“First” last sunset in the world in Poloa tonight
It’s happened — the weekend came sooner than usual for the tiny South Pacific island nation of Samoa, as reported by The Associated Press (AP). When the clock struck midnight Thursday, the country skipped over Friday and moved 24 hours ahead — straight into Saturday, Dec. 31.
The AP reports that Samoans gathered around a main clock tower in the capital of Apia for the historic moment, applauding in celebration as the midnight hour struck to the wail of sirens and burst of fireworks. Drivers circled the clock tower blaring their horns, and prayer services were held across the country.
The time jump means that Samoa's 186,000 citizens, and the 1,500 in the three-atoll United Nations dependency of Tokelau, which also shifted, will now be the first in the world to ring in the new year, rather than the last — the honor that now lies with the village Poloa, on the island of American Samoa.
While no special celebration has been announced for the American Samoa ‘honor’, reports say that people will be gathering on their own to watch the “first” last sunset of the world in 2011 in the village of Poloa. Sunset is expected at 6:55 p.m., today, American Samoa time.
Gov. Togiola Tulafono in his New Year’s message, noted that, “as our American Samoa family prepares to welcome in the New Year, we take time out to recollect our thoughts about 2011 and the many blessings, as well as the challenges, that we received and faced as an island community. We thank God for the resiliency that he has bestowed on our people to move forward in knowing that through God there will always be hope, and through His infinite mercy, our challenges will not be as great because of the determination and courage that we have as a people to unite and rise above any obstacle. This is collective faith of American Samoa.
On behalf of Mary, Lieutenant Governor Faoa Sunia and Mrs. Elisapeta Sunia and all of our children, we wish everyone a happy, heathy and safe New Year. And a special 2012 greeting to all of our visitors and participants of Samoa Bowl IX.
Alofa'aga mo se Tausaga Fou fiafia, manuia ma saogalemu. Ia manuia fuafuaga uma mo le tausaga fou 2012.”
In the meantime, Samoa officials have begun work on changing maps, charts and atlases to reflect Samoa's new date line position. A postage stamp, featuring the phrase "into the future," has also been created to mark the switch.
Although generally embraced by most Samoans, the date change wasn't expected to happen without a few little glitches.
Digicel, the most popular mobile phone service provider in Samoa, said the company would have to update its systems immediately after the time jump, leaving phone service dead for about 15 minutes.
"The interruption will only take a few minutes so we can adjust our system," CEO Pepe Fiaailetoa Fruean said. "So I would like to inform all of our customers to have alternative communication means available in case of an emergency."
Samoa News has received a couple of reports from Samoa saying that internet and phone service of both Digicel and Bluesky went down at 12, with cell phone service coming back on line soon after. However, landlines continued to be down, while internet service was at ‘crawl’ speed as of 12:50 a.m., Dec. 31, in Apia.
In June, the Samoan government passed a law to move Samoa west of the international date line, which separates one calendar day from the next and runs roughly north-to-south through the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
In addition to the economic advantages, the time jump is also expected to make the everyday rituals of family life a little more pleasant. Like many small Pacific island states, more of Samoa's people live permanently in other countries. About 180,000 Samoans live in New Zealand and 15,000 in Australia.
"We've got to remember that over 90 percent of our people emigrate to New Zealand and Australia. That's why it is absolutely vital to make this change," Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi told The Associated Press just hours before the country catapulted into the future.
The original shift to the east side of the line was made in 1892, when Samoa celebrated July 4 twice, giving a nod to Independence Day in the U.S.
(Source: The Associated Press)