Monday, January 13, 2014

Unexpected Australia & Crossing the International Date Line

When traveling, sometimes things don’t go quite as planned.  The next leg of our trip took us from Seattle to Perth, on the west coast of Australia.

It was supposed to take 26 hours and 3 flights.  However, one of our flights was delayed, and because of the long, long lines at immigration in Brisbane, Australia (over 1000 people!), we missed our connection to Perth.  The next flight wasn’t until late in the day, so we ended up having an unexpected day in Brisbane.

So we took a shower in the airport, checked our bags, and took the train into Brisbane for the day.  The weather was beautiful, and it turned out to be a great day.

Brisbane from the Botanical Gardens

We saw a girls choir singing Christmas carols (it’s strange for us Minnesotans to be celebrating Christmas in the summer!) and then walked around Brisbane's Botanical Gardens, which is a large, beautiful park right on the water.  We saw some birds we had never seen before and some cool lizards.

Girls choir singing Christmas carols
We eventually arrived at our hotel in Perth late that night -- about 39 hours after we left Seattle!  We were exhausted, but we got to experience something we hadn’t planned.  Jason even said, “you know, if we hadn’t missed our flight we might never have ever seen these new kinds of bird.”

Australian White Ibis
Purple Swamphen
Australian Water Dragon

International Date Line

Have you heard of the International Date Line?  It is an imaginary line that runs in the middle of the Pacific Ocean from the North to the South Pole.  The reason it exists is to make time zones work.  Let’s go through an example.

International Date Line
Image from Universiteit Utrecht at this link
Let’s imagine a world without the date line.  And then think about our trip around the world.  As we are traveling now to the west, as we cross each time zone, we set our clocks back an hour – that is, it’s an hour earlier.  So as we traveled from Brisbane to Perth, we crossed 2 time zones.   In Brisbane, when it’s 5 p.m., it’s only 3 p.m. in Perth.

After we travel around the world, through the roughly 24 time zones, and eventually return to Minneapolis, we would have set our clocks back a full day.  But that’s not right, because we wouldn’t arrive in Minneapolis a day earlier.  Otherwise, we could continue traveling around the world and go back in time.

So, the International Date Line was created as the point where the date is reset.  As we traveled across it (we flew across it) we had to move our watches forward one full day – essentially, we skipped a day.  Then as we continue our travels westward, we gain back an hour for each time zone.  Eventually, when we get back to Minneapolis, we will have gained back the full 24 hours that we skipped when we crossed the date line.

For us, crossing the date line meant that we left Seattle on December 2nd and arrived on December 4th.  It was kind of fun to think that we just skipped December 3rd because of the date line.

Our next post will be a video post about Western Australia - watch for it in the next few days!

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