Apia, Samoa: The South Pacific nation of Samoa has jumped forward in time as it crossed westward over the international dateline to align itself with trading partners throughout the region.
At the stroke of midnight on Thursday, December 29, time in Samoa leapt forward to December 31 — New Year's Eve. For Samoa's 186,000 citizens, Friday, December 30, 2011, will simply cease to exist.
The time jump comes 119 years after some US traders persuaded local Samoan authorities to align their islands' time with nearby US-controlled American Samoa and the US to assist their trading with California.
But the time zone has proved problematic in recent years because it puts Samoa nearly a full day behind key trading partners Australia and New Zealand.
It'll be Back to the Future for the island nation, offsetting a decision it made 119 years ago to stay behind a day and align itself with US traders based in California.
That has meant that when it's dawn Sunday in Samoa, it's already dawn Monday in adjacent Tonga and shortly before dawn Monday in nearby New Zealand, Australia and increasingly prominent eastern Asia trade partners such as China.
Samoa has found its interests lying more with the Asia-Pacific region and now wants to switch back to the west side of the line, which separates one calendar day from the next and runs roughly north-to-south through the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Samoa's change will have a cost - the Polynesian nation has long marketed itself as the last place on Earth to see each day's sunset.
The original shift to the east side of the line was conducted in 1892 when Samoa celebrated July 4 twice, giving a nod to Independence Day in the US
The date line drawn by mapmakers is not mandated by any international body. By tradition, it runs roughly through the 180-degree line of longitude, but it zigzags to accommodate choices of Pacific nations on how to align their calendars.
Nearly as many Samoans now live in Australia and New Zealand as the 180,000 living in the islands, which are located about halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii and rely on fruit and vegetable exports as well as tourism.