December 29th, 2011
07:11 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – I have always been fascinated by the international date line; The arbitrary line where one day gives way to the next. When flying across the Pacific I often try to stay awake for that moment when you gain or lose a day as you cross this artificial barrier. So Samoa’s decision to shift its dateline has enthralled me.

Samoa is slap-bang in the middle of the Pacific, just 20 miles from the U.S. side of the line. Currently, Los Angeles is two hours ahead, and Sydney, Australia - on the other side - a whopping 21 hours ahead. (Ed's note: Many thanks to everyone who pointed out our own time zone slip, which is now corrected.) According to the country, most business is done with Australia and New Zealand, so Samoans are losing out on two days of business, because of the timings of work weeks and weekends.

So on Thursday, at the stroke of midnight, Samoa will shift the line. And it will instantly be Saturday morning, just after midnight.

Friday would never have existed for those who live in Samoa. Vamooshed. (I know how it works, but I still can’t get my head around it).

There is real politics in this: Samoa used to be on the western side of the dateline. It was moved in 1892 after U.S. traders persuaded the king they would be better off aligning their time to California and the U.S. not Japan and Asia. But geographically, Samoa is 2100 miles closer to Sydney than Los Angles, so the change back makes a lot of sense.

The dateline itself is an entirely artificial construction. In 1884, at the Meridian Conference, it was decided the Universal Day would be determined from Greenwich, in the UK. The line itself wends its way through the conveniently sparsely populated ocean – twisting and turning to allow for national boundaries.

Several countries have shifted the line in one way or another for their own commercial, social or nationalistic convenience, so there are precedents for Samoa’s action.

The concept fascinates me. The myths and traditions of the dateline are many, from dunking sailors when they cross it for the first time, to the book “Around the World in 80 days” where the line plays a crucial part in the plot. The dateline has even played a role in my own business travel:  I was once paid two per diems from CNN when travelling, because I had crossed the dateline and so had an extra day.

The dateline continues to be a source of bewilderment and confusion, but offers a practical solution to the philosophical idea of where the day begins. I love crossing the dateline, and I wish good luck to Samoa today. Or is it tomorrow. Or maybe it’s yesterday. Will somebody please get me an atlas…

soundoff (27 Responses)

    What if your birthday is on Friday and you had a party planned? LMAO

    December 29, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
  2. Pati Mualia

    Well I wouldn't go as far to say we are moving to woo Australia. It is more feasible for us to be on the same day as Australia and New Zealand than the United States. We do much more business with our Pacific neighbors than we do with America. The feeling around the country is one of excitement and around some circles a bit of anger as some see no reason why we should change. In the end, this move will be good for Samoa ... unlike the RHD Switch we had in 2009.

    Regards from timetraveller in Samoa

    December 29, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  3. nuttyprof

    sorry for those with birthdays on the 30th, they should all be vanished too LOL

    December 29, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  4. smiles

    Dr. Who, H.G. Wells, and all other time travelers watch out! No Tartis, no time machine... and they manage to skip 2 days. I wouldn't want to work in a Samoan payroll department... Lets see who worked this week and when? I hope folks get paid on time. :D

    December 29, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  5. JustAdding

    Last time I checked Sydney, Australia was 21 hours ahead NOT behind.

    December 29, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  6. Jim

    For someone who has "always been fascinated by the international date line" you sure don't understand it. The international date line is (generally) 180 degrees opposite Greenwich. What's so odd about that? Also, you said, "Los Angeles is two hours ahead, and Sydney, Australia – on the other side – a whopping 21 hours behind." Wrong. Currently, L.A. is 2 hours ahead of Samoa, and Sydney is 21 one hours ahead. When Samoa aligns itself on the western side of the international date line, Sydnay will be 3 hours behind, and L.A. will be 22 hours behind.

    December 29, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  7. Jim

    I meant "Syndey" of course.

    December 29, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  8. Jaro

    Samoa .. so faaar from problems of ordinary world. Where everyday is beautiful sunny day, where you can every day lay on a amazing veach with milkshake, sleep naked under palms, hear the sound of the see and eating reef fish at the dinner prepared in the fire :))) Not surprising that one day is not important :)

    December 29, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  9. Australian

    Don't you mean Australia "is a whopping 21 hours" AHEAD? Impressive that other countries other than the US are noted in a CNN article, though.

    December 29, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
  10. Pati Mualia

    Hi Richard, we've also changed our time as well. We now have Day Lights Savings hence the changes in time difference. Just some random info.. and Jaro, Sleeping naked? under the palms? thats just rude. LOL

    December 29, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
  11. Jaro

    why rude ? Ideal vacation :) People dont come across the half of the globe to sleep in clothes in fridge like at home :)))

    December 29, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  12. Pati

    haha @ jaro. just dont know where you would be able to do that... i mean yeah in togs but nude? lol...

    December 29, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  13. Rob35

    To bdayboy, i'd suggest having a party on Thursday, then another on Saturday – just to be on the safe side ;-)

    December 29, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
  14. Jaro

    After a bottle of double-cross vodka everywhere I suppose :) For sure there will be enough free places and I suppose that sharks will not crawl from water to grab my penis :D

    December 29, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  15. Jim

    I just read a similar article on The New York Times website, and they got the timing right. I guess I now know where to go to get the news...

    December 29, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
  16. ana

    An interesting economic reason is always amongst the most important one...thx Sir Richard...btw the mistakes
    usually happen only people who are too busy,too responsible...

    December 29, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  17. JustAdding

    Full marks to the Editor for correcting the slip-up after we noted it. Working across time-zones can be very confusing without a good reference (btw TimeandDate dot com have an excellent Time Zone Map now). Good luck to Samoa after the change, I sure hope it works out for the better. Also, Happy New Year to everyone from Way Down-Under! Crikey, let's hope 2012 is free of the disasters, tragedies and stress experienced this last year by so many across the globe.

    December 29, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  18. Jim


    You really need to wipe that brown stuff off your nose. Pathetic!

    December 30, 2011 at 1:23 am |
  19. Jim


    No. Working across time zones is not confusing at all. You just have to be one step above a troglodyte.

    December 30, 2011 at 1:25 am |
  20. Jack

    Though I will never be a fan of our PM, but this move - you go boyeee, and I am not being sarcastic too. Economically, the best move by Stui to help the common man.

    December 30, 2011 at 2:57 am |
  21. Aussie

    Welcome to our side of the dateline Samoan's!! This is where you belong. You play rugby not NFL as your boys don't need padding..

    December 30, 2011 at 5:34 am |
  22. Siai Maee Iona

    Happy Saturday Samoa, welcome from the last country to see the sunset to the first to see.. welcome abroad.. cheehoo

    December 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  23. abubakar ahmed

    the nigeria security is in very bad shape.let nigeria's leader put in good shape.

    December 30, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  24. tunde johnson edward

    Is there a real artificial barrier dat changes one zone to anoda

    December 30, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  25. ScudAg56

    I am surprised by this move, as I had read most of Samoa's business is with American Samoa, right nearby.

    January 5, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  26. TUNDE

    .My first time l get to this busineess want join see the detail am lntreseting on the deal.

    July 9, 2013 at 9:51 am |

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