03 May 2007

Around the world in 80 days - Jules Verne

Date: April 29, 2007
Recommendation: Skip the book and take the trip!

As I was reading Verne’s imaginative novel, it was difficult not to keep in mind that it was simply fictional. Verne was decades ahead of his time, and even today, 130 years after the book was written, it is easy to picture the travels of Philleas Fogg as though it was a modern day news story.

In today’s day and age, how long would it take to travel around the world. Well, if you travel longitudinally, by plane, it would probably take a handful of days, depending on the connections. Many travel discount flight centres list prices of $1100 to by an around the world ticket. Consider that Verne’s protagist, Fogg, spent 20 000 pounds, today’s prices are pretty cheap - and you get a blanket and pillow to boot!

The Fédération Aéronqutie internationale lists the official world record for speed around the world, non-stop, non-refuelled to be an average of 550.78 km/h, which translated to a circumnavigation is about 67 hours. This record is held by multimillionaire sports enthusiast Stephen Fossett, who’s fortune and determination are probably not much different than Phillieas Fogg’s.

If we ignore airplane’s how long do you think it would take to travel around the world? Why don’t you think about that for a minute or two before reading on. I’ll give you a couple of funky picture to look at while you think it over (from the extreme ironing championships):



Are you ready for this? I have done the research, and here are the results. If we leave from London, here is a timetable:

1. London to Moscow - It's easy to travel from London to Moscow by train. Just take Eurostar from London to Brussels, a high-speed train to Cologne, then the direct sleeper train from Cologne to Moscow, taking two nights. Http://www.seat61.com/Russia.htm#Moscow

2. Moscow to Beijing - 7 days via the trans-Siberian railway. You can always take the 8 day train to Vladivostok, then the 36 hour steamer to Fushiki, Japan. Fushiki is another 5 hours by train to Tokyo. As such, you would be about 7 days to Beijing, or 10 days to Tokyo, and then on to the ship. Http://www.seat61.com/Trans-Siberian-timetable.htm

3. Across the Pacific by ship - Ok, so this is where it gets tricky. Who actually decides to take a boat across the pacific ocean? Well, very rich yatch owners, delivery and cargo ships, cruise ships and very determined world record afficianodos. Basically, from my research, it appears as though there is no commercial ship that you can take across the Pacific, unless it is a cruise package, in which case the voyage would not be direct. My solution would be to either bribe someone to stowaway on a cargo steamer, or pay someone to make a special trip just for you.

Scouring the web, I have discovered that it is about 8,400 km (5,200 nautical miles) from San Francisco to Tokyo. A sailing boat could average 7 knots, which is 8 mph. This gives you 650 hours, which is about 27 days. Between Beijing and Los Angeles would be 5440 nautical miles, which would translate to about 27 days as well.

A cruise ship would probably travel at 22 mph, but would take longer, due to stop overs. Cargo ships like taking their time, so we won’t discuss them. If you could requisition a US aircraft carrier, they go 34 mph. The US has an experiemental ship that goes 58 mph. And finally, the world speed record is the Spirit of Australia, at about 315 mph. But I doubt it has enough fuel to bring you from Montreal to Ottawa, let alone across the Pacific.

Conclusion - let’s say that it takes 30 days to cross the Pacific ocean by boat.

4. From California to New York - finally, an easy calculation. Should you take the train across America, it would take 72 hours, accroding to Amtrack. Take the train from San Francisco to Chicago, and then on to New York. LA to New York would be a bit faster, about 62 hours, as it is a little more direct.

5. From New York to London - another boat@#@$@. Good news is that there seems to be a little more transatlantic traffic - I guess that whole Titanic scare didn’t really dissuade anyone. Between London and New York, there is 3012 nautical miles. The QE2 offers 6 night travel between Southampton and New York - not to mention sumptuous meals and dancing girls to boot!

The total voyage would then take 3 days from London to Moscow; 7 days from Moscow to Beijing; 30 days from Beijing to Los Angeles; 3 days from LA to NY; and another 7 days to cross the Atlantic. This brings us to 50 days to travel around the world. I have to say that most of it seems like it would be pretty fun. Issues to be worked out with that transpacific voyage though!


Anonymous said...

Just reading your entry makes me all excited to go out and travel!

Love reading your blog Deneault.

Keep it coming.

I'd like to read about what we've been talking about - changing our eating patterns and so on...

if you are taking requests, that is.

Maarten said...

Hi so I'm commenting on a blog post that's 7 years old now :)
I just wanted to say I was wondering about the exact same thing just now, lo and behold, Google turns up your post.
Thanks for the info!

As for the Pacific crossing: cargo ships would actually be your best bet! You can book to sail along and there's plenty traffic between China and the US. Takes about ten days according to www.flightlesstravel.com/plan/cargo-ships/ . That site also mentions a cargo ship being used in a 2008 TV show about doing Jules Verne's trip with modern ships and trains.

In any case, if it takes 10 days from Shanghai to San Francisco or LA, and one day by high speed train from Beijing to Shanghai, that's a total of 11 days for this leg of the trip, 19 days less than your calculation, bringing the total travel time down from 50 days to 31. Assuming perfect connections of course.

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