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"Fell asleep on Tuesday, woke up Monday afternoon

I slept right through your International Date Line"

As You Know, the Earth is round, and every twenty-four hours [1] it makes a complete rotation. Back when they were formalizing time zones, they had to decide at which point the official transition between one day and the next happened.

This was Serious Business. Wars have been fought over it. For early travelers, the international date line was an almost mystical zone in which a small-scale form of Time Travel was possible. For murder mysteries, an alibi can be made or broken by such a date line.

Crossing this in a ship is grounds for, if you're in the Royal Navy or the United States Navy, being "dowsed" in batter, "shaved", made to drink a mixture that includes chilli sauce and dunked in water.

Historically, the line has found itself moving as politics changed. Alaska, for one, used to be on the same 'day' as Russia ... up until it was bought by the United States, of course. Kiribati was a nation on the west side of the line when it gained independence, until it gained some land on the east. Eventually they just declared the whole thing on the west side (and touted it when 01 Jan 2000 was coming up). Most recently, Samoa and Tokelau both switched from being on the east side to the west side, completely skipping over 30th December 2011. Future revisions may or may not happen.

Note that the date line is mainly an abstract idea. The real 'line' that separates one day from another is when midnight swings by your time zone; thus, when it's 0:00 in Chicago, the date line is really there. And everywhere else that observes UTC -6 (during 'Standard Time') or -5 (during Daylight Savings Time). This tends to draw big celebrations on New Year's Day and any big media release.

Examples of International Date Line include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Molmol Kingdom from Love Hina is stated to be placed exactly on the International Date Line.

Comic Books

  • There's a Donald Duck story by Don Rosa where Scrooge and Flintheart Glomgold try to claim ownership to a newly formed island that's located directly on the International Date Line. The fact that one half of the island has a different weekday than the other becomes a plot point when it comes to determining who claimed it first. It was actually Scrooge's guide, who did it without knowing it.


  • Around the World in Eighty Days - The protagonists think they have lost the bet, but it turns out they were right on time since they had forgotten to account for crossing the international date line.
  • The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco takes place on the international date line, or at least its characters believe that it does--since they're marooned on a ship in an era before The Longitude Problem was definitively solved, it's tough to know for sure. The characters spend a great deal of time discussing it, often in excessively confused ways (e.g., the Jesuit priest declares that all the extra water required for Noah's flood to cover the land came over the date line from yesterday).
  • The Edgar Allan Poe short story "Three Sundays In A Week": The protagonist's guardian says he can get married when there are three Sundays in a week, and by inviting over two sailors who have just circumnavigated in opposite directions, he manages to meet the condition.

Live Action Television

  • It was mentioned in Michael Palin's first Travelogue Show, Around the World in 80 Days
  • Discussed in an episode of Power Rangers SPD. Bridge, the Green Ranger, revealed he was born on an airplane as it was going over said date line.
  • An episode of The Suite Life on Deck had Cody trying to impress Bailey at the school dance, and suddenly getting stuck in a Groundhog Day Loop because of lightning striking the ship as it crossed the International Date Line.

Newspaper Comic

  • In a Dilbert comic, the Pointy-Haired Boss asked for questions, saying that "there are no stupid questions". He changed his mind when someone asked "If you crossed the International Date Line on your birthday, would you still get presents?"

Real Life

  • Real life: Line Aquavit is a Norwegian specialty in which aquavit is matured in sherry casks stored aboard ships that run from Norway to Australia and back, crossing the International Date Line in the process. The combination of the ship's motion and the trip across the Line supposedly give the aquavit a unique flavor.
  • The log of an American PBY bomber that crossed the Date Line twice during the Battle of Midway records that it took off on June 3, attacked the Japanese on June 5, and landed back at its base on June 4.
  • If you manage to cross the International Date Line when it's locally midnight, you can either experience a full calendar day twice in a row or skip it entirely, depending on whether you're flying east or west.
    • So,yes, the Navy can take away your birthday, or Christmas.


  1. Actually 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.06 seconds -- The 24 hours (approximately) is the time between moments when the sun is directly overhead at some point on a given longitude, and since the Earth is revolving around the sun as it rotates, this requires a little more than one rotation.
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