Greatest Time Zone Jump

On June 10, 2009 · 4 Comments

People seem more interested in time zone anomalies than many other quirks I discuss. I know this because I get lots of random one-time visitors to the Twelve Mile Circle from search engines based on these kinds of queries. I like them too, but I try not to overwhelm my regular readership with stories about these artificial creations. Several weeks ago I alluded to a particularly audacious anomaly as a comment to one of my posts. Today I will elaborate.

Time Zones of the World
Source: United States Naval Observatory

Notice the huge variation in time zones. Small nations tend to select a single time zone. Large nations generally split themselves into multiple time zones according to affiliations that rarely coincide with straight lines of longitude. Now look at China. It stretches 5,026 kilometres east-to-west, and yet it falls within a single time zone in its entirety: Universal Time +8. It’s their country and they make the rules. They can lump everything into a single time zone if they choose, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Nonetheless it does lead to some interesting situations where China abuts its neighbors.

Afghanistan is one of a handful of countries that aligns itself to the half-hour versus Universal Time, specifically UT+4:30. Afghanistan also shares a brief 76 kilometre border with China at its far eastern tip. Anyone crossing between the two would experience an astounding three and a half hour time change. That’s something one would expect from a multi-hour airline flight, but hardly with a single a step forward as happens here. It’s the greatest time change along a common border found anywhere on Earth.

I thought to myself, well, if the political situation ever improved then this would be a great anomaly to experience in person. However, that’s not going to happen. Apparently only a handful of non-locals have been able to accomplish this feat in the last fifty years. You read that correctly. It almost never happens.

View Larger Map

This is an area known as the Wakhan Corridor or Wakhan Salient, a narrow arm of Afghanistan jutting sharply to the east of its larger body. At times this extension constricts to as little as fifteen kilometres, hemmed in by Tajikistan to the north, Pakistan to the South, and China at its eastern terminus. The corridor itself is an artifact of an earlier time, intended to separate the Russian and British Empires with a physical land barrier, albeit a very narrow one. Otherwise there is little reason for Afghanistan and China to share a border today. The corridor is home to perhaps less than 10,000 people housed in widely scattered villages and serves no greater strategic purpose.

I purposely chose a terrain view on the map above to show the ruggedness of the mountains that would need to be traversed. It may be useful to switch it to map view to better see the outline of the international borders involved. Afghanistan meets China deep within the Hindu Kush Mountains at 4,923 m (16,150 ft). No road traverses it. The border would have to be trekked on foot. It’s also impassible entirely at least five months of the year and opened intermittently the remainder of the year due to fierce weather. Also permits would need to be secured in advance as failure to do so would place a traveler at risk of being arrested or shot on the spot should one stray the wrong way across any of the nearby borders. If all this hasn’t scared you away yet and If you would like to plan an excursion you can consult the Mock and O’Neil website.

It’s a nice intellectual anomaly but not one not likely to experienced by those other than a few local inhabitants or an occasional smuggler.

On June 10, 2009 · 4 Comments

4 Responses to “Greatest Time Zone Jump”

  1. haha
    well captain chowder you need have no fear of overwhelming your random 1time regular reader
    who has had google alerts for 12mile circle up since before you were born or reborn as such
    & who keeps shipping out 1 more time with you anyway

    but if you just take your not likely to be experienced short walk
    around the south pole
    even with 1 foot nailed to the ground
    & both hands tied behind your back
    you could still set your watch back or forward in all truth & sincerity not just 3 or 4 but the full 24 hours

    north pole too
    but i think it would be harder for you to find & verify

    so do the south first

    • Sigh…

      South Pole? Seriously, that’s the best you can do? I’ve come to expect so much more from you.

      Previously you’ve taken me to task alleging that I’ve underestimated the knowledge of the readership, and now you’ve once again taken me to task for failing to mention a little parlor trick taught in grammar school. You know darn well I was referring to international borders.

      I value your knowledge and insight. Frankly, however, I’ve tired of your rude, sarcastic, and downright condescending attitude towards me and towards various readers who have made an effort to provide comments.

      You are welcome to share your experience because I think you have a lot of good information and wisdom that will benefit all. One more snarky comment though, and not only do I delete your submissions but block your IP address permanently.

  2. Greg says:

    Nicely done, Mr. 12MC. I’m wondering, though…your standard for time zones is de jure, not de facto (and rightfully so), so that it doesn’t matter if a city or even a state uniformly observes a pseudo-time-zone, it must be codified in the relevant law governing that area. No law, no time zone, no problem.

    In that case, then, perhaps the first commenter here is mistaken, at least as it pertains to your standard of time zones. Maybe Antarctica has no time zones, because it would have to be governed by a lawmaking body in order to create one. Wikipedia says that only Graham Land has a time zone (UTC-3); I imagine that the rest of the continent unofficially uses whatever time zone the capital of the expedition’s country is in, or maybe New Zealand time, since that’s probably where they last were.

    Or is there a treaty explicitly extending time zones into Antarctica? Either way, I’m with you as to your “parlor trick” remark to the first commenter.

  3. Deryck says:

    Great work there. It seems that you have the most definitive article on the greatest time zone jump across a land border.

    Since the 3.5h time zone jump between Afghanistan and China is so rarely travelled, I wonder if the 3h time zone jump between the Chinese Northeast (UTC+8) and the Russian Far East (UTC+11) is the largest time zone jump that is regularly commuted? Harbin-Vladivostok is a high-volume trade route and so might be a globetrotter’s next best option to experience a massive time zone jump.

Comments are closed.

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