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Pacific Ocean's island nation Samoa to skip Dec 30 in dateline shift

December 29, 2011 - London

30th December will be a day that never existed for the natives of an island in the Pacific Ocean, as it will make a historic leap across the international dateline.

At midnight on 29th December, Samoa's calendar will leap straight to Saturday 31st December, as it redraws the dateline to move to the western side after more than a century on the east.

The country will go from being the last place in the world to see sunset to one of the first to see the sunrise.

The shift, aimed at improving trade, initially angered tourism operators, which will no longer be able to lure visitors with the sight of the final sunset.

However, the tourism sector quickly switched to a new offering that visitors can now celebrate two New Year's Eves, one on Samoa and one on American Samoa, which remains on the eastern side. The two countries, about an hour's flight apart, are also planning offers of double birthdays, Christmas and anniversaries.

The Switch has also caused concern among some religious groups, particularly those whose Sabbath incorporates Friday, a day that, for this week only, will be eternally erased.

Some of the island's 7000-odd Seventh Day Adventist members have said they will not recognise the change and will continue to observe the existing seven-day cycle.

"God will not recognise our manmade right to drop a day from the calendar, thus changing the weekly cycle," The Telegraph quoted a Noeline Cutts, a local Adventist as saying.

The dateline change was pushed by Samoa's colourful, outspoken and somewhat whimsical Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who has previously made a switch to driving on the left in 2009 and introduced daylight saving with little warning in 2010.

The country last shifted time zones in 1892 when an American trader convinced the island to align with California. With the opportunity to repeat the same day, the country celebrated two consecutive Fourth of Julys.

According to Malielegaoi, the change will put the nation on the same weekday as its neighbours to the west, including Australia and New Zealand, and will make trade with the countries easier.


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