At 7:00am GMT on December 9th 2007, Venezuelans set their clocks half an hour back as the country changed its time zone from GMT-4:00 to GMT-4:30. Venezuela thus joins Newfoundland and a wafer-thin slice of Labrador, Canada as the only regions in the Americas to be ‘on the half-hour’. The change is certainly in line with Venezuela’s alternative stance on a number of political issues, and an indignant BBC report – ‘Venezuela creates own time zone’ – seems sceptical that the move is anything but showmanship; it cites anonymous critics who suggest that President Hugo Chavez ‘simply wants to be in a different time zone from his arch-rival, the United States.’ (These critics are apparently under the impression that the US has a single time zone.) Of course, Venezuela has always had its own time zone, in that the rules governing local time are under Venezuelan jurisdiction. Whether the current rule changes make any sense is another matter.
Unusual Time Zones
The BBC report also takes a brief look at some of the world’s other ‘unusual’ time zones. Just how many of these half-hour time zones are there? It turns out that – with the above exceptions – there are none in the Americas, Africa, Europe or indeed the Antarctic. Asia, though, has six: Iran (GMT+3½), Afghanistan (GMT+4½), India and Sri Lanka (GMT+5½), Nepal (GMT+5¾) and Myanmar (GMT+6½). In fact if one were to accept Indian claims on Pakistani Kashmir, it would be possible to travel overland from the Turkish to the Thai border entirely on the half-hour.
In the Pacific, the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia are at GMT-9½ and New Zealand’s Chatham Islands are perpetually forty-five minutes ahead of New Zealand herself (GMT+12/13).
However, the remainder of the world’s eccentric time zones are Australian: South Australia (GMT+9½/10½), the Northern Territory (GMT+9½), the area around Broken Hill, NSW (as per S. Australia), and the W. Australian town of Eucla (pop. 50, GMT+8¾/9¾). Additionally, the Cocos Islands (GMT+6½) of the Indian Ocean and Norfolk Island (GMT+11½) in the Pacific fall under Australian jurisdiction.
And so the answer would seem to be that, as of this morning, there are sixteen such time zones in the world, if we include the outlandish offsets of Nepal, the Chatham Islands and Eucla, W. Australia (pop. 50).
Aside: whenever I read or use the term ‘it turns out’, I’m reminded of Douglas Adams, who had this to say of it:
“Incidentally, am I alone in finding the expression “it turns out” to be incredibly useful? It allows you to make swift, succinct, and authoritative connections between otherwise randomly unconnected statements without the trouble of explaining what your source or authority actually is. It’s great. It’s hugely better than its predecessors ˜I read somewhere that…” or the craven ˜they say that…” because it suggests not only that whatever flimsy bit of urban mythology you are passing on is actually based on brand new, ground breaking research, but that it’s research in which you yourself were intimately involved. But again, with no actual authority anywhere in sight.”