Skip to main content

The curious clocks of Kauai

By Jordan Rane, for CNN
September 6, 2013 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Watts, Oslo and Hiroshima share space on Lihu'e Airport's unconventional wall of world clocks.
Watts, Oslo and Hiroshima share space on Lihu'e Airport's unconventional wall of world clocks.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kauai's Lihu'e Airport is home to a unique collection of world clocks
  • Each clock shows the time in locations with historic significance
  • The installation is brainchild of a former university professor and current architect

(CNN) -- Hawaii's Garden Isle, Kauai, may appear to run on a different clock than the rest of the world -- unless you happen to glance at those 24 timepieces lining the west wall of the island's Lihu'e Airport departure lobby in three neat rows.

Then, for however many seconds you wish to suspend your whole notion of time, it's the exact same hour, minute and second everywhere on the planet.

In Belfast and Bhopal.

Rio de Janeiro and Reykjavik.

Mogadishu and Santo Domingo.

And according to several other location-specific clocks straying from the usual Tokyo-Paris-New York scheme.

"When you look at these clocks it's a little bit odd," says Parker Croft, a Kauai-based architect, farmer and the creator of "Time for One World," an international art exhibit that aims to dispel, however momentarily, the whole divided (and delusive) notion of multiple times around the globe.

Parker Croft and Hiroshima clock.
Parker Croft and Hiroshima clock.

Inspired by Einstein ... and Y2K

Launched at Vermont's Burlington International Airport, the exhibit was conceived by Croft while working as a college professor in New England.

"It was 1999, shortly before the millennium change, and I was fascinated by that whole Y2K furor going on," recalls Croft. "It led me into researching what time is really all about and how -- as Einstein poignantly put it -- time is 'man's most pervasive illusion.'"

The world's time zones, notes Croft, are "currently based on political borders and outdated views of travel, commerce and communications. Divisions that are often illogical."

To address the point, the architect designed an alternative artistic model of a single, shared 24-hour cycle worldwide, which "challenges us to relax our preconceived notions of structures that are contrived and artificial."

One universe. One world. One time.

In Croft's model, time would be re-calibrated biannually on the equinoxes (fall and spring).

Leap Year adjustments would be replaced by a brief semi-annual time stoppage (about three hours), a "free time" recess dedicated to a worldwide celebration of humanity and relationships.

Can you imagine that?

Could John Lennon even imagine that?

Wounded Knee, Hiroshima, Falkland Islands represented

The overall effect of 24 oddly labeled clocks evoking universal time "can be unsettling for some -- even threatening," says Croft.

In fact, the curious clocks of Kauai serve to achieve the opposite. To unite and embrace.

"We are a planet that is joined in the beat of a single heartbeat," says Croft. "And that heartbeat is best appreciated when it's recognized and celebrated."

Travelers glancing at the distinctive Lihu'e Airport clocks, installed more than a decade ago (the installation is on long-term loan to the Lihu'e Airport, says Croft, but isn't necessarily permanent) have plenty to get their time-addled heads around before their flight departs.

There are no numbers on the clocks, which are divided into 24-hour faces instead of twelve, with each clock displaying the exact same time in perfect sync.

Then there are the 24 locations labeled below each clock -- selected from 24 separate 15-degree segments of the Earth's surface, and all associated with important historical events.

Ross Ice Shelf.

Falkland Islands.

Bikini Atoll.

Watts.

Not your typical wall clock reference points.

Auschwitz is written in Polish.

Hiroshima in Japanese.

Tiananmen Square in Mandarin.

Non-Sioux speakers will wonder where the clock labeled Cankpe O (Wounded Knee) refers to -- which is just the point.

Some references should be obvious enough (Chernobyl).

Others, like San Francisco (Summer of Love?) or Ahmedhabad (hint: Gandhi) or Injinoo may require personal interpretation or the services of Google.

Which is also the point.

"The inspiration for independent research is an important part of this mission," notes Croft. "The viewer's participation is critical."

A world without leap year

In a world as troubled and triumphant as this one, sliced into manufactured time zones that accentuate distance over connection, the presence of 24 perfectly synchronized world clocks beating as one in a small South Pacific airport might, at the very least, give travelers a moment's pause.

And beyond that?

Are there fans of Croft's suggestion to just stop time for three hours in the spring and fall?

"I don't think anyone takes it that seriously as a proposal," says Croft with a laugh. "But there are certainly fans of the art installation who take the notion of stopping to celebrate humanity quite seriously.

"Personally," he adds, "I think it would be a big improvement over New Year's Eve."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0207 GMT (1007 HKT)
Where to pay homage to the cutest local celebrities you'll ever stalk.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
For air travelers who like to gripe about being cramped in economy, here comes another warning that they've never had it so good.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Cream cakes from the Ruszwurm bakery in Budapest, Hungary
Proving they're what's really important, the world's best pastry shops have survived survived sieges, revolutions and World War II.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Lois Pryce ignored naysayers and traveled 3,000 miles via motorcycle to discover the real Iran.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0320 GMT (1120 HKT)
Built at a cost of $442.2 million, Universal Studios Japan hopes its new Potter attraction will bring in $55 billion over 10 years.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1440 GMT (2240 HKT)
A scene in Marrakech
The gateway to Morocco's Atlas Mountains is becoming a photographer's paradise -- but capturing it on camera isn't easy.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 2136 GMT (0536 HKT)
Cathay Pacific was pronounced the world's best airliner of the year at the industry's leading awards ceremony in Farnborough on Tuesday.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 2044 GMT (0444 HKT)
Britain has stolen a march in the space race with plans for the world's first spaceport outside the U.S.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
In the hunt for the world's best amusement park, the people have spoken -- and it seems the people like mixing with creatures who eat a lot of fish.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0611 GMT (1411 HKT)
An Hellenic Seaplanes aircraft
Seaplane network set to open up far-flung destinations to affordable jet-setting tours.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
A man who took a dangerous selfie during the running of the bulls in Pamplona, with the half-ton beasts right behind him, is still on the run -- but this time from the police.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0207 GMT (1007 HKT)
Its cramped rooms and retro lobby are dated, but its charm and devotion to customers are worth preserving.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 0553 GMT (1353 HKT)
A young girl sits on a bench decorated with an image of Paddington Bear.
As part of a scheme to encourage reading, 50 benches designed in the style of popular novels or kids' stories have been scattered around London.
July 12, 2014 -- Updated 0101 GMT (0901 HKT)
To all the locals who have been hoarding the following beaches, please forgive us.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Jason Hullinger, a computer security architect in Los Angeles, went to Joshua Tree National Park in December to catch the Geminid meteor shower.
CNN iReporters from across the globe share their incredible images of the skies above us.
ADVERTISEMENT