Here's a cool idea for you to consider for 31 Dec 1999. How about getting to celebrate the coming of the new year twice? To my knowledge, there is at least one tour company offering this kind of adventure, but I have an idea that, if you could pull it off, would be even cooler.

How to have two New Year's parties? Well, there's this thing called the International Date Line. It stretches from the North Pole to the South Pole, right down the middle of the Pacific Ocean. If you're located just to the east of it, you're a day behind whatever day it would be if you were just west of it. It's the place where the new day "begins" at midnight. Put another way, it's the first place on earth that sees each new day.

Are you getting the picture? If you could be at the International Date Line, but just to the West of it, you'd have a New Year's Eve party and usher in the new year as usual. Then, you'd travel back across the Date Line (where it had just become 31 December) and, 24 hours later, you'd have another party to bring the new year in, East of the Date Line.

This actual scenario is being planned by some cruise ship companies, but I have a little additional twist to add to the adventure. There are places where the Date Line zigzags to the east and west of its normal 180° longitude, to avoid splitting countries, islands, or states between two different dates. Additionally, the island nation of Tonga has adopted a time zone which is one hour later than their longitude's standard. For them, even though they're situated to the west of the Date Line, they see midnight an hour before anyone else lying to the west of it. This makes them the first to "see" each new day, and, therefore the new millennium.

The place where the Date Line jogs to its most westerly location is along the Aleutian Island chain in Alaska. Since anyone to the east of the Line is still on the previous day, there is a little island in the Aleutians that is the last piece of land to say good-bye to the day, and therefore, the millennium.

Do you see where I'm going with this? You go to Tonga, as far east as you can get (or use GPS to go out on a boat to where you're just a few feet west of the Date Line), and you'll be the first person to be in the new millennium. Then, you fly up to Attu island in the Aleutians (you have 24 hours to do this, so not really a big deal), and do the same thing, going out to where you're just to the east of the Line. Then that night, you'd have the distinction of also being the last person to see the old millennium.

This would be cool.

Wear your coat, though - it's winter, remember?

If you're going to gripe that the millennium doesn't really begin until 2001, then play it safe and do the same gig on 31 Dec 2000. Maybe Guinness will have a spot for you.

© 1999 Dan McGlaun