The Third Millennium

The third millennium started at about 21h00 on 31 December 2000. Basically, the year 2000 is celebrated one year earlier because the year 0 was not calculated. It is the THIRD millennium, of course, because the Gregorian calendar has already observed two thousand years after Christ. See the history of the calendar.

Zero Hundred Hours

All time and space on earth is measured by two reference lines: Longitude based on the Greenwich Meridian (0 Longitude) and the Equator (0 Latitude). To simplify timekeeping, modern nations divide earth into 24 north-south zones of standard time.

The position of the Greenwich Meridian was agreed to at an international conference in Washington, DC, USA in 1884 where it was also decided that a Universal Day begins at 00h00 at that longitude. This imaginary line runs from North Pole to South Pole as established through the primary transit instrument (telescope) at the Royal Observatory Greenwich at that time. In 1928, the International Astronomical Union recommended that the time known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) be referred to as Universal Time (UT). (Prior to 1925, in astronomical and nautical almanacs, a day of Greenwich Mean Time began at noon.)

Welcome to the new millennium

At 00h00 1 January 2000 UT the sun rose along a line that runs from about 650km (404 miles) east of Kerguelen Island in the Indian Ocean to about 640km (398 miles) east of Amsterdam Island, through the Nicobar Islands, up along the Burma-Thailand border, through China, along the China-Outer Mongolia border, along the China-Russia border, through Siberia and out into the Arctic Ocean just north of the Poluostrov peninsula. At this time of the year, earth is tilted so that the North Pole is continually in darkness and Antarctica is almost continually in daylight.

It was also determined at the Washington Prime Meridian conference in 1884 that the International Date Line be drawn at 180 degrees – 12 hours ahead of GMT. So, when the new millennium was welcomed at midnight in Greenwich, England, many other nations were already dancing away well into the third millennium.


The first millennium consisted of 365,250 days. The second millennium of 365,237 days. The third millennium will consist of 365,242 days.

AD is short for Anno Domini, or “Year of our Lord,” as proclaimed by the Roman Catholic Church. Some non-Christians prefer the alternative designation “CE” for “Common Era.”

The word “millennium” was first used in the 17th Century.

The International Date Line detours eastward through the Bering Strait to avoid dividing Siberia and then deviates around the Aleutian Islands in Alaska and some of New Zealand to follow the time zone boundaries of those places. Dateline map recorded from the New Zealand Millennium Site

Here comes the sun

The place that was first reached by the sun in local time 1 January 2000 is Young Island in New Zealand’s Antarctica Balleny Islands, at 00h08 (12:08am). Balleny Islands are proclaimed by Greenwich Observatory as the first land to have sunrise each day. Next in line was the Dibble Glacier, close to the French Dumont D’Urville base. Sunrise will occurred there at 00h22. But, as with Young Island, it is uninhabited, so we’ll head a little further north to find the first inhabited land to have witnessed the first sunrise of the new millennium.

Millennium Island

The Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas) is made up of 33 South Pacific coral atolls which straddle the International Date Line. It is subdivided into three main groups known as the Gilbert Islands, the Phoenix and the Line Islands. From north to south, Kiribati covers a distance of 800km (497 miles); the distance east to west is 3218km (1999 miles). In 1993 Kiribati decided to consolidate all three island groups under a single time zone and selected the Gilbert Islands, west of the International Date Line, as the standard. Kiribati’s capital, Tarawa, is located in the Gilberts.

Kiribati was the first country to meet the new millennium. They even renamed its easternmost point, Caroline Island, to Millennium Island (even though it is as inaccessible as Antarctica). However, Kiribati was not the first to greet the new millennium sunrise, which rose over Millennium Island at 05h43 local time.

New Zealand

Pitt Island was the first inhabited land to be touched by the first millennium sunlight. Pitt Island is part of New Zealand’s Chatham Islands, 850km (528 miles) east from the mainland. Sunlight reached Mount Hakepa at Kahuitara Point (situated 44 16′ S 176 9′ W) on Pitt Island at 04h49 (4:49am).

The sun reached New Zealand’s mainland at Mt Hikurangi on the East Coast at 05h43. Gisborne, New Zealand was the first major city to welcome the new millennium sun.

The last place where the sun set on 31 December 1999 was Falealupo, Samoa at 19h02 local time.


Australia: Cape Pillar, Tasmania at 04h32.
Africa: Fort-Dauphin, Madagascar at 05h05.
Europe: Ukraine just west of Donetsk, Russia at 08h11.
South America: Cabo San Juan, Argentina at 04h43.
North America: Cape Breton, Nova Scotia at 07h41.

USA: Peacock Pt. on Wake Island at 07h27. However, Wake Island is mostly uninhabited. The first inhabited land in the US to witness the new millennium sunrise was Inarajan, Guam at 06h44, after it reached the peak of Lamlam Mountain, Guam 3 minutes earlier. The first place on the US mainland was Cadillac Mountain, Maine at 07h04. The first metropolitan area in the US to see the third millennium sunrise was Miami Beach, Florida at 07h07.

mthakepa Mt Hakepa on Pitt Island was the first inhabited place on earth to welcome the third millennium.
Mt Hakepa is located at Longitude W 176.10, Latitude S 44.16. The sun rose there at 16h05 GMT, or 04h49 local time, on 1 January 2000.
The picture of Mt Hapeka is represented with the kind permission of Ken and Robert Lanauze of Pitt Island, New Zealand.

The different calendar dates

02/07/2010. Category: did you know. Tags: , , .

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  • Joseph Shaw

    I was trying to find the true date for the start of the 3rd
    Millennium. According to the Naval Observatory, official time keeper for the
    US, it was 01/01/2001. The white house observed it on 01/01/2000. Peter
    Jennings wrote in his historical novel “that “The 20th century stated on Jan,
    1, 1901 and will end on Dec. 31, 1999”. According to my calculations that means
    the last century had only 99 years.

    This was made more confusing by the Zero factor theory: In
    simple terms the calendar started on 01/01/0001. This was because zero is not
    used in counting; but it is used in aging. Determining the age you must start
    with zero. example: When a baby is born it does not become one year old until a
    year passed since birth. So starting with 01/01/001 implies that a year had
    already passed at the true start of the calendar, 01/01/0000. For some reason
    the theory stops here and concludes that the new millennium starts on

    The completion of the theory would state that a baby is not
    a one month old until a month a passed since birth and a day old until a day
    had passed since birth. This implies that a year, a month and a day had passed
    since the true start of the calendar, 00/00/0000. Which means that the new millennium
    started on Nov. 29, 1999.

    Was the Millennium a scam? Was the true start 01/01/2001 and
    the rest just a scam? I have read that only Germany celebrated the start of the
    20th century on 01/01/1900, the rest of the world on 01/01/1901.
    Very confusing.