Sunday, February 8, 2009
The International Date Line, also called Date Line, is an imaginary line extending between the North Pole and the South Pole and arbitrarily demarcating each calendar day from the next. It corresponds along most of its length to the 180th meridian of longitude but deviates eastward through the Bering Strait to avoid dividing Siberia and then deviates westward to include the Aleutian Islands with Alaska. South of the equator, another eastward deviation allows certain island groups to have the same day as New Zealand. The Date Line is a consequence of the worldwide use of timekeeping systems arranged so that local noon corresponds approximately to the time at which the sun crosses the local meridian of longitude. A traveler going completely around the Earth, carrying a clock that he advanced or retarded by one hour whenever he entered a new time zone and a calendar that he advanced by one day whenever his clock indicated midnight, would find on returning to his starting point that the date according to his own experience was different by one day from that kept by persons who had remained at the starting point. The date line provides a standard means of making the needed readjustment. When crossing the Date Line on a westerly course, one loses a day. When crossing on an easterly course, one experiences the same day twice.