Inhabitants of the South pacific island nation of Samoa are set to lose a day of their lives as the island switches to the west side of the International Date Line.
The small Polynesian island and neighbouring American Samoa actually began life on the west side of the dateline and it was in 1892 that a US business trader convinced them to switch to the east. This made life more convenient for trading ships from America and Europe who were serving Samoa at the time.
As trading patterns have changed and Samoa finds itself dealing increasingly with Australia and New Zealand, the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has decided its time to move back again. The independent island will then share the same date and a similar time to the two countries, meaning that inhabitants lives will skip forward a day.
American Samoa will however remain on the east but the Prime Minister sees this as the perfect tourism marketing tool. He stated “You can have two birthdays, two weddings, and two wedding anniversaries on the same date – on separate days – in less than an hour’s flight across, without leaving the Samoan chain.”
He went on to explain that his country was currently losing two trading days a week when dealing with Australia and New Zealand, “While it’s Friday here, it’s Saturday in New Zealand, and when we’re at church Sunday, they’re already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane.”
So are countries simply allowed to change the date line and how do they go about it? David Mumford of Collins Bartholomew which publishes the Collins and Times atlases for HarperCollins explains. “There is no body that can say yes or no, the country decides for itself. Then it’s just a matter of publicising it, informing the international community and the map makers.”
It has been proposed that Samoa will move from Thursday 29th December to Saturday 31st, by simply altering its clocks and calendars. Anyone having a birthday or anniversary on Friday 30th will just have to celebrate it a day early or a day late this year.
In 2009, Tuilaepa changed driving laws so that Samoans now drive on the left side of the road as opposed to the right, bringing it in line with Australia and New Zealand.
The time change will also mean that the island will no longer be able to use the promise of it being the last place on earth to see the sun set in its marketing campaigns.