It’s a beautiful weekend here in Santander, Spain, and my son and I can see the Hanoi and the Barbet Arrow, two giant container ships, moored in the harbor. The Finland-registered Misana, which I saw sail in from my office window, is moored out of sight in the dock beyond. The Cape Cee, a 118-meter-long Spanish vessel, left Santander a few days ago and is sailing towards the Strait of Gibraltar at 10.1 knots.
We know all this because of my kid’s latest online obsession. Marinetraffic.com combines Google Maps with an online database of ships from around the world, updating their position in real time. Zooming in on spots like the Strait of Gibraltar or the Bay of Biscay, you realize just how many ships are out there, linking far-flung economies. There are profiles of the ships with details of their registry and dimensions, and ports have their own profiles too.
Marinetraffic.com relies on voluntary registration, so some spots like the Red Sea are almost blank. With pirates hiding out in Puntland ready to swoop down on container ships, you can understand why captains on that route would be hesitant to join the website.
While incomplete, it’s a fun site that show kids an aspect of our world that we mostly take for granted. You can also use Google Maps as an educational tool. Used correctly, they can siphon some of your child’s obsession with your computer into something educational. Just don’t expect them to replace that persistent question, “Can I play video games?”
[Photo by Sean McLachlan]
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]