The antimeridian: the line that divides time into two

There is a very special place on Earth: the antimeridian or International Date Line. Imagine being on a beach, contemplating the sea, and realizing that you can observe the past. How is this possible? Well, if you find yourself on that beach on a Monday morning, traveling a few kilometers out to sea, you will find yourself on Sunday morning. This phenomenon occurs due to this imaginary line that marks two different days on the calendar at the same moment.


What is the antimeridian?

To standardize time measurement throughout the globe, imaginary divisions of the planet were made. Since the day has 24 hours, we divide the globe into 24 portions following the meridians. In this way, wherever we are on the planet, the sun will be at a certain height at the same time.

For this reason, there are different time zones. If we move towards the east, the hours add up. On the contrary, if we move towards the west, the hours are subtracted.

To determine the schedule, an imaginary line that joins the two poles is taken as a basis. This is the Greenwich meridian, from which hours are subtracted towards the west and added towards the east, always taking it as the starting point.

However, there is a meridian that is exactly opposite to the Greenwich meridian and it is the 180th meridian. This imaginary line is the antimeridian, and is the continuation of the Greenwich meridian on the other side of the Earth. It is recognized as the international date line.

If we could stand on top of it and raise our arms in a T shape, one arm would be on Monday morning and the other on Sunday at the same time. To the west it would be Monday and to the east it would be Sunday.

Antimeridian: the International Date Line

The International Date Line

It is not a straight line like the imaginary 180º meridian. If we draw the line starting at the North Pole, it remains straight until an island belonging to Russia. There, it moves east, covering all of Russia. The line then passes through Alaska, which separates Russia from the United States.

There are two islands, Diomedes and Little Diomedes. The first belongs to Russia and the second to the United States. If you cross the 3.8 kilometers that separate the islands, you could say that you travel in time, at least one day. Open water swimmer Lynn Cox, in 1987, swam the two islands together. The time it took to make the crossing was two hours and five minutes, although if you look at the calendar, it took a day.

From Alaska, the line moves west through the islands that belong to Russia. From there, traveling along the 180º meridian, it reaches Polynesia. According to the political divisions of the numerous islands and nations that are located there, the line once again traces a true zigzag. Then, it describes a wide curve to cross the Kiribati Islands, which depend for economic reasons on New Zealand, the country from which they take their schedule.

Once the line passed through other islands such as Fiji, Samoa, Tuvalu or Tonga, it only resumed the 180º meridian until reaching Antarctica.

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