In 1895, Mark Twain was travelling to Australia aboard the S.S. Warrimoo. In dire financial difficulties, he was embarking on an around the world speaking tour during which he also wrote ‘Following the Equator,’ his account of the journey. In it, he notes the moment the ship crossed the equator:
A sailor explained to a young girl that the ship’s speed is poor because we are climbing up the bulge toward the center of the globe; but that when we should once get over, at the equator, and start down-hill, we should fly.
Afternoon. Crossed the equator. In the distance it looked like a blue ribbon stretched across the ocean. Several passengers kodak’d it.
Three days later, he describes crossing the international dateline:
While we were crossing the 180th meridian it was Sunday in the stern of the ship where my family were, and Tuesday in the bow where I was. They were there eating the half of a fresh apple on the 8th, and I was at the same time eating the other half of it on the 10th–and I could notice how stale it was, already. The family were the same age that they were when I had left them five minutes before, but I was a day older now than I was then. The day they were living in stretched behind them half way round the globe, across the Pacific Ocean and America and Europe; the day I was living in stretched in front of me around the other half to meet it.
Along about the moment that we were crossing the Great Meridian a child
was born in the steerage, and now there is no way to tell which day it
was born on. The nurse thinks it was Sunday, the surgeon thinks it was
Tuesday. The child will never know its own birthday. It will always be
choosing first one and then the other, and will never be able to make up
its mind permanently. This will breed vacillation and uncertainty in its
opinions about religion, and politics, and business, and sweethearts, and
everything, and will undermine its principles, and rot them away, and
make the poor thing characterless, and its success in life impossible.
Four years after Twain’s voyage, the Warrimoo was again travelling from Canada to Australia. The date was December 30, 1899 and nearing midnight. The captain, sensing a unique opportunity, headed for the point at which the equator crosses the international dateline. At precisely midnight, the front end of the ship was enjoying summer in the southern hemisphere on the first day of the new century. The rear of the ship remained in the Northern hemisphere in midwinter on the final day of the nineteenth century.