Wednesday 16 March 2011

Ship's Clocks

"This is the Officer of the watch speaking from the bridge, the time is now 12 'O Clock Noon". This is the announcement that we get everyday on board Arcadia. It is proceeded by eight rings of the ships bell to signify the time. Although we'd heard this everyday since boarding, we didn't know what the significance of the 8 rings was. Now we know that one ring is sounded for every half an hour of time passed since the last change of watch. It's one of the many nautical "traditions" that happen everyday but until they are explained, remain a mystery.
As with all world travel, we have to pass through different time zones and must arrive in a port with our watches and our internal clocks suitably adjusted to that local time. Every now and then the official time on board (the ships clock) is retarded by 1 hour at 2am. Whilst at sea, the time on board may not be the actual time of the countries we are passing but we must align ourselves ready for docking. When this happens, we get a reminder in the daily newspaper and also a card placed in our cabin on the night of the change. It often happens on the night before we arrive in a port so that we get an extra hour in bed, and wake up feeling refreshed! What actually happens is that when we know we have an extra hour, we just stay later in the bar! There has been one occasion when we moved forward one hour at Noon. This was after Vietnam but before Malaysia, because Malaysian time is aligned with Hong Kong for historical financial reasons. It happened at Noon so as not to lose an hour of sleep - not a major deal for passengers, but staff and crew work long hours.
As we are travelling east to west, there came a point where we had subtracted 11 hours from GMT. This happened between Samoa and Fiji in the Pacific and obviously we couldn't continue to subtract an hour all the way around or we'd arrive back in Southampton in the past! This is where the International Date Line comes in. We crossed this on the night of Thursday 3rd February and went to bed on Thursday evening, and woke up on Saturday morning. For us, Friday 4th February just didn't exist. Of course, at that point, we went from GMT -11 straight to GMT +10 and since then have continued subtracting an hour every now and then until we return home. As I publish this article, we are GMT +3.5 hours. The half an hour extra occurred before we arrived in Mumbai when the clocks were retarded just 30 minutes to fall in line with Indian time.
The good thing is that we're not really feeling any adverse effects from all these time changes, they are so gradual that our internal clocks are adjusting just fine. You'll be delighted to hear that our regular time of awakening remains the crack of noon!

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