[Published in 2009]
Who gets to say “Happy New Year” first is all a matter of longitude. Or is it?
There are 24 time zones on Earth; each time zone being one hour different from the next one. The “0th” time zone is where a day begins. This could be any old longitude. Actually, by convention, this is 180° longitude (the Antimeridian). Thus, the Antimeridian would also be the International Date Line (IDL)
If you travel east across 180° longitude you should subtract 1 from your date (lose a day), if you travel west across the line, you add 1 to your date (gain a day).
That’s what it should be. But it isn’t. Why? Well, if we followed that rule, a small part of eastern Russia would have a different date – if the date on west of the line were 1 January 2010, east of the line would be 31 December 2009! Russia would have two different dates! Look at Map 1 below.
So, individual countries have decided to redraw the IDL away from the Antimeridian.
Whichever country is the first on the west of the IDL, gets to greet the new year first!
A lot of people traveled to small Pacific Ocean islands in December 1999 to be the first ones to greet the year 2000. Which island country was the first?
In 1995 Kiribati moved the IDL to keep the whole country on the same day at the same time. Before then, the western part of Kiribati (where its capital Tarawa is located) was 22 hours ahead the eastern portion of the country because of the IDL!
Again, look at Map 1 and you will see how Kiribati is affected by the Antimeridian and the redrawn IDL.Well, going by longitude alone, it should be the place where the borders of Arunachal Pradesh, China, and Myanmar meet. But India has adopted the same time for the whole country, the Indian Standard Time (IST). So, wherever you are in India, you can say Happy New Year at the same moment!
Look up the countries along the IDL in your atlas. Find out which country or place will be the last one that gets to greet 2010.
Share your findings with us using the “comment” link below, before 4 January 2010.
Be sure to include
- Your full name,
- Email address,
- Nname of your school,
- Your location (City, State), and
- The standard in which you are studying.
We will publish selections on the blog at http://tiigs.org on 5 January 2010.
Readers’ responses to the question in this blog are available here.
We are proud of these geographers!