Apache Junction Seekers

Al and Linda enjoy visiting new places and having new experiences. In 2006, we spent 4 months in Europe and originally created this blog to keep friends and family informed. After a long delay, I'm trying to catch up with what we've been doing since then and hope to carry on into the future.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

We can thank the railroads for time zones. Before the railroad came to town, each community was free to set its own local time. But how do you know if the railroad is on schedule, or even what the schedule is, if everyone has a different idea about what time it is? So with the coming of the railroads came standard times.

England went to standard times in 1847 but the US didn’t until 1883. To quote from Wikipedia

“Timekeeping on the American railroads in the mid 19th century was somewhat confused. Each railroad used its own standard time, usually based on the local time of its headquarters or most important terminus, and the railroad's train schedules were published using its own time. Some major railroad junctions served by several different railroads had a separate clock for each railroad, each showing a different time; the main station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for example, kept six different times. One can imagine the confusion for travelers making a long journey that involved several changes of train.”

Despite the needs of the railroads, it is still true that each location has its own “sun time” on any particular day of the year. When you are traveling, you begin to notice that the sun didn’t come up the same time this morning as it did yesterday when you were 250 miles farther west or 200 miles farther south. At some point, you have to say to heck with it and go to sleep while the sun still shines and get up before it does, or vice versa.

Changing time zones have affected almost everyone who has traveled any distance from home, especially if they have gone a long distance by airplane. Most vacations involve changing from one’s home time zone to one other time zone, for example when you fly to Hawaii or to Paris. We all know how difficult it can be to adapt to that new time zone, to adjust your body to sunrise and sunset in your vacation spot. Imagine if you change mini-time zones every day.

When I lived in the south, Florida to be precise, where the length of the day does not vary dramatically with the seasons, I was surprised that some people simply did not believe me when I told them that winter days were short and summer days were long in the Pacific Northwest, from whence I had moved to Florida. Haven’t you heard of the midnight sun in Alaska’s summertime, I would ask. Yes, of course, they would nod. And haven’t you heard that also in northern Alaska the sun never rises in the wintertime? Oh, yes, they would agree. Well, then, can you understand that there is some point between Alaska and Florida where summer days are shorter than in Alaska but longer than in Florida? Ummm, no… It was amazing how many people could not understand the effect of the seasonal movement of the planet and the relationship to the length of the day/night at any point on the globe. Well, friends, all you have to do is to travel from south to north and you will observe with your very eyes the effect of latitude on the length of the day.

When we travelled from Ocean Springs, MS, to St. Charles, MO, both within the same Central Time Zone, the length of the day (sunrise to sunset, not the number of hours!) changed by about 45 minutes. I haven’t measured it precisely, but that distance is only a fraction of the distance from Ocean Springs to northern Canada at the same latitude as northern Alaska. So the farther north we go in the summer, the more daylight we get.

As I write this in Montana, I’m enjoying about an hour and a half more daylight than I would be at home in Arizona. Of course in Arizona in the summer, you really don’t want the sun to stay up any longer that it absolutely has to, one reason that Arizona doesn’t observe daylight time. On the other hand, the Navajo nation does observe daylight time, which can make it very confusing, but since Gallup NM is a main trading center for most of the Navajos, even those who live in the part of their nation that is in Arizona, it apparently works better for them to stay in synch with the rest of the Mountain Time Zone and not worry about those folks in Phoenix. Which seems fair because the folks in Phoenix don’t worry about the Navajos a whole lot anyway.

Fortunately, being retired and not being on a schedule, we can get up and go to bed when we doggone well please, time zones and latitude be darned.


Post a Comment

<< Home