Monday, 23 February 2009

Random fact of the day

I was lying on the couch looking at the map on the wall when I started thinking about how it was drawn - with GMT right down the middle and the 12 hours plus and minus GMT to each extreme of the map.

What I wanted to know, was how long it took you to travel somewhere when you ended up a DAY behind your starting time, effectively travelling back through time.

Always something that has intrigued me, I looked it up. The International Date Line lines up roughly (with some diversions around terrirtory) along the 180 degree line of longitude - starting between Russia and Alaska and making its way down through the Pacific between Tonga and Samoa. The map on the left shows this (click to enlarge).

So really the answer to my questions is this. If you flew from Tonga (on the Western side of the IDL) to Samoa (on the Eastern side) it takes two hours. But because you cross the IDL, you arrive 22 hours before you left.

If you flew at 7am this morning (GMT), your departure time (and date) would have been 8pm on Mon 23rd Feb in Tonga. Your arrival time would have been 10pm Sun 22nd Feb.

An easier way to remember it: if Sarah Palin was looking at Russia from her house she could see into the future, for Russia is a whole day ahead of her. Now if only she'd said that she could see the future, people might have elected her VP...

I need to get out more.


Damon Lord 23 February 2009 at 16:04  

You may notice there's quite a kink in the line around Kiribati. That's because Kiribati changed which side (formerly on the E, now on the W) of the line it was in order to be the first nation to see in the year 2000. It was intended to boost their tourism. I have no idea if it was successful for them.

The Liberal 23 February 2009 at 19:38  

I believe it was successful, but as none of the islands & atolls that make it up is higher than 2.5 metres above sea level, & the IPCC is predicting a 0.5m rise in sea levels by 2100, it is generally recommended that you book your holiday early.

Malc 23 February 2009 at 21:39  


Thanks for that. I have vague recollections of it being a Pacific Island that first saw in the millennium. Didn't know in which country it was - thanks for that.

Richard 23 February 2009 at 21:51  

Palin never said she could see Russia from her house. Many Americans (mostly Obama supporters, so a rather credulous lot) think she did, because some comedian said it.

Malc 23 February 2009 at 21:57  

I know that. I never said she said it. And the comedian would be Tina Fey. And it was pretty funny.

Jeff999 24 February 2009 at 10:51  

This 'problem' is covered in detail in 'The Island of the day Before' by Umberto Eco

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