sexta-feira, 4 de dezembro de 2020

Volta ao Mundo: a corrida inspirada em Phileas Fogg

Nesta altura, há 131 anos, duas mulheres jornalistas estavam numa corrida inédita. Uma viagem à volta do mundo inspirada no livro do francês Júlio Verne, "A Volta ao Mundo em 80 Dias".
Na manhã de 14 de Novembro de 1889*, Nellie Bly (1864-1922), pseudónimo literário da jornalista Elizabeth Cochran Seaman, embarcou no vapor Augusta Victoria, no porto de Nova Iorque, com destino a Londres. 
Era a primeira etapa de uma viagem que tinha por objectivo ser mais rápida que Phileas Fogg, personagem do livro do de Verne - que Nellie conheceu pessoalmente ao passar por França) - publicado poucos anos antes, em 1873.
A viagem demorou 72 dias, 6 horas e 11 minutos, (o objectivo inicial era fazer a viagem em 75 dias) um recorde mundial na época, com passagens por França, Itália, Egito, Iémen, Sri Lanka, Singapura, Hong Kong, S. Francisco e finalmente Nova Iorque.
Ao longo da viagem Bly foi reportando ao jornal New York World (a quem tinha proposto a ideia - imagem acima é da capa do dia 14.11.1889), via telégrafo, cada passo da experiência e, posteriormente, registou a aventura em livro: "Around the World in Seventy-Tow Days", publicado em Nova Iorque em 1890.
A passagem por Hong Kong ocorreu a 23 de Dezembro de 1889. Bly (na imagem acima) não chegou a visitar Macau sendo a única referência ao território um dos vários tipos de embarcações que avistou no delta do rio e que denomina como "Portuguese lorchas": 
"We first saw the city of Hong Kong in the early morning. Gleaming white were the castle-like homes on the tall mountain side. We fired a cannon as we entered the bay, the captain saying that this was the custom of mail ships. A beautiful bay was this magnificent basin, walled on every side by high mountains. Once within this natural fortified harbor we could discern, in different directions, only small outlets between the mountains, but so small, indeed, they appeared that one could hardly believe a ship would find space large enough for passage. In fact, these outlets are said to be dangerously narrow, the most vigilant care being necessary until the ship is safely beyond on the ocean blue. Mirror-like was the bay in the bright sun, dotted with strange craft from many countries. Heavy iron-clads, torpedo boats, mall steamers, Portuguese lorchas, Chinese junks and sampans. Even as we looked, a Chinese ship wended its way slowly out to sea. Its queer, broad stern hoisted high out of the water and the enormous eye gracing its bow, were to us most interesting. A graceful thing I thought it, but I heard an officer call it most ungraceful and unshapely."
Sendo norte-americana, enquanto esperava pelo navio que havia de a levar a Yokohama (Japão), Nelly Bly aproveitou para visitar Cantão, onde os Estados Unidos eram uma das várias potências estrangeiras com representação diplomática:
"This little island, guarded at every entrance, is Shameen, or Sandy Face, the land set aside for the habitation of Europeans. An unchangeable law prohibits Celestials from crossing into this sacred precinct, because of the hatred they cherish for Europeans. Shameen is green and picturesque, with handsome houses of Oriental design, and grand shade trees, and wide, velvety green roads, broken only by a single path, made by the bare feet of the chair-carriers. Here, for the first time since leaving New York, I saw the stars and stripes. It was floating over the gateway to the American Consulate. It is a strange fact that the further one goes from home the more loyal one becomes. I felt I was a long ways off from my own dear land; it was Christmas day, and I had seen many different flags since last I gazed upon our own. The moment I saw it floating there in the soft, lazy breeze I took off my cap and said: "That is the most beautiful flag in the world, and I am ready to whip anyone who says it isn't."
Na tarde de 25 de Janeiro de 1890, depois de percorrer mais de 40 mil quilómetros pela Europa, África, Ásia e América viajando de navio a vapor, barco, comboio, riquexó, cavalo e até um burro, Nellie Bly desembarcou na estação de comboios Jersey City onde a esperavam milhares de fãs e cimentava de uma vez por todas o seu nome na história do jornalismo de investigação. Em 1887 fizera passar-se por demente e internou-se num asilo revelando em "Ten Days in a Mad House" as péssimas condições em que os doentes estavam chegando a ser vítimas de violência.
* Nesse mesmo dia partia do mesmo local uma outra mulher jornalista, Elizabeth Bisland (1861-1929), da  revista Cosmopolitan, (imagem acima) com o mesmo objectivo mas a viagem foi feita na direcção oposta. Bly só ficaria a saber desta concorrente quando estava em Hong Kong a comprar o bilhete para o Japão de onde Elizabeth viera. O empregado chega a dizera Bly que ela iria perder a competição já que Elizabeth passara por lá há 3 dias...(foi a 16 de Dezembro). O avanço seria perdido num contratempo em Londres e Elizabeth só chegaria aos EUA a 30 de Janeiro de 1890, ao fim de 76 dias e meio. Foi depois de Bly, mas bateu o recorde de Willy Fog. Mas para a história ficou o nome da vencedora.
Para além das crónicas na Comsopolitan, a experiência da viagem também ficou registada em livro publicado em 1891: In Seven Stages: A Flying Trip Around The World.
Excerto com referências aos "portugueses" em Hong Kong:
On Sunday, the 15th, we reach Hong Kong. The sea turns to a cool profound emerald, and we descry again on the horizon the bamboo wings of the fishing and coasting junks. These sails are somewhat larger and deeper of hue than those of Japan, and still more resemble the fans of giant yellow and russet butterflies.(...) 
The island of Hong Kong is a cluster of lofty abrupt hills with scanty vegetation, seized by England in 1842 after a struggle with China. At that time the town was an insignificant fishing village, but the value of the site was great commercially and strategically. It is a convenient and safe harbor for the squadron detailed to watch and menace the Russian navy in the Pacific; and the English have elevated the village into a flourishing city and made it the fourth shipping port of the world. The harbor is navigable for the largest merchant vessels and men-of-war in existence, and is perfectly sheltered and easy of access. (...) 
We meet the most astonishing varieties of the human race. All sorts and conditions of Chinamen – elegant dandies in exquisitely pale-tinted brocades; grave merchants and compradors, richly but soberly clad; neat amahs with the tiny deformed Chinese feet, sitting at the street corners, taking in sewing by the day; street sellers of tea, shrimp, fruit, sweetmeats, and rice; women working side by side with the men, mending the streets, horrible old women, weazened and wrinkled beyond all imagining, all the femininity shrivelled out of them, their only head-covering a bit of black cloth across their seamed and humble foreheads, and the last pathetic spark of the female instinct for adornment displaying itself in the big jade and silver rings in their ears.
From windows shaded by light bamboo blinds look out coarse olive faces – heavy and dull of eye, repulsively sensual. These are Portuguese; descendants of the hardy sailors who explored and ruled these southern seas before the English supplanted them. They have bred in with the natives everywhere and have grown an indolent mongrel race. Plump and prosperous-looking gentlemen go by in European dress and with tight-fitting purple satin coal-hods on their heads. Their complexions are dark and their features – dug out of a mat of astonishingly thick beards – are aggravatedly Hebraic in their cast. They are Parsees, and look uncommonly like the lost tribes – exhibiting also, I am told, the same eminent abilities in business probably possessed by those much-sought-for Hebrew truants.
At the corner stands a haughty jewel-eyed prince of immense stature – straight and lithe as a palm – in whose high-featured bronze countenance are unfathomable potentialities of pride and passion. He wears a soldier's dress and sword, and a huge scarlet turban of the most intricate convolutions. I cry out with astonishment at the sight of this superb creature.

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