Tiny island will see Year 2000 first

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From today's Electronic Telegraph (London):

Mean Time gives island Millennium's dawn, By Julian West in New Delhi

AMONG the various tropical coral islands squabbling over who will host the first sunrise of the Millennium, the most unexpected claim has come from a point almost 6,000 miles west of the international date line.

According to astronomers at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, the place to see the world's most-awaited dawn will not be in the Pacific, but on Katchall Island, in India's Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, on the eastern edge of the Bay of Bengal.

They base their calculations on the time the universal day begins, which is internationally recognised as midnight, Greenwich Mean Time. So, at midnight on December 31, 1999, in Greenwich, it will be 5.30am on January 1, 2000, on Katchall Island - the time the sun rises there.

Correspondingly, when the sun rises over the Pacific for the first time in the Millennium, it will be three o'clock in the afternoon on December 31, 1999, in Greenwich and, hence, technically not yet the new year.

Dr Robin Catchpole, the senior astronomer at the Royal Observatory, who would prefer the world to celebrate the Millennium on January 1, 2001, calls his thesis "the purist view". He said: "It sends a contrary blast to all those people fighting each other in the Pacific."

Not surprisingly, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands' tourist board has greeted Dr Catchpole's observations with enthusiasm and is proposing to host some 20,000 tourists. However, the plan, which has yet to be approved by New Delhi - Katchall Island, like much of the archipelago, is prohibited territory - has not been as well received by many locals.

Environmentalists fear that an influx of tourists might not only endanger the island's forest and wildlife, but also risk contaminating the Nicobarese - a semi-civilised tribe that lives on the Andaman islands. Instead, they propose that the celebrations should be moved to one of three other islands in the chain, over which the sun will rise almost simultaneously, but which are uninhabited.

Samir Acharya, who runs the Society for Andaman and Nicobar Ecology, said: "Katchall simply cannot handle that many tourists. The release of excreta by 20,000 foreigners, estimated at 20 to 30 tons, could result in the spread of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, since Westerners consume more antibiotics than Indians." He fears these may multiply in the humid climate and cause disease among the tribesmen.

Of the more than two billion people estimated to have planned Millennium celebrations, many will travel to such cultural totems as the Great Pyramids, the Taj Mahal or Stonehenge. However, it is the cachet of seeing the Millennium's first sunrise that has especially fired the imaginations of those wealthy or organised enough to voyage to the Pacific.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, there has been heated competition among those nations bordering the International Date Line, which traverses the Pacific at 180 degrees longitude. Caroline Island, in the Republic of Kiribati, where the sun will rise at 5.43am on January 1, 2000, local time (or 3.43pm GMT on December 31), has even re-named itself "Millennium Island". It is already cashing in: three years ago, a Japanese television company reportedly "hired" the beach that the sun will rise over.

Then there is Tonga, with its Dateline Hotel. And, the tiny backwater of Pitt Island, part of New Zealand's Chatham Islands, claims it will be the first inhabited place to see the sunrise. Two coastal towns on New Zealand's North Island, Gisborne and Hastings, are also arguing over which will be the first "Millennium 2000" place. And, just for good measure, the United States has staked a claim to both the last sunset and the first sunrise, between Dibble Glacier and Victor Bay, in Antarctica.

Meanwhile, as travel agents cash in on expensive chartered cruises to the Pacific, Katchall Island's modest, but scientifically impeccable claim, might yet blow all contenders out of the water.

Cut and pasted by:

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), May 23, 1999


2 billion people are going abroad for the millium sunrise? Phew! The farhest I plan on traveling is to the out house. LOL


-- Taz (Tassie @aol.com), May 24, 1999.

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