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Tokelau: Wrong local time for over 100 years

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Published 7-Aug-2012

The international time zone community has apparently been listing the wrong local time for Tokelau since 1901. The territory in the South Pacific is currently 13 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Most sources, including the commonly referred to International Atlas by Shanks/Pottenger, claim that the UTC offset is +14 hours, or equivalent.

Illustration image
Tokelau is one of the most remote places on Earth.
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©iStockphoto.com/ekash

A long-lived error

According to research recently conducted by timeanddate.com, the mistake is probably linked to Tokelau's switch from Local Mean Time (time based on the Sun's position) to a standard time zone in 1901.

Historical records suggest that the local time in Tokelau was 11 hours behind GMT (UTC) from that year onwards. Although none of the documents explicitly state that the archipelago entered that time zone in 1901 it is a fairly safe assumption because the corresponding time offset is shown for later years and there are no reports about time zone changes between 1901 and 2011.

See the current local time in Tokelau

However, several sources reported the incorrect time offset of -10 hours, and this mistake remained widely undiscovered and eventually spread via numerous internet sources, including the official website of Tokelau's administration. It was reproduced when Tokelau skipped one day by moving from the eastern to the western side of the International Dateline (IDL) on December 29, 2011. Even reputable news networks like the BBC - but also timeanddate.com - wrongly claimed that Tokelau was 14 hours ahead of UTC after the date switch, which equates UTC -10 hours, plus one day.

Tokelau is one of the most remote locations on Earth and does not have an airport. The lack of publicized flight schedules may be one of the reasons why the error has not been discovered until now.

Tokelau's Time Zone

Tokelau is a territory of New Zealand in the South Pacific, situated just west of the International Dateline. The archipelago lies in the same time zone as Samoa but does not observe daylight saving time (DST). While clocks in Samoa switch between UTC +13 and UTC +14 hours every year, the local time in Tokelau is 13 hours ahead of UTC year-round.

Find Tokelau (Fakaofo) on the Time Zone Map

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