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it's a new dawn

speaking of new year's day, i give you page 47 of the 1911 nonfiction account of lands of the southern cross:

at nightfall of thursday, may 5, we were still steam-
ing on; but a few hours later found us off the harbor of
rio de janeiro, which, however, we made no attempt
to enter, until after sunrise. rio is 749 miles from

i arose at four. the sky was magnificent, with the
moon, venus, and the comet forming such a splendid
combination, as will never be seen again, by the present
generation at least. as the light came creeping on,
and the comet's tail seemed to fade into nothingness,
a fog arose which was to mar our enjoyment of the
entrance into the harbor of rio de janeiro.

it was january 1, 1502, that a portuguese fleet first
entered this bay, called by the natives guanabara or
nictheroy, and to which, imagining it to be the mouth
of a river, they gave the name of rio de janeiro, or
river of january. we may well imagine the delight
of those early portuguese, when in midsummer of 1502,
perhaps on a sunlit day in january, they entered a
harbor which by its name was to perpetuate forever
the memory of its discovery. it was a precious new
year's gift to the mother country.

even today, in spite of the fog, the beauties of this
wonderful harbor impress themselves upon us, though
the memories of other lands and other ports may strug-
gle in our fancy for the palm. one by one, the details
of the long entrance to the harbor are unfolded to our
wondering gaze, we know not upon which side of
the vessel to fix our attention, we pass from one to the
other. then, lo! the great characteristic feature of the
bay of rio looms up, the sugar loaf mountain. the
harbor proper becomes more and more visible through
the fog, and we discern the shipping, passenger
steamers of various european lines, merchant vessels,
and men-o'-war.

the observation of the phenomena of nature affords,
also, much agreeable occupation. it is a fallacy to
suppose that there is neither dawn nor twilight in
the tropics, for both are well defined, though the transi-
tion is more sudden than in higher latitudes, becoming
more so as one approaches the equator.

by mutual agreement, a number of gentlemen, among
them the writer, were awakened at four in the morning
of april 28 [1910] to see halley's comet. coffee was
served in the saloon. the visitor from afar was dis-
tinctly visible in the sky, with a well defined tail,
pointing away from the sun, and a luminous body.
in the same region of the heavens shone venus with
remarkable beauty. we had the pleasure of observing
the comet again and again, as it approached nearer to
the earth, until we reached buenos aires.

the verdi is equipped with wireless telegraphy. the
first days out, communication with the land was very
difficult owing to constant electrical disturbances
around us which not only hampered the operator, but,
also, manifested themselves by flashes of lightning.
with some difficulty we kept in touch with atlantic
city, and i succeeded in sending a message home by
one of the steamers of the royal mail steam packet
company at bermuda. later on we communicated
with the men-of-war, chester and montana, about
900 miles ahead of us.

on crossing the line, the whistle blew a strong blast.
we were in the southern hemisphere. the old, and
time-honored custom of neptune and his wife coming
on board was not observed until evening. an elabor-
ately worked, and artistically decorated proclamation
had been posted up in the morning, with the names
of passengers who, not having crossed the line, were
subject to the initiation of neptune's realm. the piece,
done in water color, was made by the chief steward.
the picture of a sixteenth century ship headed it.
while the passengers were at dinner, the lights in the
dining saloon went out, and far off cries fell upon
their ears. neptune had just arrived on board. in a
few moments a white clad figure entered, to announce
that it was the soul of a departed passenger. the
devil, or mephistopheles, in red attire, entered to pro-
claim that those who should withdraw from neptune's
jurisdiction would fall into his power. the bartender,
a consummate actor and mimic, was mephistopheles.

at half past eight, the bugle sounded, and a great
number of the passengers assembled on the deck aft.
the construction of modern steamships is so varied,
and so changing, that one hardly knows how to desig-
nate any portion of the deck, at a given period. i
viewed the ceremony from the bridge deck, above.
a large water tank of canvas had been prepared. at
the sound of fairly good music, neptune and his attend-
ants entered, and took up their positions. then began
a wild dance, to the sound of the "tom tom," remind-
ing one of an indian, or african dance. mephisto-
pheles now began to call out the names of passengers,
by means of a megaphone. three ladies, by their
own wish, were initiated. so far; so well. after this,
the show degenerated into a rough and tumble horse
play. the first lady knelt before neptune. questions
were put to her, and her replies were announced by
megaphone, then a mixture of something like ginger
ale and whiskey was poured into her mouth, she was
smeared with flour, and a pretense was made of giv-
ing her a shave, and, finally, she was pushed into the
tank. two other ladies followed. it is needless to
state that their appearance after the bath, was far
from graceful.

the male passengers were now subjected to treat-
ment more or less rough, and pandemonium began.
there was a general splashing about in the water,
neptune's attendants plunging in indiscriminately,
and, in fact, some unseen hand threw mephistopheles
into the water, to the great discomfiture of that gentle-
man. gradually the passengers retired, and the show
went out.

the performance would, to my taste, have been more
interesting had it been less rough. the performers
were stewards aided by a few passengers. i can
imagine a play like this among the rough sailors of
our fast departing sailing ships, but it seemed un-
dignified for a large passenger steamer. i am told,
however, that this old custom is falling into desuetude.
in some regards, it is a pity, and it may well be con-
tinued, provided no one be forced into the tank against
his will. in these days, when the poetry of the sea
is disappearing, it is refreshing to preserve some things
that remind one of bygone days.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 13th, 2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
Have you seen Super 8 yet?
Jun. 14th, 2011 03:34 am (UTC)
no, but i'm taking this as a recommendation.
Jun. 14th, 2011 04:12 am (UTC)
Yeah, I liked it. (You get to see the smoke monster. sort of.) But iirc correctly, there's another reason, which you'll see when you see it.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


wabbit season
cleaning up so well

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