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Last sunset of 2011 draws crowd to Poloa shoreline

Some 20 plus people spread out in small groups along the one mile road of American Samoa’s shoreline village of Poloa while others were on the sandy beach or in the waters to watch the last sun set of 2011.

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.  But all that changed when Samoa leaped to the other side of the International Dateline, making that country the first to welcome in 2012, the year that Samoa will celebrate its 50th Independence Day.

With Samoa on the other side of the dateline, the territory’s village of Poloa, whose elementary school was completely destroyed in the 2009 tsunami got the new designation of the last place on earth to see the final sun set of every day and the end of every year.

Several groups of people took up positions on the sidewalk along the road at Poloa, while youngsters were on the beach playing on the sand or looking out to the horizon as the sun slowly set on a beautiful American Samoa day, with a cool breeze created by east winds of 5mph to 10mph.

Among those on the sidewalk were several people, who were not residents of Poloa, but came out to be part of the historic event.

A group of about five young man were in the waters, taking their last swim or boogie boarding for the last time in 2011. 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 of American Samoa smiling to visitors who made the long trip (by our standards) over the mountain to get to Poloa.

A handful of people on the side walk, as well as Samoa News staff, had cameras taking pictures of friends and relative making sure that the sunset was in the background. As the sun finally wnet below the horizon there was a round of applause from one group of watchers.

“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. Taifane as she pointed to the sun, now setting, creating a breath-taking orange 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 a distance miles away, part of Upolu island” in Samoa, which was a statement quickly acknowledged by other village residents. Aleipata district on Upolu island is the closest point to Poloa village.

As Samoa News was leaving Poloa, at least one car-load of visitors coming to watch the sun set arrived on the scene, but it was already too late - the sun had already set on 2011.

On his Saturday, Dec. 31, in his 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 of the year as well as the last sunset of the year to set in Poloa and no longer in Falealupo, Samoa. “See how good it is,” he said.