Vessel location: Damen Shipyard, Gorinchem, The Netherlands
Blog highlight: Learn about the woman who inspired our crew
Before the newly constructed Nellie Bly ever entered the water, the crew at Sea Machines searched for a vessel name fitting of not only its advanced capabilities but also of the innovative nature of The Machine Odyssey project, which will break records and set a new industry standard for what’s possible at sea. With a clever nod towards Homer’s The Odyssey – which details a challenging, yet successful long journey – the crew considered several options before arriving upon the determinedly fitting vessel name of Nellie Bly.
So, who is Nellie Bly and how did her name become the perfect moniker for Sea Machines’ vessel, which will soon make history?
Intrepid and ahead of her time, Bly, born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in 1864 in Pennsylvania, faced significant hardships at a young age. Despite the odds, she forged her way to become a successful journalist, who operated under the pen name “Nellie Bly” first for the Pittsburg Dispatch and later for New York World, one of the nation’s leading newspapers in the U.S. By then a resident of New York City, Bly threw herself into boundary-pushing stories that garnered significant attention, including one assignment that had her feign mental illness so she could report first-hand on the experiences of those committed to insane asylums. This new style of investigative reporting gripped readers and made Bly one of the most famous journalists in the U.S. Bly’s career reached new heights, however, after she read the book Around the World in 80 Days, one night in 1888, and pitched an idea to her editor that she could attempt to beat the record, while detailing a full report for the paper.
The 25,000-mile journey around the world would have been difficult for anyone in her day, but was made harder by the fact that Bly was a woman who only spoke English. Her editor argued against the idea, saying: “Being a woman, she would pack too much luggage to make good time.” He even suggested sending a man on the trip in her place. Undeterred, Bly retorted, “Start the man, and I’ll start the same day for some other newspaper and beat him.”
A full year passed before Bly’s trip officially began. Her editor finally offered her the opportunity to depart in November 1889, which she eagerly accepted. Instead of luggage, she carried only one small personal satchel, a statement that reinforced her independence and self-reliance. Of her possessions, she superstitiously wore a thumb ring, stating that that the only days she didn’t wear it were the times she experienced bad luck.
On the morning of November 14, 1889, Bly departed from Hoboken, NJ, aboard the German ocean liner SS Augusta Victoria and sailed to sea. Her adventure had begun! The trip eventually took her through England, France, Italy, Egypt, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, before returning to the U.S. West Coast. Her domestic arrival proved to be two days behind schedule, so the New York World chartered a private train from San Francisco to New Jersey, which helped her regain time. Ultimately successful in her mission, the fearless Bly completed her journey around the world in 72 days, six hours and 11 minutes, to significant international acclaim.
Bly was a hero to many not only because of her bravery and unstoppable determination, but also because she broke through boundaries and persevered despite criticism and significant challenges along the way. Following her success, she said, “I believed I could and I would. And I did.”
Now, as Sea Machines prepares for its own ambitious trek marking the world’s first 1,000 nm autonomous voyage around Denmark, we channel Bly’s grit, independence, resilience and passion. Like Bly, we are inspired and prepared, ready to make history. We believe we can and we will.
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