Samoa will be moving its date on December 29, leaving neighbor American Samoa behind. Image: Flickr / ss2001 / CC-BY

Samoa and American Samoa are two countries 300 miles apart. In December, Samoa will be time-traveling one day into the future, leaving American Samoa behind. The country hopes that by switching where it is on the international dateline, it will improve its economy.

A move 119 years in the making

The International dateline was first officially set in 1884 via an international conference. Eight years later, in 1892, Samoa changed its relation to the dateline, bringing its date in-line with American states in hopes of improving trade. Now, Samoa is planning to switch back to the other side of the dateline on December 29, 2011. The country hopes bringing its date more in-line with Australia and New Zealand will improve trade and business dealings with those countries. The move will put Samoa three hours ahead of Sydney time, instead of 21 hours behind.

A practical reason for time travel

The Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaori, cited logical reasons for the proposed shift.

“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.”

Samoa is an independent nation in the Pacific ocean that does significant amounts of trade with China, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia and other Pacific-rim nations. Most of these nations are currently on the west of the international dateline. In 2009, Samoa also switched its driving law, putting drivers on the left side of the road instead of the North American standard of the right side.

Leaving American Samoa behind

Though Samoa and American Samoa are less than an hour’s flight apart, the two countries will be on separate sides of the international dateline. Many of the small island nations of the Pacific abut the international dateline. Some of the 180,000 residents of Samoa worry that changing the international dateline will negatively affect trade with America Samoa. After the change,  a one-hour flight will allow an individual to experience one day twice.


Washington Post

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