March 31, 2001

It was mid-October, 1931. On his boat in the harbor at Genova, Italy, the 57-year-old scientist threw a switch. Half a world away an unnatural light began filling the skies.

Those of you who have taken the elevator to the crown of the Statue of Liberty, or have been rash enough to take the stairs, have been rewarded with a excellent view of New York Harbor and lower Manhattan. In the days when the upraised arm and the torch was open to the public, the view was even more spectacular. Now just imagine if someone had taken one of the towers of the World Trade Center, stacked two-thirds of the other tower on top of it, then added the Statue of Liberty. What a view you'd have. Probably see half way to Poughkeepsie. You can get some idea of the effect right now. Just hop a jet and go flying down to Rio.

The original plan was simple enough, back in 1882. The capital of Brazil, Rio de Janiero back then, needed something to attract the tourist trade. It was decided to make use of the city's most prominent feature, the 2323 foot high, steep-sided mountain Corcovado, Portuguese for Hunchback. If travelers could be transported quickly and easily to the top of the peak, who could resist seeing the city from nearly half a mile up. (Except, of course, those with vertigo). The job of building a railway up the mountain side was awarded to two local engineers, Francisco Periera Passos and Teixeira Soares. Undaunted by the task, they set to work laying track, through the forest along a winding, climbing path, and on October 9th, 1884, had completed the line. However financial success eluded the promoters and the line was transferred several time, first to a group lead by Artur Toledo Dodsworth then, in 1906, to the local light and power company. For the next 15 years the railway remained largely unused. In 1921 interest was revived, what with the next year being the centennial of Brazilian independence. Periera Passos, who after the turn of the century had gone on to become prefect of the city, had worked hard to turn the city into the Paris of the Western Hemisphere, and now, over a decade later, the world-class capital was expecting visitors from around the world.

It was decided to erect a large statue of Christ atop Corcovado, with arms spread out to welcome all those who came to Rio. It was obvious by now that it would be a number of years before the project coud be completed, but the magazine O Cruzeiro (The Cross) began a public subscription to raise funds. The Vatican kicked in with the rest of the money. Engineer Heitor da Silva Costa was hired to oversee construction. An artist of international repute was preferred; the choice for the model fell on French sculptor Paul Landowski who, working with local architect Carlos Oswald, prepared the design. While the reinforced concrete body was erected right on the peak there were no shops in Rio capable of enlarging and reproducing the hands and head of the statue (the latter to hold an observation deck), so the work was done in Paris and shipped across the Atlantic. Finally, on October 12th, 1931, nine years late, everything was ready. Huge, unlit spotlights at the base were aimed skyward. The crowds waited expectantly. In Genova, Italy, aboard his yacht the Elettra, Guglielmo Marconi sent a radio-borne signal halfway around the world. The darkened spotlights sputtered and flared into life.

For Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, this is David Minor



Carnival may be over in Brazil, but now might be a good time for a more relaxed, less hectic visit to South America's largest country. For a grand Grand Tour, visit Walter Morales Virtual Brazil page at . Pick your region - South, Southeast, Central West, North or Northeast - then click on down for a look at the major towns and cities (clickable maps on the index pages), complete with descriptions of the history and the people including hypertext entries, photographs and a comprehensive set of links. On these pages you can also practice your Portuguese and Spanish (since translations are available), find out the current time in Brazil (although you won't have to compute jet lag for a virtual tour). You can even listen to "Brazilian Radio and TV stations that broadcast live or have files archived." Obviously the next best thing to being there. Tenha bom um trip.

The Game's Afoot ! !

© 2001 David Minor / Eagles Byte