Posted by Richard N Williams on May 16th, 2011
The Pacific Island of Samoa, once the last place on Earth to see the sunset, is to move the entire nation into the future by 24 hours!
Of course, the Samoans haven’t discovered the secrets to time travel, but are skipping an entire day to make their nation fall on the other side of the International Date Line (IDL).
The International Date Line (IDL) the imaginary longitudinal line on the surface of the Earth where the date changes as a ship or aeroplane travels east or west across it. Since 1892, Samoa has sat on the eastern side of the IDL, but now the country’s Prime Minsister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi intends shifting the nation to the western side, in essence skipping a day, making trade with neighbouring Australia and New Zealand easier.
When the change goes ahead at the end of the year, Samoa’s population of 180,000 will lose a day, going from 29 December straight to 31 December (The 30 December was chosen so presumably Samoan’s can still celebrate New Year’s Eve).
Samoa isn’t the only country to jump forward in time. When changing from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian in 1752, the British Empire had to skip 11 days, while Russia, the last European country to adopt the Gregorian calendar, had to skip 13 days (interestingly this makes the anniversary of the October Revolution fall on 7 November).
Difficulties with Time Zones
While Samoa’s difficult with trade has necessitated this change, a global economy means that a universal time system is necessary for communication between countries in different time zones.
UTC-Coordinated Universal Time was set-up for just this purpose. Governed by atomic clocks, the world’s most accurate timepieces, UTC allows the entire world to be synchronised to the exact same time.
UTC is often used by technologies such as computer networks to allow communication across the globe, preventing errors and miscommunication. Most technologies utilise NTP servers (Network Time Protocol) to receive a source of UTC time—either from the internet, GPS signals or radio frequencies—and distributes it around the computer network to ensure every device is synchronised to the same time.