A (Probably Tedious) Diversion on Timezones

OK, so this is a discussion about time zones and is likely very boring to most. Please feel free to skip it.

One of the advantages of the way in which we’ve travelled is that we’ve yet to experience any real jet lag – although the 13-hour difference, 30-hour journey back from Auckland will make up for it, I’m sure! The slow meander west to east on the train meant that, while we crossed five different time zones from Moscow to Irkutsk, we took four days to do it. The only other multi-zone crossings have been India to Hong Kong (2.5 hours) and Singapore to Sydney (3 hours).

A few quirks have been thrown up. Irkutsk is GMT+9 – but this is significantly out of sync with its longitude. As a result dawn was around 7am and sunset at 9pm, skewing the day by two hours. This meant the hottest hours of the day were 2-5 in the afternoon, which can catch you out heading out late. Actually from Irkutsk to Ulaan Baatar/Beijing we headed east, but gained an hour of time (it’s GMT+8 there). While there was a similar experience flying from Melbourne to Brisbane (fly east, gain an hour) this was purely down to daylight savings time not being used in Queensland. For Irkutsk, it’s a stretching exerise performed by Russia – otherwise Vladivostok out east (GMT+11) would be even more temporaly isolated than it already is geographically.

Nepal has a time zone of GMT+5:45. While this might seem a pointless distinction, at its latitude, Nepal doesn’t suffer the swings of day and night that Northern Europe does – and the 5:45 allows it to legitmately line-up its day to a balance point at noon. When your country has such a significant rural and agrarian population, this becomes key. The counterpoint to this is Singapore. Right next to the equator, Singapore sees pratically zero seasonal variation in day/night, and gets 12 hours of day come what may. However, the Singaporean day is shifted to run 7am to 7pm. For an entirely urban population, this suits working hours much neater.

Due to the nature of our travel, we’re always referring to ‘home’ time in London. When do our friends come online, when do newspaper articles pop up, and, more importantly, at what time is the Bath game? Throughout our journey in the northern hemisphere (max difference from London +8 hours) this was relatively reasonable. When you got up, people were in bed, but any west-coast American news sources were still publishing. Mid-afternoon, your friends and colleagues would be coming online and the London news would start flowing. A Bath game would likely start just after dinner, but before you turn in for sleep. Once you hit +10/+11 though, everything is skewed. Christmas in Sydney was odd, we were up on Christmas morning and Amy was skyping with friends who’d just finished Christmas Eve dinner. We’d finished Die Hard and were looking towards our bed in the evening before we started skyping with family at 10pm our time, 11am at home. New Years was even odder. We stayed up and celebrated New Years. Raising ourselves at 8am the next morning, it still wasn’t New Year at home (and wouldn’t be for another two hours). It wasn’t New Year in San Francisco until 6 freakin’ pm the next day.

One of the regular statements about London is it sits very nicely in the timezones as a bridge between East and West. I think it takes going through big world days at some 10 hours removed from this to realise how big a deal this is.

Wow, so you made it to the end of this. Congratulations?


3 thoughts on “A (Probably Tedious) Diversion on Timezones

  1. I had no idea Nepal’s time Zone was that different. I knew that there were time-zones that were on the 1/2 hour but never 15 or indeed 45min.

  2. I love the idea of compensating for isolation by altering the time, it’s so inclusive. I was wondering if you’ve done any east-west travel significant enough to notice a difference in jet lag according to direction of travel. I think some people find that direction has quite an impact.

    • Not on this trip, although I’ve experienced it a reasonable amount going trans-Atlantic for work. Generally I found east-west much easier than the reverse, you just stay up later and wake early (thereby getting a lie in). Overnights from NY/Toronto to London are miserable. Leave at 7pm, land at 2am, except it’s suddenly 7am.

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