What day is it?

Wed 24 Sep 2014 01:38
18:43.84S 172:30.00W

It's not unusual for me to ask Phil what day it is. Without the rhythm of work, and with no TV to watch, most of the time I don't know, nor need to know, what day it is. Somtimes it's important. Is it a Friday? In which case we won't set sail on a long passage. Is it the weekend? In which case we might not be able to check in or out of an island. Is it a Thursday? Then it's Phil's turn to be Net controller on the SSB radio. Otherwise there's no great necessity for knowing the day.

As a consequence I'm quite used to losing days. "You're kidding me! It's Tuesday?! We've been here a week already!" However, it still feels very strange that at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, all of a sudden, it's tomorrow. No more Tuesday, it's the same time of day but now it's Wednesday. We crossed the International Date Line. This is not some strange phone line for match making between countries, but the arbitrary line drawn on the globe where tomorrow becomes today. It has to happen because otherwise, when we got to New Zealand, we'd be all out of kilter.

As we've traveled further West, getting closer and closer physically to New Zealand, we've been getting further and further away from them time wise. In the UK we were about 12 hours behind them. We're now 23 hours behind them. Or, rather we were, until 10 minutes ago, when we crossed the Date Line and then, poof! As if by magic, we are just 1 hour behind after all! If we'd gone the other way around the world it would have made more sense: We'd have got less and less behind them, until we caught them up.

The Date Line is not straight. It goes across the ocean, zigzagging between the islands (imagine if you lived one side of the date line and worked the other? It would be so confusing! One day in the morning and evening, a different one during the day, but not at weekends!). It's mostly along 180 degrees West (or East) but Tonga wants to be the same day as New Zealand, so the date line does a little dog leg East between Niue and Tonga, which is what we've just crossed.

The unfair bit is we won't get the day back when we leave New Zealand. As we'll still be traveling West, not coming back East, we won't cross the line again so we'll not get a day back. In fact, if we carried on sailing around and around the world we'd lose a day every time we passed the line. Of course, as we've been chasing the sun, each day we've experienced when on passage has been a little bit longer than it would have been if we'd stayed still, the sun went down a few minutes later. All those few minutes would add up to a day if you went all the way around the world, so perhaps it's not as unfair as it seems.

The other thing that's interesting about this bit of ocean is the bottom. We're just passing over the head of the Tonga trench. It's 5 1/2 miles deep and over 200 miles long. The top of Mt Everest would be below the surface here! Goodness. There are all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures down there, existing at unimaginably high pressure - think of the weight of all that water above you! But the bit that's capturing my imagination just now is the Giant Squid. Sperm whales dive down up to 2 miles deep to catch them. Phil says they've seen sucker wounds on the whales the size of dinner plates. Imagine a whale chasing and biting at a giant squid whilst the squid is squirting ink jets and suckering back as it struggles for it's life! It sounds like something Ben, from Outnumbered, would ask: If a Sperm Whale was fighting with a Giant Squid, who would win? My money's on the Sperm Whale.

radio email processed by SailMail
for information see: http://www.sailmail.com