International Date Line


(permanent link) added: 2009-09-18 18:08:09 sponsor: dotchan (last reply: 2009-09-18 18:08:09)

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(Probably will go under Useful Notes eventually.)

As You Know, the Earth is round, and every twenty-four hours it makes a complete rotation. Back when they were formalizing time zones, they had to decide at which point the transition between one day and the next happened.

This was Serious Business. Wars have been fought over it. For early travelers, the international date line was an almost mystical zone in which a small-scale form of Time Travel was possible. For murder mysteries, an alibi can be made or broken by such a date line.

Examples:

  • Around the World in Eighty Days - The protagonists think they have lost the bet, but it turns out they were right on time since they had forgotten to account for crossing the international date line.
  • In a Dilbert comic, the Pointy-Haired Boss asked for questions, saying that "there are no stupid questions". He changed his mind when someone asked "If you crossed the International Date Line on your birthday, would you still get presents?"
  • The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco takes place on the international date line, or at least its characters believe that it does--since they're marooned on a ship in an era before the longitude problem was definitively solved, it's tough to know for sure. The characters spend a great deal of time discussing it, often in excessively confused ways (e.g., the Jesuit priest declares that all the extra water required for Noah's flood to cover the land came over the date line from yesterday).
  • The Edgar Allan Poe short story "Three Sundays In A Week": The protagonist's guardian says he can get married when there are three Sundays in a week, and by inviting over two sailors who have just circumnavigated in opposite directions, he manages to meet the condition.
  • It was mentioned in Michael Palin's first Travelogue Show, Around the World in 80 Days
  • Real life: Line Aquavit is a Norwegian specialty in which aquavit is matured in sherry casks stored aboard ships that run from Norway to Australia and back, crossing the International Date Line in the process. The combination of the ship's motion and the trip across the Line supposedly give the aquavit a unique flavor.
  • There's a Donald Duck story by Don Rosa where Scrooge and Flintheart Glomgold try to claim ownership to a newly formed island that's located directly on the international date line. The fact that one half of the island has a different weekday than the other becomes a plot point when it comes to determining who claimed it first.
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