of the physical environment. Identify four ways in which places can receive names.

What is the International Date Line Class 9? ›

The International Date Line (IDL) is an imaginary line on Earth's surface defining the boundary between one day and the next. The line was established in the year 1884 by an American professor Davidson. The line was drawn opposite to the Greenwich Prime Meridian. It is not a straight line like the 180 degree meridian.

Videos

1. Time Change Has Samoa Losing a Day
(Associated Press)
2. The longest day ever | The international date line
(Maddie Moate)
3. The International Date Line, Explained
(Johnny Harris)
4. On December 29, Samoa will move its time zone a day ahead by shifting the international dateline to
(AP Archive)
5. International Dateline Explained
(Sailor Stories)
6. International Date line crossing announcement
(Life at Sea by ISMAIL MELAKATH)

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