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Saturday, November 8, 2014

FALL CIRCLE PACIFIC ADVENTURE: Day #6--Crossing the International Date Line

The International Date Line (IDL) is the other imaginary line on the surface of Planet Earth, this one running north to south and back up to north, with the North and South Poles as the points of contact.  We need this date line to have time harmony.

It's a bit more complicated than this, but in 1884, at the International Meridian Conference held in Washington, D.C., midnight at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England was selected as the beginning point, known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).  The details took a third of a century to work out, but all was made official in 1917 at the Anglo-French Conference on Time-keeping at Sea  where the 180 meridian on the opposite of Europe was picked as the IDL.  After all, no one who lived in the middle of the Pacific would complain.  Remember from your elementary mathematics that there are 360 degrees in a circle:

Note that the IDL, is a crooked semi-circular line:


This has to do with maintaining country similarity or economic trade affiliations, and, even religion.

Here is a confusing bit of info.  The International Date Line is +13 hours ahead of the official Coordinated Universal Time, abbreviated UTC (a French-British compromise), and the term that now replaces Greenwich Mean Time.  You can find your local time by clicking on this link and then clicking on your location.

The Crystal Symphony last night gained an hour because we passed through one of the 24 time zones (which occurs every 15 degrees or so of the meridian).  Confusingly enough, tonight at midnight we don't need to change our time again, but, instead just lose a day.  Today is November 8 and tomorrow will be November 10.  Sunday, November 9, just disappears.  Church services on board occur either tonight, a Saturday, or tomorrow, November 10, a Monday.  The closest large city to the IDL is Auckland, our eventual destination, a few days from now.

You would think the IDL could discombobulate travelers, and, yes, you need to be careful on hotel reservation dates.  For example, if you leave Tokyo at 6PM on November 7, you will arrive in Honolulu at 6AM or so on November 7.  Thus you need hotel reservations in Honolulu for November 7.  Thus, going West to East, you gain back a day.

The IDL never crosses land.  It is always in the ocean, with the exception being Antarctica.  I've stayed at the International Dateline Hotel in Tonga.  My only memory was that I got a lot of mosquito bites in their bar.

I've crossed the IDL at least 150 times, on commercial jets, and once so far on a ship.  Tonight will be my second.

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