Time to ditch Daylight Savings Time, and move Maine to the Atlantic Time Zone
Marsh with running tide, Carol L. Douglas. These are my finished paintings from Parrsboro.
Crossing into New Brunswick, the Mainer goes from the Eastern Time Zone to the Atlantic. There’s one more time zone to the east on our continent, the little-known Newfoundland Time Zone, which is staggered on the half-hour. This is followed only on Newfoundland, its offshore islands, and the most southern parts of Labrador.
As weird as that is, it’s no weirder than the sprawling Eastern time zone, which starts somewhere around Grande-Rivière, Quebec, and runs to Ontonagon, Michigan. Sunrise in Grande-Rivière was at 4:17 AM this morning. It was at 6:03 AM in Ontonagon. That’s an unwieldy span.
Headlands, Carol L. Douglas
Our pre-clock ancestors marked the time of day by measuring with a sundial, making noon whatever time the sun was directly overhead. They weren’t worried that this was slightly different down the road. After all, if you walked from Winchester to Canterbury, any difference in the time would be lost along the way.
Greenwich Mean Time was established to aid navigators to determine longitude at sea. Nobody changed their clocks to match it; they just carried on with solar time right up to the 19th century.
Breaking Dawn, Carol L. Douglas
Enter the railroads. It was a bit difficult to set a schedule when towns fifteen minutes apart by train used different time systems. By the middle of the 19th century, British rail companies were using Greenwich Mean Time and portable chronometers to standardize time keeping in Britain, although it was a tough sell in places. British clocks from this period sometimes had two minute hands, one for railroad time, and one for local time. But by 1880, Greenwich Mean Time was the standard for Great Britain.
Low tide, Carol L. Douglas
Here, time was confused in a uniquely American way. Every railroad company had its own standard time, based on where it was headquartered. Its schedules were printed in its own system, leaving the stationmaster at an important junction with the unenviable task of translating several different train lines’ timetables into local time. The solution was multiple clocks, one for each railroad.
Standardization was reached on Sunday, November 18, 1883, known as “The Day of Two Noons,” when each railroad station clock was reset as it reached the standard-time noon. The western limit of Eastern Standard Time was my home town of Buffalo, NY. That’s more than 700 miles east of the current western boundary.
Fox River School, Carol L. Douglas.
Last fall, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued a report recommending that their state ditch Eastern Standard Time “under certain circumstances.” Effectively, it would get rid of Daylight Savings Time—hurrah—and put Massachusetts on Atlantic Time year round.
My quick-draw of Parrsboro and its mudflats.
I’m all for ditching Daylight Savings Time nationwide. It’s a meaningless exercise that throws our internal clocks off twice a year. I’m also in favor of switching Maine to Atlantic Time. The sun rises 25 minutes earlier in Halifax than it does here. That puts our internal rhythms more in tune with the Maritime provinces than with Michigan.
The problems of such a switch are overstated. If we can do business with Californians and Australians, we can probably figure out the time difference with New York.
A kindly carpenter made teepees for Cathy LaChance and me. Only in Canada!
It gets dark mighty early here in the winter—Boston’s earliest nightfall is just 27 minutes later than in Anchorage. Since I live 185 miles north and east of Boston, it’s even worse here. Correspondingly, it gets light awfully early in the summer as well.
Have mercy on us, legislators, and let us get some rest.
Just one more workshop this calendar year, but it’s an awesome one! Sea and Sky at Schoodic, August 5-10. Be there or be square.
For many, it was the worst battlefield carnage they would see in the whole war, and it was here on the home front.
A view of Halifax two days after the explosion. Imo is visible aground on the far side of the harbor.
Shipbuilding in Nova Scotia dates to 1606. By the eighteenth century, the Canadian Maritimes were a global boatbuilding center. Their importance increased when Britain banned the United States from the West Indies trade after the American Revolution.
By December, 1917, Halifax was a bustling Canadian port of 60,000 people, with a recently renovated harbor. On December 6, it was destroyed in a spectacular military disaster. About 2,000 people were killed and 9,000 others were injured, including a Mi’kmaq village that was destroyed by the resulting tsunami. Until Hiroshima, this was the largest explosion humankind ever created.
St. Joseph’s Convent, located on the southeast corner of Göttingen and Kaye streets. The last body from the Halifax explosion wasn’t recovered until 1919.
Halifax and Dartmouth lie on opposite sides of a deep natural harbor. To get into its protected basin, boats traverse a narrow glacial channel that separates the two cities. Halifax Harbour is on the fastest sea route between Europe and North America. The success of German U-boat attacks had led the Allies to institute the convoy system. Halifax was a major western staging point. As the war raged, the port bustled with troop ships, relief supplies, and munitions ships forming up to cross the Atlantic.
The harbor was protected by two sets of submarine nets. These were raised and lowered each night.
On the night of December 5, the French freighter Mont Blanc arrived too late to clear the submarine nets. She would enter the harbor the following morning under the command of an experienced harbor pilot, Francis Mackey. The freighter was carrying a highly-volatile cargo of 2,300 tons of picric acid, 200 tons of TNT, 35 tons of benzole, and 10 tons of gun cotton. Mackey asked for special protections during her transit of the narrows. He didn’t get them.
Halifax boatyard after the explosion.
As soon as the nets were lowered, Mont Blanc started up channel. Meanwhile, the Norwegian vessel Imo left its mooring, bound for New York. She was hustling, trying to make up for lost time, and was on the wrong side of the channel. The two ships had what we might describe as a fender-bender. Unfortunately, the barrels of benzole toppled and flooded Mont Blanc’s hold. Sparks from Imo’s engines lit the mess into an uncontrolled conflagration.
SS Imo aground after the explosion.
Mont Blanc’s crew quickly abandoned ship. People gathered on the waterfront to watch the burning boat drifting onto the docks. As the fire department arrived, Mont Blancexploded in a blinding flash of raw energy.
In addition to the terrible loss of life, Halifax’s waterfront was leveled. Over 12,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. Hundreds of people were blinded by flying glass. Overturned stoves and lamps sparked fires across the city. People were killed by the explosion, the resulting fires, or by flying debris.
Kathleen Malloy, victim of the Halifax Explosion, sits up in a hospital bed, likely at Pine Hill Convalescent Hospital where injured babies were treated. (City of Toronto Archives)
Help came from many sources. Thousands of Canadian, British and American sailors and soldiers immediately sprang into action to create an emergency relief team. For many of them, this would be the worst battlefield carnage they would see. Doctors and nurses arrived by train. Among these was a large contingent from Boston, MA.
In 1918, Halifax sent a Christmas tree to the City of Boston in thanks. That tradition was revived in 1971. The tree is lit on Boston Commons each year and is the official Christmas tree of the city.