Join 3,497 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Better to be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion
May 11, 2011 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Samoa has seized headlines by moving the International Date Line--leaping forward a day and confusing readers in the process.

No stranger to controversy, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has confused and upset Samoans with surprising decisions before. In July 2009, Malielegaoi switched Samoa to right-hand drive, leading to the largest protests in the history of the country and the formation of the People's Party specifically to oppose switching sides. He has upset journalists from New Zealand. He says that "plots against him – including threats on his life - are made all the time." Extra Credit: Friend him on Facebook!

If you're a journalist, by the way, the Samoan Observer wants you. And in criminal justice, too, it seems that they could use some help.

And since you were curious--yes, Robert Louis Stevenson did spend his last years in Samoa.

Samoan government Minister previously on the blue.
posted by -->NMN.80.418 (52 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
He's Samoan...whats the brother gonna do about it?
posted by hal_c_on at 2:48 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Warning: Auto-playing video on the first link.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:49 PM on May 11, 2011


"The tourism industry, in particular, were disappointed Samoa would lose the ability to market itself as the last place on earth to see the sun each day"

Yep, I would travel all the way to the middle of nowhere to experience that, because it's so important unique logical compelling .... never mind...
posted by tomswift at 2:52 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


So are Somoans all changing their birthdays, or is everyone inexplicably one day older?
posted by pompomtom at 2:55 PM on May 11, 2011


What's the brother gonna do? He's Samoan. (fixed)
posted by hal_c_on at 2:57 PM on May 11, 2011


But they could start marketing itself as the first place to see the sun rise..... except no one goes on holiday to wake up early.
posted by m@f at 2:59 PM on May 11, 2011


Dude is clearly an incognito American Samoan operative making way for a takeover.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:03 PM on May 11, 2011


no one goes on holiday to wake up early.
You never vacationed with my ex-wife.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 3:05 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, wait--right side of the car. Never mind.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:06 PM on May 11, 2011


All citizens will be required to change their underwear every half hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check.
posted by PlusDistance at 3:07 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a schematic map of the dateline.
posted by Nelson at 3:10 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nothing to see here; just an unsuccessful experiment in time travel.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:10 PM on May 11, 2011


No wonder I'm so tired.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:14 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, those Samoans are a surly bunch.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:18 PM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


WTF, Kiribati?
posted by queensissy at 3:19 PM on May 11, 2011


I live in New Zealand, have family in Samoa, and it makes sense to me for Samoa to want to be on the same day as Australia and New Zealand.

It's arbitrary anyway. Why not be abritrary in the way that makes things easier for people?
posted by sarahw at 3:23 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:23 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Man, those Samoans are a surly bunch.

The International Dateline angle gives new meaning to "Lights Out".
posted by Beardman at 3:25 PM on May 11, 2011


queensissy: WTF, Kiribati?

From Wikipedia:
Kiribati's 1995 act of moving the international date line far to the east to encompass the Line Islands group, so that it would no longer be divided by the date line, courted controversy. The move, which fulfilled one of President Tito's campaign promises, was intended to allow businesses all across the expansive nation to keep the same business week.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:25 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The International Dateline gives me a headache if I think about it too much.

When I was a kid, I thought you could avoid a dentist appointment by hopping over the date line at the right moment and not have today happen or something like that.
posted by marxchivist at 3:27 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm in American Samoa right now. This is going to get really weird for me, and many others, because Upolu (the main island in Western Samoa) and Tutuila (the main island in American Samoa) are just a half hour plane's ride apart, and I need to go between the two on a semi-regular basis. In a single day I could easily leave on a Monday, arrive on a Tuesday, and then fly back to the original Monday.

Overall, though, I think that, like the driving switch, it's the right thing for the country. Independent Samoa is far more closely aligned with Australia and New Zealand and it makes sense to get a few ducks in a row in order to be able to do things like importing cars from family (Samoan mats are important in weddings, so they get imported from the islands to family members in Australia/NZ; the family has to provide something in return and it often takes the form of cars) and do banking more easily.
posted by barnacles at 3:28 PM on May 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Gonna have to change their name to Saevenmoa, now.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:30 PM on May 11, 2011


Hm. I'm pretty sure my attorney is Samoan. I'll have to go get his advice on this matter.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:37 PM on May 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


Samoas are my FAVORITE Girl Scout cookie! Next thing you know, the president will be demanding to change the name of the country to Caramel DeLite!
posted by briank at 3:56 PM on May 11, 2011


First it's time-traveling Samoans...next it'll be furious Maori performing haka before baseball games instead of the national anthem....

Actually, that sounds pretty awesome. Sign me up.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:05 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


If you move a S'more across a date line you end up with a handful of chocolat, crackers, and a marshmallow.... dangerous...
posted by tomswift at 4:08 PM on May 11, 2011


Samoa. Bigger on the inside.
posted by Devonian at 4:19 PM on May 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I used to have to deal with software updates of the data to keep track of timezones (glibc updates before tzdata was split out, in case you're wondering). Here's what I learned:

Governments big and small just love having the power to change the time, be it by changing time zones, moving DST's start and stop dates, or opting in and out of DST altogether, and they'll do it as often as possible. The smaller, the more frequent.
posted by atbash at 4:34 PM on May 11, 2011


This seems like the right place to ask this: what is the relationship between the girl scout cookie and the country? no, really, what is it? i've eaten the cookie and spoken to the people, but where does that intersect?
posted by calm down at 4:35 PM on May 11, 2011


This seems like the right place to ask this: what is the relationship between the girl scout cookie and the country? no, really, what is it? i've eaten the cookie and spoken to the people, but where does that intersect?

Somoans are stereotyped as being fat. Those cookies will make you fat.
posted by atbash at 4:35 PM on May 11, 2011


This all seems like a highly elaborate leadup to the denoument of a detective novel a few years from now.

"The murder couldn't have been committed in Apia on December 29, 2011. There was no December 29, 2011 in Samoa!"
posted by Bromius at 4:42 PM on May 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


First off, it is Samoans. Sa-Forbidden, Moa-Chicken. SaMoa. Forbidden Chicken. So-Moa means nothing funny like that.

Second off, them being fat, isn't exactly just a stereotype.
posted by calm down at 4:42 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry about the spelling error. Calm down.

On the subject of "just a stereotype" - a stereotype is a tool. Sometimes as a tool the stereotype is misused, and that's given it a bad rap in the last several decades. In this case, it may be pretty accurate.
posted by atbash at 4:53 PM on May 11, 2011


Moving the IDL makes perfect sense. Samoa's 2 chief banks, WestPac and ANZ are based in NZ. If it was Friday and somebody in Samoa needed money transferred ASAP, it would already be Saturday in NZ. If someone in NZ wanted to do business with a company in Samoa, they would have to wait til Tuesday. NZ is Samoa's chief trading partner. They were losing essentially 2 business days.

It also makes perfect sense for American Samoa not to switch, as its chief trading partner is Hawaii due to politics. Of course, geographically speaking, in terms of trading, it should be the same as Samoa, but, as USPS delivers to American Samoan, such is not the case.
posted by calm down at 5:01 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This seems like the right place to ask this: what is the relationship between the girl scout cookie and the country? no, really, what is it? i've eaten the cookie and spoken to the people, but where does that intersect?

Charlene Meidlinger: This wonderful cookie covered with caramel on top and bottom, rolled in toasted coconut and striped with a rich, cocoa coating has to remind you of a exotic island. That is where we think the name came from, don't you? Imagine eating a Samoa cookie on a beautiful beach . . . works for me! -- Assistant Executive Director, Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital

Truth is, nobody knows for sure.
posted by dhartung at 5:21 PM on May 11, 2011


Not having any context about the geography or politics of Samoa, that article was a hilarious read which just kept getting funnier. The absurdity was onionesque (and on reflection, it looks like that's definitely the impression the writer was trying to create). A PM who is just completely off his rocker, making one enormous, sweeping change after another, by spontaneous decree, leaving the citizens scratching their heads. Move the date line! Everyone's driving on the other side of the road! Now we observe daylight savings time!

And what killed me was this quote by Mr. Kuni Lesa, editor of Samoa Observer:

"Whatever brilliant idea he wakes up with tomorrow, there is nothing there that can stop him from implementing it.
"Since he is capable of changing our constitution on any day of the week, we fear the day when we're all going to wake up in a snowy country somewhere close to Russia."


Methinks Mr. Lesa doesn't quite understand how a constitution works.

Also: love Mr. Malielegaoi's Wikipedia photo.
posted by lostburner at 6:01 PM on May 11, 2011


When I was a kid, I thought you could avoid a dentist appointment by hopping over the date line at the right moment and not have today happen or something like that.

You can absolutely do that. Hop on an evening flight at LAX on Dec 24th. ~11-12 hours later land in NZ on the morning of Dec 26th. Sorry, no Xmas for you.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 6:32 PM on May 11, 2011


Samoan mats are important in weddings, so they get imported from the islands to family members in Australia/NZ; the family has to provide something in return and it often takes the form of cars.

I was going to be flippant and make some comment about swapping mats for cars being a good deal, but then I prudently googled Samoan mats. I learn something new from Metafilter every day.

Re: the date line thing: can they do this unilaterally since it is an international line?
posted by binturong at 6:33 PM on May 11, 2011


And so the Anzacs spread their Co-Prosperity Sphere further east into the Pacific.

First we take Upolu, then we take Oʻahu...
posted by Pranksome Quaine at 7:30 PM on May 11, 2011


Used to be, the rule was "If it's Sunday for the Samoans, it's Monday for the Monarch (King of Tonga)."
posted by etherist at 8:03 PM on May 11, 2011


Aren't Samoan cookies named for the way "tastes like 'some more'" sounds with a drawl? "Gimme samoan thm cookies!"
posted by five fresh fish at 8:05 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wasn't this posted yesterday?
posted by hypersloth at 9:26 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Second off, them being fat, isn't exactly just a stereotype.

What are lamb flaps?
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:59 PM on May 11, 2011


marxchivist: "The International Dateline gives me a headache if I think about it too much."

It used to bug me, too -- isn't the division between days at midnight, which travels around the world? Thankfully, finding this neat YouTube explanation cleared a lot of things up.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:59 PM on May 11, 2011


> When I was a kid, I thought you could avoid a dentist appointment by hopping over the date line at the right moment and not have today happen or something like that.

You can! When I was fourteen, I lost my birthday.

I boarded a plane going Los Angeles -> Sydney late one evening, turned fourteen at midnight, and half an hour later we crossed the IDL and it magically became the day after my birthday.

Damn you, International Date Line.
posted by Georgina at 11:56 PM on May 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, so say I was the decadent child of a disgustingly wealthy family, and I wanted to hold a birthday party in an extremely fast private jet. Also, say that I had a 48 hour supply of cocaine for me and my guests. Would it be possible to set my travel path such that I'd remain in my birthday for the entire 48 hours? Or is the international date line only capable of making peoples' birthdays shorter than they should be?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:14 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


.... or do I even need that fast a jet? would it work to start my party just after midnight in Samoa, party for 24 hours there, then fly across the dateline and continue my coke-fueled mayhem in American Samoa for another full 24 hours?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:17 AM on May 12, 2011


The Angry Samoans - Gas Chamber
posted by XhaustedProphet at 12:37 AM on May 12, 2011


... or do I even need that fast a jet?

I suppose if you went to either of the poles you could just walk through all the time zones, in theory anway.

In practice it seems Antarctic bases follow either the time of their supply bases in Chile or New Zealand, or the time of their home nation. This means that they adjust the clocks for 'daylight saving', which is splendidly absurd.
posted by Segundus at 1:18 AM on May 12, 2011


The IDL is a result of dividing the globe into 24 segments, measuring local time by the position of the sun in that segment.

So you start at the Greenwich Meridian as 0, and count backwards as you travel west, and forward as you go east. We'll ignore summer time for now.

So you start at midday wednesday in Greenwich, UTC. France is 1PM (+1), vladivostok is 11PM (+11). Going the other way, it's -10 hours in honolulu, so that's 2AM. This is all based upon that as a globe, the sun is in a different position on the surface as you go around.

The IDL is where +12 and -12 meet. So going back to our example, 2PM wednesday in Greenwich is now 1AM thursday (+11) in vladivostock. Yet back round the other way from greenwich, it's still only 4AM wednesday in honolulu. From greenwich's point of view, Honolulu is just starting wednesday, and vladivostock has just finished it and moved into thursday. Between the IDL and the local midnight line in the + zone, it's thursday. As the globe rotates, that midnight line goes round the world, and more of the + zone starts their thursday. First russia, then europe and africa, and finally greenwich. Now it's just past midnight at greenwich, vladivostock is well into thursday, at 11AM local time, greenwich is just switching from wednesday to thursday; but going west, america and honolulu (-10) still have plenty of wednesday left; it's only 2PM in honolulu.

So if you travel faster than the globe rotates, funny things happen. If you start in honolulu at 2PM wednesday, and travel east fast, you can time-travel 'forward'. Say your flight to london only takes 6 hours. Yet the local time is 10 hours ahead, so you've 'lost' 4 hours of your life. The reverse applies if you fly quickly against the rotation of the earth. You 'gain' extra hours. So if you started at 1AM thursday just past the IDL, and travel west across russia and europe it's possible if you travel fast enough to land in wednesday.

So the IDL is where one day meets the other. If you cross it, you go from being in the +12 zone to the -12 zone, or vice versa. So when you go from the honolulu side to the russian side, (going west) you're going from -12 to +12, so jump a day ahead without having actually lived it. You've circumnavigated the globe REALLY REALLY fast, skipping a whole day.

Going from russia to honolulu is the other way, so you gain a day; or rather you've circumvented the globe so fast, travelling against the rotation of the earth that you get to have the same day twice.

Of course, the IDL is a theoretical line. There's nothing stopping countries declaring they're in the timezone they want to be, even if makes no sense in local time.

Samoa have effectively picked their country up, put it on a very fast jet and went so fast round the globe going from the -12 zone to the +12 zone that they didn't get to see those hours pass by.
posted by ArkhanJG at 2:04 AM on May 12, 2011


Since he is capable of changing our constitution on any day of the week, we fear the day when we're all going to wake up in a snowy country somewhere close to Russia.

Okay. Let's calm down now people...
posted by Splunge at 2:38 AM on May 12, 2011


Okay, so say I was the decadent child of a disgustingly wealthy family, and I wanted to hold a birthday party in an extremely fast private jet. Also, say that I had a 48 hour supply of cocaine for me and my guests. Would it be possible to set my travel path such that I'd remain in my birthday for the entire 48 hours? Or is the international date line only capable of making peoples' birthdays shorter than they should be?
.... or do I even need that fast a jet? would it work to start my party just after midnight in Samoa, party for 24 hours there, then fly across the dateline and continue my coke-fueled mayhem in American Samoa for another full 24 hours?


You could do it either way. Lets say your birthday is friday 13th May. You start in the +12 zone, at just after midnight, say in samoa - so it's 00.01 friday. It's dark. Your plane starts flying west. After you've partied for an hour, you cross a timezone line, and now, from the people on the ground's perspective, it's 00.01 again, instead of the 01.01 you think it is. You've zipped back in time an hour; well, from their perspective, you took off at 23.01 thursday 12th, but who's counting them?

You've partied for an hour, and it's still only 00.01! You carry on flying, partying, and cross each timezone; so you go from +12 to +11, +10 etc. Every time you cross a timezone line, you drop back an hour local time. Repeat that while you fly round the globe. You land in the -12 zone, just before the date line. You've partied for a whole 24 hours, but here, it's still 00.01 friday! You haven't seen the sun for a whole day! Across the date line, they've just started saturday 14th - but *this* side of the line, you've still got the whole of friday 13th to party! So you stay put, let the globe rotate you round as per normal, and you get friday all over again.

The other option is you party all day in the +12 zone, i.e. samoa. Start at 00.01 friday 13th, finish at midnight same day. Now you cross the date line on a boat, west to east, and you jump from +12 one day to -12 the same day, so you go from midnight end of friday 13th to midnight end of thursday 12th. You can party all friday, again, yay! But this is the last place on earth still celebrating friday come midnight. You can stay here and finally start your saturday with a massive hangover, or jump the date line the other way and jump straight to sunday. But friday 13th is gone for good.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:05 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


« Older A new report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organi...  |  Rhodes' Scholar, Canadian Cons... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments