AFP – Samoans celebrated in the streets at midnight Thursday when, with a song, a prayer and the ringing of bells, they wiped Friday off the calendar this week in a historic leap across the dateline.
The midnight switch from Thursday, December 29 to Saturday, December 30 brought the Pacific island nation in line with its main trading partners Australia and New Zealand who had been a day ahead.
People crowded into the capital Apia to be photographed near the town clock on the stroke of midnight as the seamless transition across the dateline went without a hitch.
“Tonight is a momentous and noteworthy occasion that will be documented and recorded in the history of Samoa,” Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said a speech marking the change.
He said alignment with Australia and New Zealand could only benefit Samoa, allowing direct trade five days a week with the regional powerhouses which are also home to large expatriate Samoan communities.
As the bells chimed on the stroke of midnight, car horns blared and people clapped and cheered.
“There were a lot of parties. People were excited about it. There was a massive turnout in the town,” said interviewee Cherelle Jackson.
“People I talked to were partying because it was something different.”
At the popular Aggie Grey’s Beach Resort and Spa events manager Greg Meredith said holiday life went on as normal for guests
“There haven’t been any problems,” he said.
“We advised our guests well in advance and they knew what was happening,” he added, giving an assurance that guests who had booked through to Saturday or longer would not be paying for the Friday that never was.
However, the government has issued an edict that hotels, like all other businesses and the civil service in Samoa would have to pay staff for the non-existent Friday.
Air New Zealand said the loss of Friday in Samoa was well known and did not affect airline schedules.
In the countdown to midnight Thursday, Tuilaepa and other dignitaries gathered at the government prayer house, Mount Vaea, to usher in the change with an hour-long ceremony involving carols, prayers and speeches.
In addititon to business benefits, Tuilaepa also sees tourism opportunities with the prospect of double celebrations in Samoa and neighbouring American Samoa, a mere 77 miles (125 kilometres) away and still east of the dateline.
“So you can have two birthdays, two weddings and two wedding anniversaries on the same date — on separate days — in less than an hour’s flight across — without leaving the Samoan chain,” he said.
Samoa’s move forward to align with its trading partners is in effect a 119-year leap backwards, reversing a change made in 1892.
Then, it went from west to east of the dateline to align itself with the United States and Europe, its key markets at the time.
Tuilaepa has already introduced changes to bring Samoa into line with Australia and New Zealand, enacting a law in 2009 that meant cars switched to driving on the left-hand side of the road, rather than the right.
Samoan businesses have welcomed the latest move and the additional exposure it will give them in New Zealand and Australia, as well as their developing interest in Asian markets.
“A lot of the business we deal with is in New Zealand or Australia and the fact we are now exploring the Asian market so this change imposed by the government is fully endorsed,” Chamber of Commerce president Namulauulu Sami Leota told Television New Zealand. SOURCE
Samoa, Tokelau jump international dateline Samoa jumps forward in time by one day. Effectively erases Friday, December 30. Greeted by celebrations across the nation
SIRENS wailed and fireworks exploded in the skies over Samoa as the tiny South Pacific country jumped forward in time, crossing westward over the international date line and effectively erasing Friday, December 30, 2011 from the island’s calendar. Samoans who had gathered around the main clock tower in the capital Apia cheered and clapped as the clock struck midnight on Thursday, December 29, instantly transporting the country 24 hours ahead to Saturday, December 31. The switch, also being observed by neighbouring Tokelau, is meant to align the islands’ time with key trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region. The time jump means that Samoa’s 186,000 citizens, and the 1,500 in the three-atoll United Nations dependency of Tokelau, will now be the first in the world to ring in the new year, rather than the last. The moment was greeted with celebrations across Samoa. Fireworks danced across the sky and police, ambulance and fire truck sirens wailed throughout Apia to signal the change. Drivers circled the clock tower blaring their horns, and prayer services were held across the country. The date line dance comes 119 years after a group of US traders persuaded local Samoan authorities to align their islands’ time with nearby US-controlled American Samoa and the US to assist their trading with California. But the time zone has proved problematic in recent years, putting Samoa and Tokelau nearly a full day behind neighbouring Australia and New Zealand, increasingly important trading partners. In June, the Samoan government passed a law to move Samoa west of the international dateline, which separates one calendar day from the next and runs roughly north-to-south through the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Under a government decree, all those scheduled to work on the nonexistent Friday will be given full pay for the missed day of labour. In addition to the economic advantages, the time jump is also expected to make the everyday rituals of family life a little more pleasant. Like many small Pacific island states, more of Samoa’s people live permanently in other countries than on its islands; Around 180,000 Samoans live in New Zealand and 15,000 in Australia. The dateline switch means that families split between the island and Australia or New Zealand can now celebrate important events such as birthdays at the same time. “We’ve got to remember that over 90 per cent of our people emigrate to New Zealand and Australia. That’s why it is absolutely vital to make this change,” Prime Minister Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi told The Associated Press just hours before the country catapulted into the future. Officials have begun work on changing maps, charts and atlases to reflect Samoa’s new dateline position. A postage stamp featuring the phrase “into the future” has also been created to mark the switch. Although generally embraced by most Samoans, the date change wasn’t expected to happen without a few little glitches. Digicel, the most popular mobile phone service provider in Samoa, said the company would have to update its systems immediately after the time jump, leaving phone service dead for about 15 minutes. “The interruption will only take a few minutes so we can adjust our system,” CEO Pepe Fiaailetoa Fruean said. “So I would like to inform all of our customers to have alternative communication means available in case of an emergency.” The dateline drawn by mapmakers is not mandated by any international body. By tradition, it runs roughly through the 180-degree line of longitude, but it zigzags to accommodate the choices of Pacific states on how to align their calendars. source