Sunday, March 13, 2011

Newfoundland Time Zone

This time of years, resetting clocks, I’m sometimes reminded of the fact that Newfoundland, in Canada, has a time zone named after itself. It’s 8:30 am here in Detroit as I write and 10:00 am in Newfoundland. That zone also covers the eastern parts of Labrador, which is to the north. If you live in St. John’s, NL, and are talking to someone in New York, you can’t just tell them: “I’ll call you back at ten-thirty my time”—without a little more explanation.

The first time I heard of this, it startled me. Time zones ought to be, I thought, separated from each other by a distance that divides evenly by hours. Here we start getting decimals. Time zone assignment are also quite arbitrary here and there. In Canada Saskatchewan is in the Central Time zone, but the Northern Territories directly to the north of that province operate on Mountain Time.

Time zone anomalies (as these are called) occur in the United States as well. A really fun post on a blog called Twelve Mile Circle here discusses time zones within the Navajo reservation. Arizona on its borders and the Hopis whom the Navajos surround—except for one enclave that the Hopis surround (!)—have different approaches to daylight savings time. Arizona and the Hopis do not observe it; the Navajos do. The same post also has a map showing how Mountain and Pacific times zones are bounded along Idaho’s border. Strangely, is the word.

Daylight savings time was officially introduced on April 30, 1916 by Germany; Germany’s allies in World War I observed it. It was called Sommerzeit (summer time). The ancients also observed it but in another way. The Romans divided the day into halves, each of 12 hours, 12 daylight, twelve dark. Roman water clocks had different scales for summer and for winter time. If you read the summer scale, daylight hours had 75 minutes; on the winter scale they had 44 minutes. Smart, in a way. But, of course, no wristwatches then. (My source here is Wikipedia).

What all of this proves for me is that humanity reigns supreme even over time. Time’s made for us, not we for time. And different strokes for different folks. Europeans don’t begin saving their daylight this early in the year (wastrels!), but virtuous we do.

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