December 30th, 2011: December 30th in Samoa and Tokelau is canceled | The calendar sheet | Bavaria 2 | radio


Wednesday December 30th 2020

Author: Martin Trauner

Speaker: Hans-Jürgen Stockerl

Illustration: Tobias Kubald

Editor: Frank Halbach

It must be a dream. At least for fans of New Year’s parties. Rockets – sparkling wine – “Happy news!” Then at 4 o’clock in the morning to bed, sleep in high. The next day the same game from the front a la. “And the marmot greets you every day” … Indeed: That works! on the Samoa Islands …

The Samoan Islands are in the Pacific, in the middle of nowhere between America and Australia, near 180 degrees of longitude. Only: They are politically divided, that is: – the western islands are independent – the eastern islands belong to the so-called US-American outer area. And not only that. The date line runs between the archipelagos, which are almost 70 kilometers away. – Ahhhh !!!! – The “Date Line!” – So mythically charged since Umberto Eco’s novel “The Island of the Last Day” … Where in the west is today and in the east yesterday. – Or how was that?


The fact that the date line runs through the middle of the Pacific does not owe it to a coincidence or higher mathematics. It was simply set. In 1884 at the “International Meridian Conference” there was a dispute about the “prime meridian”, that is to say about the “zero” longitude. In contrast to the naturally given latitudes, the longitudes were defined purely arbitrarily. A zero degree of longitude went through Paris, one through Naples, another through Washington, and, and, and … But one also went through the Greenwich Observatory. Each country claimed the honor of the meridian for itself. – The winner? – England. London. Greenwich.

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The prime meridian also means: – Exactly! This is exactly where the date has to change! Because the ancient Arabs in the 14th century already knew that, who really did not consider the earth to be flat: “If I circle the earth westwards, I lose a day, if I circle it eastwards, I win a day.

So: a date line is needed. Like in Greenwich. But of course such a date line across Europe would hardly be communicable …

So they agreed on the opposite 180th degree of longitude, which runs so lonely through barely inhabited area in the Pacific. Who cares?


Not us Europeans for now. It’s far away, the other side of the world. – Only: that’s where Samoa is. And the date line was and is always political. Which hemisphere do I belong to? When Alaska came to the US from Russia, you had to switch times. And double the day to conform to the American time system.

And Samoa? You deleted one day, namely December 30, 2011. To get to another time, namely the time of Australia and New Zealand. Because of trade relations and so on. And if they used to celebrate New Year’s Eve in which the residents advertised that they were the last country on earth, now they are the first.

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