Distance & Time
Thank you for the wonderful talk, with stunning images, Susann & Victoria! I found myself thinking about the differences in the way Australian ads and features have to frame the voyage to Europe, compared to the ways American periodicals talk about it, when it's temporally such a different experience... (correct me if I'm wrong, but it was still taking about 4 weeks to complete the journey from Australia by the early '30s, right? Compared to the 6ish days on the US-UK route...). I'm curious to hear more about anything in these magazines about how passengers should pass their time on board--they seem so focused on the destinations, rather than the journey! Obviously this is connected to the trend you highlight of the magazines promoting closer locations, but I'd love to hear any more you have to offer about how they frame shipboard time...
Hi Nissa. Thank you for your great comment and question; I am glad you enjoyed our talk. (and sorry for this slow response.) You are right: it still took at least 3 weeks, often longer, to travel by steamer from Australia to Europe, regardless of whether one travelled via the Panama Canal, across the Pacific and Atlantic, or eastwards across the Indian Ocean and trough the Suez Canal, or even around the Cape of Good Hope (with a stopover in South Africa, for instance). Interestingly, as you say, much of the travel-related content as well as the ads really do focus on the destinations, and on sights along the way that might be explored by breaking up the trip for a few days here and there and adding a stopover. There is an emphasis on the allures of exploration, encountering different 'cultures', seeing the sights. They is very little, if any, advice on how to spend time on board, which is in stark contrast to travel guides and other writing of the nineteenth century, aimed at migrants for instance, with very explicit advice on what to do and how to use shipboard time productively, for example by educating oneself, reading instructive literature, keeping a journal etc . In my current project on reading and writing at sea in the long nineteenth century, I have found a much greater awareness and self-reflection by travellers that this period of being at sea is transitional, sometimes transformative. The difference here is, partly at least, one of class, I think, real or at least projected and imagined. Travellers on board these long-distance steamers in the 1930s, or on leisure cruises, often did not 'need' to be productive, they were on recreational journeys, or on visits 'home'. While travel writing does not give any explicit advice on how to spend time at sea, ads for steamship travel stress the luxurious furnishings and other opportunities provided on board to pass time: swimming pools, tennis courts, later on-board cinemas, theatre or musical entertainments, other options for recreational actvities, on-board libraries. Imagery in these ads usually shows young women reclined on a lounger, gazing across the horizon, not really 'doing' anything. This, in my mind, suggests how such journeys were imagined to be spent. Ads for fashion sometimes also highlight the appropriate fashion for dinner on board, of for strolling the deck - again very much class-related. Of course, not all travellers belonged to the upper middle class or upper classes, and a significant number of people travelled to pursue professional opportunities, for instance, or went on a cruise as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Still, how they would spend time at sea was still at least imagined and projected as a period of idleness and guilt-free leisure. Is this different to how ship-board time is framed in American periodicals?
@sliebich Thanks for the comprehensive reply, Susann! The American and European advertising I'm familiar with presents very much the same images of shipboard time/space. I look forward to learning more about your work on the transitional & transformative ocean experience at some point, as I'm writing about this, too (specifically focused on interwar American expats)!
@nissaren. Thank you Nissa. It's interesting that the travel ads are so similar in American periodicals, when, as you noted, the journeys were quite different in terms of time spent at sea, and the actual experience of travel differed significantly depending on whether one 'just' crossed the Atlantic, or whether one travelled between the hemispheres and crossed the tropics. It suggests a global, or at least anglo-phone or Western (though I think global), imagination of steamship travel and its associated values, somewhat removed from the realities of travel.
Your project sounds fascinating and I would love to hear more one day!