Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Lonely Aleutians

A while ago Jon Lange had wondered about the population distribution among the different time zones of the United States. Obviously the Eastern Time Zone has the biggest U.S. population, and the Mountain Time Zone has the lowest population of the four time zones in the contiguous United States.

But what about the other U.S. Time Zones? The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49, Part 71 defines nine different time zones for U.S. states and territories, including the four familiar time zones plus the Atlantic Time Zone, Alaska Time Zone, Hawaii-Aleutians Time Zone, Samoa Time Zone, and Chamorro Time Zone (in Guam). Oddly enough, they don't define the time in the minor outlying islands; probably those use nautical time.

Let's take a closer look at the Hawaii-Aleutians Time Zone, which is two hours earlier than the Pacific Time Zone. The State of Hawaii doesn't use Daylight Saving Time, so right now people in Hawaii are three hours earlier than I am here in California. But what about the West Aleutians? They're in the same time zone as Hawaii, but they do use DST, so they're two hours behind me here, the only part of the country that currently uses the UTC-9 time offset.

Now let's think back to the original question about population distribution. How many people in the United States are currently two hours behind Pacific Time? This took a lot of poking around on the Census's American Fact Finder. Conveniently, all of the territory in question is in the Aleutians West Census Area (AWCA), but I had to separate out the parts of the AWCA that use Alaska Daylight Time (AKDT) from the parts that use Hawaii-Aleutians Daylight Time (HADT). The time zone boundary is at the 169°30' W longitude line, in Samalga Pass between the Fox Islands and the Islands of Four Mountains, but only in the Aleutian Islands themselves.

There are seven Census-designated places or cities in the AWCA. One of them, the city of Unalaska, forms its own Census tract (Tract 2, population 4,283), but everything else is in Census tract 1, which totaled 1,182 persons in 2000. The Tract 1 towns have the following populations:
Subtracting 1,151 from 1,182, that means there are 31 people in Tract 1 of the Aleutians West Census Area that don't live in a town or Census-designated place. But on which side of the time zone boundary do they live? For that, I dug through the block-by-block data and reference maps, and discovered where the Mystery People live:
All three of these locations are west of the 169°30' W longitude line, so they're in the Hawaii-Aleutians Time Zone. Adding the 31 Mystery People to the populations of Adak, Atka, and Attu Station brings the total U.S. population within that time zone observing DST to only 459 persons. Since most islands in the Pacific don't observe DST, the only other populated place in the world observing UTC-9 time right now is the Gambier archipelago of French Polynesia, which has a population of only 986!

Note 1: It would tickle me pink if there were a social club or something like that in Unalaska called the House Committee on Unalaskan Activities.
Note 2: I'll calculate the populations of the other time zones later.
Note 3: We're late enough in the decade now that the results of the 2000 Census are getting out of date. Just 2 more years to go!
Note 4: I had to go in and correct the Wikipedia page on Nikolski, which somebody had mistakenly put in the Hawaii-Aleutians Time Zone.
Note 5: I'm not that experienced in Wikipedia editing, so I don't think I made the references in the most efficient way possible. Specifically, I'd like the reference list to just put the link on the reference, instead of after it as another reference. I'm not sure how to do that, though. If one of you has more experience and could show me, I'd appreciate it.


At Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 10:39:00 AM PDT, Blogger Paul C. said...

I've always been fascinated by people who actually live in Alaska. As someone who has lived in cities or suburbs all my life, the idea of living in a place that's so dominated by wilderness and the elements is strange and kind of magical. I wish there could have been more of this in Into the Wild, but that's not really what the story was about.

Anyway, I'm sort of geeking out about this post. Reading about the different small island communities in Alaska makes me yearn to visit one of them someday. Perhaps St. Paul during birdwatching season, so I wouldn't be so out of place.

At Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 4:48:00 PM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Yeah, I've been fascinated by islands for a long time, too. Our honeymoon on Maui was fantastic, but it was kind of odd to realize that I'd been able to tour the entire landmass in one week and have plenty of time for relaxation in the meantime. I can't imagine what it must be like to live on a tiny atoll in a place like Kiribati, where to reach anywhere that you can't easily walk to in an afternoon would require flying or sailing across hundreds of miles of open ocean.

Jen and I are looking seriously at taking a cruise to Alaska this summer after she finishes her degree but before she starts her new job.

At Monday, April 14, 2008 at 4:44:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Victor said...

The only good thing about nature is it gives stupid hippies a place to go to poison themselves on berries and remove themselves from the gene and voting pools.

At Monday, April 14, 2008 at 5:28:00 PM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Keep tellin' yourself that, Vic.

At Monday, April 14, 2008 at 10:36:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Victor said...

No really ... I was hating INTO THE WILD until the third act happened and the protagonist got what was coming to him for being such a self-righteous boho douchebag.

At Monday, April 14, 2008 at 10:41:00 PM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Oh, well, yeah. The INTO THE WILD dude was stupid. I took it as a cautionary tale --- enjoy nature, enjoy freedom, but don't forget that in the real world there are, like, you know, consequences to your actions and you don't gain freedom by ditching maps, you lose intelligence.
Also, money? Eventually you're gonna need it.


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