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    Re: International Date Line --invented by Schedler
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2011 Jul 9, 23:01 -0700

    Hi Greg, you wrote:
    "You say ""International Date Line" is a map-makers' fiction or invention. Perhaps using the word arbitrary rather than fiction would sound better."

    Sure. It's not arbitrary in the same sense as, let's say, time zone boundaries where lawmakers can shift them at will. It's an arbitrary tool --an aid for determining at a glance whether some island in the Pacific uses the western hemisphere date or the eastern, but it's hardly perfect since the only people who "maintain" it are the publishers of maps and globes. It's a "fiction" since they can just make up the details to suit their cartographic tastes. If those map publishers can't figure out how to make something fit or if they find it aesthetically unappealing, like the switch by Kiribati to the eastern date back in 1999, they won't add it to their maps. It's personal whim! Another example... I was able to confirm tonight something that I dimly remembered: Kwajalein atoll was on the western date from about 1950 until one Friday in August, 1993 when the calendar jumped straight from Friday night to Sunday morning in order to synchronize its date-keeping with the rest of the Marshall Islands. I think it's a safe bet that there was no published map anywhere that showed this enclave of western hemisphere date hundreds of miles inside eastern hemisphere territory. And that was probably a reasonable choice since it was only US military and some civilian contractors who used that anomalous date.

    You added:
    "I do remember in my early days a ship Captain facetiously instructing the passengers to keep a sharp eye out for the double yellow date line (could have been the equator). Lots of passengers were out diligently looking for that double yellow ;-)"

    :) In situations like these, I have to think that most of the people involved are well aware that there's a joke going on, but they want to see how it turns out. Or they just want to play along, like spectators at a "flea circus".

    Of course, the location of the equator, even if it isn't painted with a big yellow line (!), can be determined by astronomical observation, within some limits. The borders of time zones can be determined by consulting established laws. But the location of the international date line? There's no rules there...

    -FER

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