Around The World In Five Weeks
General Jas. G. Steese, Sc.D., F.R.G.S.
(May. 1934 Dickinson Alumnus)

Less than three generations ago, Jules Verne wrote a number of fanciful romances, "From the Earth to the Moon… Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea… three Thousand Miles Up the Amazon," "Around the World in Eighty Days," &c. These were purely imaginative works, and described adventures, then considered impossible. However, granting the author his preliminary premises, these romances were, from a scientific standpoint, worked out quite logically and rigorously.

While we have not yet visited the Moon, such a project, by means of rockets, is now being seriously considered by some German scientists. We long ago developed the submarine and the flying machine, forecast by Jules Verne, and ocean-going vessels have sailed from New York City to and tip the Amazon River well into Peru, and to within a few hundred miles of the Pacific Ocean.

Over fifty years ago, Nellie Blye, inspired by the last mentioned romance of Jules Verne, actually did make a trip around the world in a little less than eighty days. A year or two ago, two venturesome aviators made the trip around the World in just eight days.

Forty Day Period

Nevertheless, in spite of all modern developments and improvements, it still takes nearly one-half of the eighty days to make the trip around the World by the standard and more usual methods of land and sea transportation. The airplane and the hydroplane, except in isolated stretches, have not yet established themselves as a regular and dependable means of transportation around the World.

I returned a year or two ago from a trip around the World which took me a total elapsed time from New York City back to New York City of about five months. I was not out after any records, had business or pleasure in view which made a number of side trips and detours necessary or desirable, and I have done too much of it to be any longer interested in travel merely for the sake of traveling. In the past twelve, years I have traveled over 420,000 miles, and until recently have spent an average of only about three months per year within the limits of Continental United States.

The Itinerary

Following my actual route, and disregarding detours and connections, I spent the following time actually traveling on a continuous route from new York City back to New York City:

From To Via Days
New York City Marseilles Boat 10
Marseilles Bombay, India Boat 13
Bombay  Colombo, Ceylon Rail 3
Colombo  Fremantle, Australia Boat 10
Fremantle Sydney Rail 5
Sydney Wellington, New Zealand Boat 4
Wellington Auckland Rail 1
Auckland Panama Boat 24
Panama  New York City Boat 9
Total Days ..... 79

Obviously I did not take the shortest nor the most direct route, as I was not interested in the time factor, but I was interested in every stage of the actual route. However, I have considered fractions of a day as whole days, so that at each connecting point there is a gap of sufficient hours to make the connection; in other words, assuming daily steamship and train service, the above schedule would hold.

According to the calendar, the above I trip would take only 78 days, the trip, from Auckland, New Zealand, to Cristobal, Canal Zone, being scheduled apparently for only 23 days. Actually, the International Date Line, the 180th Meridian, is crossed soon after leaving New Zealand, so we had two successive days dated, Sunday, December 13, or a Sunday forty-seven hours long. Fortunately there were no preachers on board.

Half of my five months, therefore, were taken up in traveling onwards. The remainder of my time was fully occupied with side-trips, pleasant delays in World Capitals, &c. From Marseilles, I detoured via Paris, Turin, Venice, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Bolzano, Genoa, Rome, Bari, Sorrento, Capri, Naples, Cagliari, Tunis, Marseilles, Paris, London, Gibraltar, and Algesiras, before again sailing from Marseilles.

Through India

Instead of then traveling straight through to Australia, I got off my boat at Bombay, and detoured through India and Ceylon to Colombo, where I caught a later boat.

In Australia, I spent some time in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, in addition to the long rail journey entirely across the Continent. In New Zealand, I motored from Wellington to Auckland via Palmerston, Napier, Taupo, Whakarewarewa, and Rotorua, with interesting delays to see something of its natural wonders and Maori native life.

In Panama, of course, I had to delay some time to see my friends and to live over again in recollection some of the events of my five years on the construction of the Railroad and Canal. Between Panama and New York, my boat stopped at Port Limon long enough for
the magnificent rail journey up to San Jose de Costa Rica and return. We also delayed at Havana long enough for an afternoon and evening ashore.

Very early in life, largely for purposes of conversational ammunition, I adopted the policy of trying to do all my sight-seeing in a new place upon my first visit, on the theory that it would take a lot of time and money to return just for some forgotten item. It has been my experience that two people comparing notes upon a place will pass up all items both have seen, but if either can find something the other has missed, he delights in insisting that that was the most important and interesting sight in the whole show.

For example, I climbed the Washington Monument when I was about ten years old, and so have been able to revisit Washington and to live there for years without having to do it again. Similarly, upon my first visits to Paris, Rome, Constantinople, &c. I hired professional guides to show me around. Now I return to Paris as often as I can and, except for a Sunday morning stroll in the Louvre Gardens or down the Champs Elysees, I never leave my hotel except to get into a taxi, and never leave the taxi except where there is an awning out to the street. I have never found good weather in Paris at any time of the year, but, on the other hand, I am thus not inconvenienced by the bad weather. If I go to Versailles, or to one of the many museums, it is because I am interested in some particular thing, and not from a sense of duty.

Gay Havana

So, having first seen Havana more than twenty years ago, and having been there several times since, the following is, in my opinion, tile most satisfactory, and convenient way of passing a pleasant afternoon and evening while the boat is in port. After luncheon on the boat, take an automobile drive of about two hours around the town and suburbs, ending at the Race-track or Coursing Park. This is a very beautiful drive and includes the Tropical Gardens where the Tropical Breweries hand out unlimited free beer to all visitors. After seeing a couple races, and depending upon one's luck with the Pari-mutuel machine, return to town for a couple Bacardi Punches at Sloppy Joe's; then back to the boat for a siesta, a bath, and a change of clothes. Returning to town in the evening, have a few cocktails at the Hotel Plaza Bar, followed by dinner at the Cafe Inglaterra. From then
on until the boat sails in the early morning hours, visit the Casino and try to outguess the tables of roulette and the "little horses." The same program may be followed in most any world capital but I mention Havana as it is the nearest and most recent.

Pitcairn Island

Probably the most unusual incident of my "round the world" trip was our call at Pitcairn Island, the only land sighted during the 24 days' sail from New Zealand to Panama. This island is only about three miles long by a mile and a half wide, and is very rugged as it contains a hill over eleven hundred feet high. It is inhabited by about 150 descendents of nine mutineers of H.M.S. Bounty and their Tahitian wives. These mutineers settled there in 1790, burned their ship, and it was not discovered until 18 years afterwards that
the Island was inhabited. During the next hundred years, ships called there only a few times per decade, and only three outsiders joined the Colony. In recent years, boats have called more frequently, but it is still about the most isolated inhabited island in the South

The inhabitants are a pretty miserable looking bunch of half-castes, and though they speak English, they live little better than the semi-savages on other islands. They are extremely religious. After a hundred years of a belief based upon a Church of England Prayer-book, they were visited by a Seventh Day Adventist missionary from the States. His intelligence and knowledge may be inferred from the fact that he not only could not understand why, under certain circumstances there are two consecutive Sundays in the same week, or none, depending upon the direction in which the Date Line is crossed, but he actually published a tirade against it in one of his Society's secular publications. But the Pitcairn Islanders had no higher mentality and even less knowledge, he was able in a few days to convert the whole crowd to the beliefs of the Seventh Day Adventists.

South Sea Piety

An idea of the narrow and unlovely lives these people live may be gathered from the following incident of our visit. Among the natives who came on board our ship were two little boys about ten or twelve years old. One of our lady passengers offered them a bundle of gramophone records. The boys asked: "Are they religious times?" "Oh, no!" said the lady, "but they are very good music." Said the boys, "Then, I guess we had better not take them." And they didn't. Before going ashore, the whole crowd sang one of their most lugubrious hymns.

Twice during the past century, the British Government has moved the Pitcairn Islanders to larger islands, where living conditions are less wretched and where there is more room for expansion and development of the Colony. In spite of free houses, land, and other
inducements these poor benighted people have always insisted upon being returned to Pitcairn Island.

Now, had I desired merely to make the trip around the World in the shortest possible time, without using airplane travel, I could have followed the schedule below which represents actual boat and train service. Every day is utilized at least in part in moving forward, with the exception of one day in Tokyo, October 16th, while awaiting boat connections. When I was in Tokyo some eleven years ago, I would have been glad to have had a great many more days than I actually did have available.

Sept. 24 –  Thurs. Sail from New York City
Oct. 1 - Thurs. Arrive and leave Paris
“ 2 - Fri. “ “ “ Berlin
“ 4 - Sun. “ “ “ Moscow
“ 7 -  Wed. “ “ “ Omsk
“ 10 - Sat. “ “ “ Karymaskaya
“ 11 -  Sun. “ “ “ Manchuria
“ 12 -  Mon. “ “ “ Harbin
“ 12 -  Mon. “ “ “ Mukden
“ 13 - Tues. “ “ “ Seoul
“ 14 -  Wed. “ “ “ Fusan
“ 15 -  Thurs. Arive Tokyp
“ 17 -  Sat. Lv. Tokyo ar. & lv. Yokohama
“ 25 - Sun. Arrive and Leave Vancouver
“ 28 - Wed. “ “ “ Chicago
“ 29 - Thurs. Arrive New York City

Exactly five weeks by the calendar, but here again the International Date Line would be crossed from west to east, so that the actual time spent on the trip would be thirty-six days. Between Yokohama and Vancouver, there would be two successive Wednesdays, making a total of nine days for the crossing of the Pacific Ocean.

End Notes and Bibliography