Samoa leaps over International Date Line, be careful when booking a flight

The Pacific Island nation of Samoa has changed its time zone ahead one hour. This isn’t some sort of island paradise version of Daylight Savings Time, but rather a shrewd business move.

By doing this they’re actually hopping over the International Date Line. The Samoan government wants the country to be in the same day as more westerly Australia and New Zealand, their main trading partners. So instead of being 21 hours behind Sydney, they’ll be three hours ahead.

While it seems to only be quibbling, actually it makes a huge difference. In an interview with the BBC, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi pointed out that when it’s Friday in Samoa, their business partners in Australia and New Zealand are enjoying a lazy Saturday. Sundays in Samoa are the start of the business week in Australia and New Zealand.

The International Date Line already has several zigs and zags. Traveling from north to south, it takes a swerve to the east to keep Russia’s Chukchi Peninsula all in one time zone, then a sharp turn to the west to keep the Aleutian Islands in the same time zone as Alaska. Then it goes straight down all the way to the Equator, where it makes its biggest detour to the east to make sure Kiribati is to the west of it.

Another swerve puts Samoa to the east of the International Date Line. That bit is slated to change, so this is probably the last time you’ll see this particular map of the International Date Line. The Line doesn’t get back on its original course until it’s far to the south.

The move doesn’t happen until 29 December, so the Samoans, and airline companies, will have plenty of time to get adjusted. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one carrier screws up and sends their passengers to some sort of temporal limbo.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]