The Stats Guy: Time travelling across the Pacific

Today is tomorrow and then it's today again, as we cross the Pacific.

Today is tomorrow and then it's today again, as we cross the Pacific. Photo: TND

Your friendly neighbourhood Stats Guy is still on parental leave for another two weeks. Instead of a big data-driven column I’m showing you some of my favourite maps.

As a belated New Year’s gift, here is a bit of silly time zone trivia for you to annoy your friends and family with.

A journey in a straight line (in as much as there are straight lines on our spherical planet) can have strange consequences, as this route from Hawaii to Antarctica shows.

If you fly, sail, or swim this route, you cross the date line no less than seven times. Today becomes tomorrow, then today again and tomorrow once more and today again and tomorrow again, today again and then finally tomorrow.

This bizarre time travel is caused by the different countries to which the small islands and atolls of the Pacific belong.

The unusual hook-shaped deviation of the date line is due to the Republic of Kiribati. This tiny nation with only about 110,000 inhabitants has a total land area of only 811 square kilometres, but it is enormous: 2051 kilometres from the northernmost to the southernmost island and a total of 4567 kilometres from east to west.

As a result, the nation has an area of 5.3 million square kilometres, about half the size of the continental US.

To add a bit more bizarre geographic trivia, Kiribati also extends over both the equator and the 180th meridian – so it is the only country situated in the northern, southern, western and eastern hemispheres at the same time.

Originally, Kiribati straddled the date line and had two separate dates at once. At some point, this became too challenging for the country’s economy, which is why Kiribati unified its date for the whole nation in 1995 and now sits west of the date line, like Australia.

Demographer Simon Kuestenmacher is a co-founder of The Demographics Group. His columns, media commentary and public speaking focus on current socio-demographic trends and how these impact Australia. His latest book aims to awaken the love of maps and data in young readers. Follow Simon on Twitter (X), FacebookLinkedIn for daily data insights in short format.

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