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Time Zones in Antarctica

Illustration image
Technically, both the South Pole and the North Pole are at all time zones at the same time.
©iStockphoto.com/David Ciemny

Antarctica is one of the most interesting places in the world when it comes to keeping time. Technically, Antarctica, and the North Pole, fall under all time zones currently followed by the rest of the world. This is because the longitude lines that are used to define time zones all meet at the two poles.

Antarctica, therefore, not only has 24 time zones, but there is at least one point - the South Pole - where a clock synchronized to the time in any part of the world will be correct.

All the time in the world

While adopting any of the 24 standard time zones (UTC+/-n) or the two non standard time zones (UTC+/- n:30, UTC +/- n:45) would be an appropriate way of keeping time in Antarctica, the extreme day-night cycles during the winter and summer seasons make it hard to define one official time zone for the continent.

The lack of an official time zone in Antarctica is not a problem, since nobody resides there permanently. However, a number of countries do operate research stations in the continent and to make things convenient for the researchers and visitors, each research base determines the time zone it wants to operate in.

For practical purposes, some research stations follow the time zone of their home country. Others, like the McMurdo station and Palmer station, both run by the US, synchronize their time to the closest point in the inhabited world.

McMurdo for instance, follows the same time as Christchurch, New Zealand, since most visitors and researchers to the station use Christchurch as their point of embarkation to Antarctica. Palmer Station on the other hand, follows Chilean time.

Other research stations tend to follow UTC.

Time zones observed in Antarcatica


Since most of its territory lies below the Antarctic Circle, Antarctica experiences 24 hour of sunlight during the summer and 24 hours of darkness in the winter. This makes having daylight saving time pointless for the continent. However, stations that synchronize their time zones with ones that follows DST, do tend to make changes to their clocks when the time zone they follow fall back or spring forward. For example, McMurdo station follows New Zealand Standard Time, which is UTC+12, during the winter and then spring forward one hour in the summer to UTC+13 to follow DST changes in Christchurch.

Time in North Pole

While there is land surrounding the South Pole, the North Pole is mostly surrounded by drifting sea ice. This makes it harder for anyone to keep time in the North Pole. For the most part, researchers and visitors to the North Pole tend to follow the time zone of their respective countries and regions.

Did you know?

That any point on the south pole directs to the geographical north making giving directions very difficult. To overcome this problem, directions in the North Pole is given in reference to the Grid North which points towards the Prime Meridian.

Topics: Time

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