Script: Nellie hits Hong Kong

Script: Nellie hits Hong Kong

In the 1880s, American journalist Nellie Bly sailed around the world. Read what happened on her record-breaking journey.

Voice 1: In 1873, the French novelist Jules Verne published one of his most famous books, Around the World in Eighty Days. It told the story of Phileas Fogg who, following a bet with friends that it would be impossible, circumnavigated the world from London in an amazing eighty days.

Voice 2: Fifteen years later, Nellie Bly, a reporter working for the New York World newspaper had a brilliant idea for a new series of articles. She suggested to her editor that she circumnavigate the world, attempting to beat Phileas Fogg’s fictional record time.

Voice 1: On November 14, 1889, Nellie Bly began her 40,071 kilometre adventure. She took with her the dress she was wearing, a thick overcoat, and several sets of underwear in a small bag that also carried her toiletries and other bits and pieces. She had bank notes and gold coins in a bag tied around her neck.

Voice 2: Nellie’s last leg of the journey back to New York ended on January 25, 1890, seventy-two days, six hours and eleven minutes from the time she set off. One of the stopping-off points on her trip was Hong Kong. What did Nellie have to say about the place? She described it in her book Around the World in Seventy-Two Days.

Nellie: I first saw Hong Kong in the early hours of the morning. The sun was already shining brightly, and the sea was dotted with strange craft - mail ships, cargo vessels, fishing boats, Chinese junks and sampans.

Hong Kong looked very picturesque from a distance. It is a terraced city, buildings perched row after row up the side of a mountain. I left the boat and walked to the end of a pier where I got into a sedan chair in which I was carried into town. We followed the road along the shore, passing warehouses and tall buildings filled with hundreds of families and decorated with lines of washing hung out to dry.

Turning off the shore road, my two carriers started to climb one of the streets that wound up the mountain side. They had been instructed to take me to the office of the Oriental and Occidental Steamship Company so I could book a place on a ship the next day to Japan.

This was the thirty-ninth day of my race against the clock around the world. I was making good time and had reached Hong Kong two days before I was due. I was very disappointed when they told me there wasn't a sailing for Japan for another five days.

I got back into my sedan chair and the carriers took me to a hotel where a room had been reserved for me. The following day, I received a visit from the Captain of the ship that would transport me to Japan. He had heard about my adventure and was eager to meet me.

The kind man took me to see Happy Valley, one of the most beautiful tropical valleys imaginable. We then explored the shops along Queen’s Road selling fans, painted scrolls and ivory carvings.

I saw a marriage procession in Hong Kong and loved all the beautiful red lanterns and colourful banners. One day, I went up Victoria Peak on the tramway that had been opened in 1887. The fare is thirty cents up and fifteen cents down. The view from the top was superb.

Another day, a Hong Kong gentleman who owned a team of ponies called at the hotel to take me for a drive. We visited a temple and a public laundry where women stood in a stream washing clothes on flat rocks. Everyone I met in Hong Kong was kind to me and showed great interest in my race around the world.

My time in Hong Kong passed quickly and pleasantly, and I was soon on my way again onboard the Oceanic bound for Japan, a little anxious to make up the time I had lost. I was now three days behind schedule.


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