On 31st December 2011, the inhabitants of almost all nations on the earth, welcomed the new year. But they did not do it at the same time. As the clocks struck 12 midnight, according to the local standard time, starting from nations in the east to west, the people started celebrating the new year with great fanfare and revelry. According to Indian standard time, people in New Zealand welcomed the new year first or in the afternoon. People on the Hawaiian islands celebrated it last after almost 22 hours.
The local standard time for any nation is roughly according to it’s geographical location on the earth.If we were to divide the earth’s globe in 24 equal segments along east-west direction, the standard time in each of these imaginary segments would differ from standard time in adjoining segments. In reality it does not happen so. Many a times, standard time is fixed based on social, economic or political reasons, and is quite different from geographical time. As an example, we might consider China, which is spread from Indian borders on west to Korea in the east. As per geographical time, China should have four standard times. Yet all over China only Beijing time is recognized as Chinese standard time. This creates practical problems. In the western province of Xinjiang, where local time is similar to that of India or Pakistan, when its 3 AM Indian standard time, the clocks show 6’O clock in the morning.
An imaginary north-south arc, drawn somewhere between New Zealand and Hawaii islands on the globe, is internationally accepted as the date line. There is a time difference of 24 hours between east of this line to the west of this line. When flying to US from Asia, we cross this line, we suddenly go back in time by 24 hours. Similarly while returning from US, we jump ahead by 24 hours. However I am not writing here about this jump into future by thousands of travellers each day, who undertake this journey from US to Asia. I am writing here about the people and Government of the tiny island of Samoa, which is just along this international date line.
This Samoa island and Tokelau island are situated north of Fiji islands, at about mid way on a line joining New Zealand and Hawaii islands. The co-ordinates for Samoa are (13S,172W) and for Tokelau(9S,171W).
For last 119 years, these two tiny countries were considered the most westwards nations on the earth. Obviously, the new year came to Samoa last, after all other nations have celebrated it.. The population of Samoa is around 180000. But there are about 130000 people of Samoan origin, who live in New Zealand. Naturally Samoa has deep, cultural, family wise and trading relations with New Zealand. These two countries all these years, had a time difference of 23 hours. This created hardships for the people of both countries to keep in touch with each other. When it was a Friday in Samoa, people in New Zealand would be enjoying week end. When Samoans would be resting on a Sunday, New Zealanders would be working on a Monday.
Samoa happens to be a favourite holiday destination for the people from New Zealand. Similaraly, Samoa has substantial trade with Australia. Beacause of all these reasons, the Government in Samoa has decided to jump in to the future. After 29th December last year, there was no 30th December at all. Samoa jumped to 31st December and started new year celebrations first, even before New zealand.
Samoan Government says that it’s people have liked this change. I appreciate this idea, to change local standard time, according to convenience of the people. Even in India, if we could have 3 local standard times, the geographical time would match the local standard time and nightfall occurring at 2.30 or 3 PM in Assam during winters, can be avoided. Such weird timings can be easily avoided having 3 standard times in India, Western, Central and eastern.
9 January 2012