CROSSING THE INTERNATIONAL DATE LINE (and in search of a missing day)
On the stroke of midnight on Sunday, 23rd February, I went from being a ‘Date Line Virgin’ to a ‘Member of the Order of the Golden Dragon’ when I officially crossed the International Date Line for the first time. Curiously, it is the crossing of the Equator which carries more traditions on board a ship, but for me it was all about hunting for the missing day.
The thing is that at 1 minute past midnight on Sunday it became Tuesday, 25th February. Hello… did I miss something? Actually, yes, I missed out Monday, 24th February. Had I been at work, I might have been cheering as Mondays were not necessarily my favourite day. However, I seem to have lost a day of my life. What is more, the people who are coming back this way get two March 17ths when they cross back. What, two St. Patrick’s Days? It’s the luck of the Irish to be sure. For those of us getting off in Australia and New Zealand there is no day to refund, no day in lieu and it will be forever the day I mislaid somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.
The official explanation:
The line which runs north and south along the 180th meridian of longitude (with some adjustments to avoid dividing certain island groups that are bisected by it) is the geographical point at which the zone times GMT +12 hours and -12 hours meet, hence the 24 hour time changes. If you set out from Greenwich, England (0 degrees longitude) and travel eastward, the time zone you are in moves forward by 1 hour for every 15 degrees traversed, meaning once back in Greenwich after a full circle of the world, you would finish one full day ahead on the calendar. This is corrected by the International Date Line and therefore by my missing day.
There were some jollies to celebrate the event. We had the crew tug of war on Sunday (only the Captain and bridge crew would know exactly what time we crossed the line), with not too many high jinx in the pool because the sea was surprisingly rough at the time. You get massive waves on the swimming pool when there are waves on the sea! There was ice carving taking place and special cocktails. But where was the midnight party for those of us who were first timers on this route? I looked everywhere to no avail and now have to add a party to my ‘gone missing list’.
This fascinating concept has passed many people by. Some have done it so many times it has lost its enchantment but I totally appreciated the fact I could now add ‘Time Traveller’ to my list of life experiences. Not only did I skip forward 24 hours in the blink of an eye but went from trailing the UK by 12 hours to being ahead by 12 hours. Hope everyone enjoyed the 24th February – I didn’t miss it, honestly, and what’s a day between friends.