1:53pm

Mon May 9, 2011
The Two-Way

Samoa Decides To Leap International Date Line Into The Future

For 119 years, Samoa saw the last sunset of every day. Now, the Samoan government has decided to jump the International Date Line 24 hours into the future, joining Australia and New Zealand.

The way it works now, when it's 8 a.m. Sunday in Samoa, it's 8 a.m. Monday in neighboring Tonga. Samoa initially decided to be on the U.S. side of the date line because it did business with traders in California. Things have changed, reports The Guardian:

Samoa has found its interests lying more with the Asia-Pacific region and now wants to switch back to the west side of the international dateline, which runs roughly north-to-south along the 180-degree line of longitude in the Pacific Ocean.

"In doing business with New Zealand and Australia, we're losing out on two working days a week," said the prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

The AFP reports that Malielegaoi didn't announce when the change would happen. In 2009, Samoa also made another pretty significant change: The government passed a law in 2009 that made drivers switch from driving on the right-hand side of the road to driving on the left-hand side.

Malielegaoi said the change would make it easier for Samoans living in New Zealand and Australia to send cars back home. Critics, reports The Guardian, charged it would cause chaos. The transition, however, was pretty seamless.

Malielegaoi also said the change could be marketed by telling tourists they could experience a day two times, if they start in Samoa, then head to the past in American Samoa. As we mentioned, prior to this change Samoa was the place farthest into the past. The change, however, will not make it the place farthest into the future, or the place to see the world's first sunrise everyday. Because the international dateline allows countries to make their own decision as to what side they'd like to be on, it's not perfectly straight and one of the Kiribati islands is as far East as 150°. According to the Navy, that's farther east than Honolulu. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.