Zone list shakeup

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While one might think that its scientists labored in rarefied celestial autonomy, the Nautical Almanac Office actually does pay attention to world events. This is borne out in changes to the lists of zone descriptions (ZD) starting on page 262 of the NA.


The 10-time zone entry for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the 1993 Nautical Almanac is gone forever - much like its polyglot namesake. Replacing the order and symmetry of the entries on the U.S.S.R. are a clutch of new countries scattered through List 1 like the shards of an explosion. From Azerbaijan (ZD -4), to Kyrgyzstan (-5), to Moldova (-2), to Tajikistan (-5), List 1 has a colorful mix of new entries to spice things up. (The Soviet Union was certainly a cruel and repressive political entity, but for indexing locations across a staggering span of longitude, and for providing an easy ZD comparison of, say, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, it had certain advantages.)

The "standard time" lists in the Nautical Almanac provide ZDs for a group of selected locations around the planet. The idea is to find GMT by applying a location's zone description to its zone time. There are three lists. List 1 is for those locations east of Greenwich (subtract ZD to get GMT); List 2 is for those locations reasonably close to the Prime Meridian that keep GMT; and List 3 is for locations west of Greenwich (add ZD to get GMT).

While the U.S.S.R. entry is gone, its largest heir is a still impressive entry under the heading of Russia—stretching from Kaliningrad in the west (-2) to Petropavlosk in the east (-12). In other words, when it is 1200 on the Baltic coast, it's 2200 on the shores of the Bering Sea (Russia is not quite as big as the old U.S.S.R., but its still nothing to sneeze at).

Other changes in List 1 include the consolidation of East and West entries into a single Germany listing, a Croatia listing, and the reversion of Democratic Kampuchea to the old name of Cambodia.

The only change in List 2 is the disappearance of Portugal. It has moved to List 1 and now has a ZD of -1. According to Dr. Leroy Doggett, superintendent of the Nautical Almanac office, this is the result of European Community rules requiring it to keep time with the rest of Europe. For a country that edges into the +1 zone, this is a bit of a stretch. But then there are some other oddball zone descriptions, too. Newfoundland, for example, insists on a ZD of +3h 30 min. rather than a whole hour. The Chatham Islands, meanwhile, are actually in westerly longitude—at about 176 degrees W - but are a possession of New Zealand, which lies in easterly longitude (Wellington is roughly 175 degrees E). To ensure that all Kiwis share the same date, the International Date Line jogs to the east of the Chathams, giving the islands the unusual ZD of -12h 45 min. - another contortion of geography to fit political needs.Tim Queeney

By Ocean Navigator