notes from Gilligan's Isle
Our correspondent reports on the Y2K non-event from
the Republic of Kiribati, on the edge of the dateline.
one day to go before the end of the world so I thought I'd drop
you a line while I can. If that nasty Y2K bug lives up to its reputation,
I might not be able to send you an update on January 1. But then
again, if worse comes to worst, you'll be too busy fending off those
errant Russian ICBMs and won't have much time to be browsing the
CJ Online site anyway.
flown from Tokyo to Honolulu, then to Christmas Island in the mid-Pacific,
where I boarded a boat that took five days to land me here on Millennium
Island in the Republic of Kiribati. This tiny coral atoll, which
is as close to the International Dateline as you can get without
tripping over it, is literally about to become Ground Zero for the
dawn of the new millennium. It's also the first place on earth where
the dreaded Y2K bug might possibly rear its ugly head.
me to explain. In 1995 the Republic of Kiribati extended the International
Dateline thousands of kilometers eastward in order to encompass
all of its tiny islands within the same time zone and within the
same day. Previously, this nation of thinly scattered coral atolls
had been bisected pretty much down the middle by the International
Dateline. So Monday in Tarawa, the capital, was still Sunday on
the outer islands on the other side of the Dateline. In practical
terms, this meant that there were only three days of the work week
in which the whole country could be found in the office. A severe
handicap for an already laid-back developing nation.
President Teburoro Tito moved the International Dateline to the
east, it had the added benefit of also making his country the first
to see the dawn of each new day--including January 1, 2000. And
so, after some debate with other Pacific nations that hug the International
Dateline much further to the west, Millennium Island is generally
recognized as the speck of land that will be first to witness the
dawn of the new millennium.
a scant nine kilometers long by two kilometers wide, this island
outpost just south of the equator is home to millions of seabirds,
hundreds of thousands of giant clams, and hundreds of rare coconut
crabs, but not a single human. It is so uniquely pristine that it
may very well become a UNESCO World Heritage Site by this time next
year. Millennium Island is not the sort of place where you'd expect
to find a computer chip unless it had been washed up onshore.
of course, with the millennium comes the millennium watchers. Within
the past two weeks this mini-Galapagos has found itself bristling
with the very latest in high tech satellite communications gear,
all compliments of the international media. A crew from Associated
Press Television News (APTN) made a beach landing here ten days
ago armed with no less than three INMARSAT-B satellite dishes, seven
power generators, a dizzying array of high-speed digital transmission
equipment, and of course a laptop for each crew member. And this
was just in preparation for the NHK and BBC news crews that arrived
today carrying their own state-of-the-art gear to record, edit,
and transmit live the first millennium sunrise celebrations.
about everyone has a laptop except for the 60-member team of native
dancers and myself. I arrived with a Mitsubishi SA-G ballpoint pen
and a "Everyone Can Do This! Ring Note" pad of paper that sports
a handsome Mickey Mouse figure on the cover. I figure I'm Y2K compliant.
problem, as you may have guessed, is that I'm utterly dependent
upon the goodwill and camaraderie of my fellow journalists if I
want to file this story before January 1, as promised. They are
the ones who had the foresight (and budget) to bring along a few
satellite dishes with them. My hat is off to them. In fact, my hat
is held out to them with pleading eyes.
just been lent a floppy disk by the NHK cameraman, and a BBC reporter
has kindly lent me his laptop so that I can type this out. By tomorrow,
December 31, I hope to have wheedled my way into the hearts and
satellite uplinks of the APNT crew, as well. It's all very wacky.
that the BBC, NHK, and APTN equipment is all Y2K compliant, and
also assuming that the BBC, NHK, and APTN crew members continue
to have pity upon me, I will file a follow up story on January 1.
But if you don't hear from me again, then you'll know that the bug
got to me first. In any case, I hope y'all have a happy New Year!
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