Dates are one of those things. For example, sixty-eight times I have outlived the date on which I will die one day. Although this day has an existential meaning for me, it remains in the dark for the rest of my life. But now there was a date on which I could not possibly die. Because that day didn’t even exist in my life. But when exactly was it?
When an international conference in 1884 drew longitude zero through Greenwich, the 180th degree of longitude was created opposite, on the other side of the earth. As it would hardly be practical to have two dates within London – one to the left and one to the right of longitude 0 – the conference moved the problem to longitude 180. It looked relatively uninhabited there, at least as seen from London – or from Washington where the Conference took place.
A bump to the right
In fact, the Fiji Islands are located there. Uluinaquala and Taveuni, two islands almost within shouting distance, are separated by the 180th degree of longitude. Wednesday on Taveunu would be Thursday on Uluinaquala. But the conference participants were pragmatic people. Without further ado, they moved the Fiji International Date Line to 172.5 degrees west longitude. Since then, the whole of Fiji has had the same day of the week, but the dateline on my nautical chart has an ugly bump to the right.
Samoa, previously outside the bump, was one of the places where everything in the world happens last. This may not have bothered anyone, but for many Samoans working in New Zealand, the difference was annoying. Already weekend in New Zealand was still Friday in Samoa. In 2011, parliament decided to switch to the other side of the date. But instead of drawing a bump on the bump now, my nautical chart remained unchanged and I remained in the dark.
The mystery of Samoa
Where does Samoa’s dateline begin? At the twelve-mile zone around the island? In the harbor of Apia? At the time of the entry stamp in my passport?
Let’s say it was at the twelve-mile zone, the national border at sea. I crossed this point on September 30 at 12:27. With the crossing, it became 12:27 on October 1. So there is not a clear date missing in my life, but it is two half-days, September 30 from 12:28 p.m. to October 1, 12:26 p.m., which I never experienced. And with the best will in the world, I couldn’t have died on these two half-days.
But where did this day go to?
I have already spent part of it in advance – in installments, so to speak. Since I set off from Fehmarn / Baltic Sea, I have adjusted my watch by one hour thirteen times. Each time my day had 25 hours. So I have used up thirteen hours of this September 30 / October 1. Eleven remain in reserve.
Good prospects for my further journey around the world: I have a time cushion.