While there's been a lot of speculation about which country will be the first to see the sunrise of the new millennium, most people still have the date wrong.

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The Ultimate New Year

Who saw the first sunrise of the new millennium?

If you were chasing off to the International dateline at the end of 1999, then it probably wasn't you.

While there was a lot of speculation about which country would be the first to see the sunrise on the new millennium, most people still had the date wrong.

The Gregorian calendar starts with the year 1AD, so 2000 years passed as the clock ticked into 2001.

The standard by which all World Time is set was agreed at the 1884 International Convention in Washington DC, with Greenwich, England established as the Prime Meridian (Zero Longitude).

The third millennium officially started on 1st January 2001, at Greenwich -- Year 2000 was another good excuse for a party, and canny tour operators cashed in twice.

As the custodians of what astrologers call Universal Time (UT), Britain spent more on its millennium celebrations than the rest of the world put together.

Sunrise on January 1st:
At midnight on December 31st in Greenwich, the Sun is rising in the Indian Ocean. Anyone along a line that runs through the Nicobar Islands would experience the first sunrise of the new millennium at 00 hours UT, 2001.

While London has it's place in time assured, other countries stretched the international date line in order to be the first to see in the new millennium; on local time.

The International Date Line:
On Jan 1, 1995 The Republic of Kiribati, formerly the Gilbert Islands, moved the International Date Line to include its entire territory to the western side of it and prevent the country from remaining in two different days. As a result, the line has a bulge further east than Honolulu.

Because of this eastern bulge in the International Date Line, Kiribati claimed that Caroline Island would be the first point of land to see in the new millennium.

Unfortunately the Sun doesn't rise here before it does in the Antarctic, much further south.

Caroline Island is actually an atoll of 22 small islets protected by a very shallow reef and is about as hard to get to as the Antatartic; you would probably need to go in by seaplane.

First inhabited place to see the Jan 1st sunrise
(Local time)
Christmas Island is the most south-easterly of the inhabited islands in Kiribati, but the sun rises here later than it does at Pitt Island; in New Zealand's Chatham Islands.

The sun's first rays of a new year strike Mt. Hakepa on Pitt Island, 850km from New Zealand’s mainland.

Chatham Islands:
Mt Hakepa (213 metres) is located at Longitude W 176.10, Latitude S 44.16.

New Zealand’s East Coast then gets first light at Mt. Hikurangi and a few minutes later Gisborne, on New Zealand's North Island, will earn the status as first city to see the dawn of the new millennium.

The Last Sunset:
If you thought you'd caught the first sunrise of the New Millennium at Caroline Island, crassly renamed Millennium Island, you could have flown 1500 miles to Samoa and see the last sunset of the old Millennium, a little over 14 hours later.

If you really wanted to be the first to see the sun in the new millennium, then you would have needed to wrap up warm and head for Antarctica in December 2000 -- in January the sun is continuously above the horizon across most of Antarctica.

Antarctica as it is today reflects the on going clash of continent with a conquering introduced species - human beings. What matters now is to ensure a sound future for the Antarctic wilderness, so that the heart of Antarctica - the intrinsic values that make it special - remain unchanged, forever -- OneWorld Magazine.

New South Polar Times:
This Internet newsletter provides students and teachers around the world with information on Antarctica, the scientific research taking place there, and fun facts about life at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

Sunrise Calculation:
This page provides a way for you to obtain a table of the times of sunrise/sunset, moonrise/moonset, or the beginning and end of twilight, for one year.

Royal Observatory Greenwich:
The authority on timekeeping.

The Year 2000 Countdown:
Travel Notes Live Broadcast from around the world as the magic number clicked over in 24 time zones.

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