Newfoundland Standard Time: This Random Island

Clock in Snow


The world will end at midnight,
a half-hour later in Newfoundland.

Living in a half-hour time zone means you get used to hearing jokes like that.


With daylight saving time having just ended and a week of adjusting various clocks, I guess 

I’ve had time on my mind.  So much so, that I decided to dedicate this edition of This Random Island to the Newfoundland time zone.


1.Newfoundland Standard Time (NST) is derived by subtracting 3 ¹⁄₂ hours from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC−03:30) resulting in a time zone that is a ¹⁄₂ hour ahead of provincial neighbour Nova Scotia (UTC-4:00). 


2. While not the only place in the world to use a half-hour time zone, Newfoundland (and some of Labrador) are the only places in North America deviate from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) by a half-hour increment.  The time zone is the result of political will.  It was likely influenced by the fact the capital, St. John’s, is the island’s largest population centre and is just a hair outside of the area that ‘ought to be’ UTC-3:00.


3. Despite being significantly further west than St. John’s, a small part of Labrador follows NST. The remainder of the mainland portion of the province follows Atlantic Standard Time (UTC-4:00).  Interestingly enough, the province’s Standard Time Act doesn’t specify that the act refers only to the island.  It says the “province shall be reckoned as 3 1/2 hours later than Greenwich mean solar time”.  Not to worry though, the act also says the Lieutenant-Governor in Council may prescribe, where necessary, the application of a time zone other than Newfoundland Standard Time to a part or portion of the province.


4. The choice of time zones in-and-around Newfoundland make for some interesting time travel.  The French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon are a half-hour ahead of Newfoundland (UTC-3:00).  When it’s noon in Lamaline, NL, 30km to the west in St. Pierre it is 12:30.  300km further west in Cape Breton it is back to11:30.  


Generally speaking, you should have to adjust your watch backward as you move west… and, ideally, not have to twist the crown forward and backward in a 330km span.1


5. Speaking of bizarre watch adjustments, If you were in Newfoundland in 1980s you may recall ‘Double Daylight Saving Time’.  In 19882 the province decided to try adjusting the clocks ahead by two hours during daylight saving time. It meant long summer evenings and dark autumn mornings.  I was 11 at the time.  I mostly remember going to bed when it was still light. I hated that. With good reason, the experiment lasted a single year. I’m not sorry.


Simani, famous for 'The Mummer Song,' recorded a track about it which was pretty popular at the time.  You can check it out below.


1. Due to St. Pierre’s time zone, Newfoundland may be the first province in Canada in celebrate the new year but it is not the first place in North America.

2. The same year the Sprung Greenhouse started producing cucumbers.  So, you know, lots of wise decisions.

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I’m a curious guy.  I always want to know more about the world and my place in it. ‘This Random Island’ pieces are an attempt to answer some of those questions. I set my sights on a topic, try to learn a little about it, and share what I've found.

Obviously, I’m no expert on the subject but I’ll never knowingly lead you astray.

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