RESIDENTS OF POLOA ENJOY THE VIEW — AND THEIR NEW HONOR ON THE GLOBAL MAP
Residents of the shoreline village of Poloa on the far western tip of Tutuila are proud, thrilled and happy to be given the new designation as the last place on earth to see the last sunset of the year after Samoa leapt to the other side of the International Dateline.
“It’s amazing. It’s an honor. For us residents of Poloa it is a real honor be getting the designation as the last place to see the sun set,” said Ms. A. Taifane as she pointed to the sun that was setting, creating a breathtaking orange-red glow over the horizon.
She also said that if it were not for the late afternoon clouds on the horizon, “you could actually see far in the distance, miles away, part of Upolu island” in Samoa, which was a statement quickly acknowledged by other village residents.
The Aleipata district on Upolu island is the closest point to Poloa village.
For some 119 years it was the village of Falealupo on Savai’i island in the neighboring nation of Samoa, that was the last place on earth to see the sun set, in accordance to the International Dateline. But all that changed when Samoa moved to the other side of the dateline, making that country the first to welcome in 2012, the year in which Samoa will celebrate its 50th Independence Day.
Poloa resident Tavai Fa’alogo said this designation for Poloa, is “uplifting and a great honor” for the village” and as a resident of Poloa, “this historical moment makes me proud and happy to be a native of Poloa.”
“Poloa number one,” added Poloa resident Freda Tuiolemotu, who points out that she too is happy, proud and thrilled that Poloa now goes down in history as the last place on earth to see the sun set every day.
(It is interesting to note that Samoan legends designate Falealupo as the area in which Puloto, the final or last destination of souls is located, and was particularly poignant when ‘the last sunset of the world’ occurred there.)
More than 25 people spread out in small groups along the sidewalk next to the main road in Poloa (down, along the sea coast) on the late afternoon of Dec. 31st. Some residents of the village were either on the beach playing or taking that last swim of 2011 as everyone eyed the sun slowly setting on the horizon.
Other Poloa villagers were able to watch the event from their homes overlooking the ocean, while three village men sat on a cement bench in front of the Congregational Christian Church smiling to visitors who had made the long trip (by our standards) over the mountain to Poloa.
Among those on the sidewalk were people who were not residents of Poloa, but who had came out to be part of the historic event.
A handful of visitors, as well as Samoa News staff, had cameras taking pictures of friends and relatives making sure that the sunset was in the background. As the sun finally went below the horizon there was a round of applause from one group of watchers.
As Samoa News was leaving Poloa, at least one car-load of visitors coming to watch the sunset arrived on the scene, but it was already too late — the sun had already set on 2011. Samoa News later learned that this group, included Carl Floor Sr. and his three daughters, who moved to the territory from cold New York in late November.
Floor said they were able to watch the sunset from a “good spot” at a nearby village because they were late getting to Poloa.
“It was a great day for me. I woke up early in the morning [on Dec. 31), went out fishing to watch the last sun rise of the year and then be able to take part in the last sunset,” said Floor, who posted his adventure on his Facebook page so that all his friends in the U.S. could see it.
On his Saturday, Dec. 31 radio program, Gov. Togiola Tulafono acknowledged history in the making for American Samoa, now that Samoa has moved to the other side of the dateline. With the last sunset everyday, as well as the last sunset of the year to set in Poloa — and no longer in Falealupo, Samoa-- he said, “See how good it is".