Can Countries Move across the International Date Line?

Countries can't physically move across the International Date Line (IDL) — partially because there is no physical line; it's just an agreed-upon line of separation for two calendar days. Nevertheless, Samoa has "moved" across the IDL twice by changing its time zone to align with the other side of the IDL. It did it the first time in 1892 in hopes of fostering trade with the United States and a second time in 2011 to improve its trade relations with Australia and New Zealand.

More facts about the IDL:

  • The IDL dates to the International Meridian Conference in 1884 that divided the world into time zones.

  • Although the IDL was designed to run through Greenwich, England, at a longitude of 0°, the actual path that the line takes was never specified, so countries have "rearranged" its path to fit their countries. For instance, the island country of Kiribati used to be bisected by the IDL, but in 1995, Kiribati "moved" the line to curve around all of its islands.

  • Countries aren't compelled to use the IDL or even the time zones set up in the 1884 conference. In fact, China has only one official time zone even though the country spans five internationally accepted time zones.

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