June 13th, 2011

go south!

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.

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  • Current Music
    how am i supposed to be? i don't have my thorns
fucking magnets!

this happened, too

i recently responded to a post by theorizing that twain wouldn't have found noteworthy the coincidence of a man named paige inventing a page compositor, but then i stumbled upon an account of someone's observation of halley's comet in 1910, and was reminded that twain was born on november 30th, 1835, exactly two weeks after the comet's perihelion when it visited that year, and is well known for saying, in his autobiography published in 1909:

i came in with halley's comet in 1835. it is coming again next year, and i expect to go out with it. it will be the greatest disappointment of my life if i don't go out with halley's comet. the almighty has said, no doubt: 'now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'

and, indeed, twain died on april 21st, 1910, the day following the comet's subsequent perihelion.

so i withdraw my prior theory.

those of us alive in early 1986 were gypped. halley's 1986 apparition was the least favorable on record, with the worst viewing circumstances for earth observers for the last 2,000 years. assuming we get past 2012, 2061 is supposed to be a nice view.

  • Current Music
    i always wondered why did we bother / distance from one, one to the other
baby i'm a big star

term of art

comet vintage

and speaking of new year's day and cometary coincidences, how great is it, that in january of 1910, as the hype for halley's april return was already in full swing, a rare great comet suddenly appeared (the next would not arrive until 1927), which at its brightest, outshone the planet venus, and was possibly the brightest comet of the 20th century, and which, with an estimated orbital period of more than 57,000 years, had never been seen by human eye. 1910 was truly the year of the comet.