Being located over the south pole poses many unexpected challenges for Antarctica and the people who temporarily live at the research bases there, one of these is working out which time zone it falls in. So, what time is it in Antarctica?
Technically speaking, Antarctica sits across every time zone. However, according to TZ database (the international organization that keeps records of time zones), there are 9 time zones in Antarctica, loosely based on the original territories. Most research bases will use these times or the times of their home country.
Keep reading for a full map of the time zones in Antarctica and to find out how daylight saving time works. Alternatively, take a look at 17 facts about Antarctica to find out more about this mysterious continent.
How Does Time Work in Antarctica?
There are three main ways that research bases will set the time in Antarctica, these are:
- The time zone according to TZ database
- The time zone of their home country
- The time zone of their supply base
TZ database is the official organization that keeps track of time zones around the world, it is used by computers around the world to ensure they show the correct time. TZ database has the backing of ICANN who also keep track of IP addresses and website addresses1 (source: ICANN).
However, given that the Antarctic time zones listed in TZ database are loosely based on the original Antarctic territories, this can sometimes prove controversial as not all countries recognized each other’s claims, and some territories overlapped (find out more about this in our guide to who owns Antarctica).
In addition, they aren’t always practical when coordinating logistics with operations at other bases or at home.
This is why it is more common for research bases in Antarctica to use the time zone of their home country.
However, some stations use the time zone of their supply base instead. For example, McMurdo Station (USA) uses New Zealand time since all personnel and supplies are flown from military bases in Christchurch, New Zealand.
What Are The Timezones in Antarctica
Let’s begin by understanding how time zones actually work. The world was split up into 24 equal sections using lines of longitude (imaginary lines from the north to the south pole), each with its own time zone2 (source: How Stuff Works).
Over time, the lines have been changed to match the boundaries between and within countries as each government sees fit.
Technically speaking, Antarctica sits across every time zone since all lines of latitude pass through it, allowing you to walk through time at the south pole3 (source: P. Berkman, Science Into Policy: Global Lessons from Antarctica, 2002). Since nobody owns Antarctica and it has no government, there is nobody to clarify the time zones.
Therefore, the TZ database (the international organization that keeps track of time zones), splits Antarctica into the following 9 time zones which are loosely based on the original territorial claims before the Antarctic Treaty:
What Time Is It At the South Pole?
The South Pole uses UTC + 12 which is the same time zone as New Zealand. This is because there is a USA research base there which has a supply base in Christchurch, New Zealand. It’s one of the few places in Antarctica to also observe daylight saving time (DST) since they stay in sync with New Zealand.
Does Antarctica Observe Daylight Savings Time?
No, Antarctica experiences polar nights and midnight sun seasons which can result in days, weeks, or months of darkness or daylight at a time, therefore, daylight savings time (DST) is not used in Antarctica. However, some research bases that opt to use the same time as their home country or supply bases will use DST to stay in sync. One example of this is McMurdo station.