The punctuation and spelling from the original text have been faithfully preserved. Only obvious typographical errors have been corrected.
Plate XVI is missing from the scanned image files. The reference within the Maps and Plates list has been preserved.
TO MARS via THE MOON
To Mars via The Moon
AN ASTRONOMICAL STORY
BY MARK WICKS
"It is astronomy which will eventually be the chief educator and emancipator of the human race."—SIR EDWIN ARNOLD.
LONDON SEELEY AND CO. LIMITED 38 GREAT RUSSELL STREET 1911
Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO. At the Ballantyne Press, Edinburgh
PROFESSOR PERCIVAL LOWELL
Director of the Observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona
TO WHOSE CAREFUL AND PAINSTAKING RESEARCHES, EXTENDING OVER MANY YEARS, THE WORLD OWES SO MUCH OF ITS KNOWLEDGE OF
THE PLANET MARS,
THIS LITTLE BOOK IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED BY ONE WHO HAS DERIVED INFINITE PLEASURE FROM THE PERUSAL OF HIS WORKS ON THE SUBJECT
In the course of my experience as an occasional lecturer during the past twelve years, I have been much impressed by the keen interest evinced, even by the most unlettered persons, when astronomical subjects are dealt with in plain untechnical language which they can really grasp and understand.
The pertinent questions which have been addressed to me privately by members of my audiences have clearly indicated that there is ample scope for writers in satisfying a widespread desire for fuller and clearer information upon such subjects. I have observed that particular interest is taken in the planet Mars and also in the moon, but ordinary persons usually find astronomical text-books too technical and too difficult to master; whilst, as regards Mars, the information they contain is generally meagre and sometimes not up-to-date.
Scientific readers are already provided for: and it occurred to me that it would be much more useful and appeal to a more numerous class if, instead of writing a book on the usual lines, I wrote a narrative of events which might be supposed to occur in the course of an actual voyage to Mars; and describing what might be seen on the planet during a short visit.
This is the genesis of the story; and, in carrying out my programme, I have endeavoured to convey by means of natural incidents and conversations between the characters portrayed, the most recent and reliable scientific information respecting the moon and Mars; together with other astronomical information: stating it in an interesting form, and in concise, clear, and understandable language.
Every endeavour has been made to ensure that this scientific information shall be thoroughly accurate, so that in this respect the book may be referred to with as much confidence as any ordinary textbook.
Apart from my own studies and work, all these facts have been carefully verified by reference, as regards the moon, to the works of such well-known authorities as Neison, Elger, Proctor, Sir Robert Ball, &c., whilst, with respect to Mars, the works of Professor Lowell, Flammarion, Professor Langley, and other writers, as well as practical papers by other actual observers of the planet, have been studied.
The personal opinions expressed are entirely my own, and the technical writers above mentioned are in no way responsible for them. I do not, however, expect my readers to accept all my views, as they relate to matters in which there is ample room for differences of opinion.
The reader will, of course, understand that whilst the astronomical information is, in all cases, scientific fact according to our present knowledge, the story itself—as well as the attempt to describe the physical and social conditions on Mars—is purely imaginative. It is not, however, merely random imagining. In a narrative such as this some matters—as, for instance, the "air-ship," and the possibility of a voyage through space—must be taken for granted; but the other ideas are mainly logical deductions from known facts and scientific data, or legitimate inferences.
Many years' careful study of the various theories which have been evolved has convinced me that the weight of evidence is in favour of Professor Lowell's conceptions, as being not only the most reasonable but the most scientific; and that they fit the observed facts with a completeness attaching to no other theory. These conceptions I have endeavoured to present fully and clearly; together with my own views as an entirely independent writer.
In dealing with the conditions on a distant and inaccessible world the farthest flight of imagination might fall short of the reality, but I have preferred to treat these matters somewhat restrainedly. Whilst no one can say positively that the intelligent inhabitants of Mars do not possess bodies resembling our own, it is very probable that they differ from us entirely; and may possess forms which would appear to us strange and weird. I have, however, thought it desirable to endow the Martians with bodies resembling ours, but glorified in form and features. The powers ascribed to the Martians are really only extensions of powers which some amongst us claim to possess, and they fall short of what more than one modern scientific writer has predicated as being within the possibilities of science at a not very distant future.
During the past few years I have been greatly indebted to Professor Lowell for his kindness and ready courtesy in furnishing me with information on obscure matters connected with Mars; and my thanks are also due to the Rev. Theodore E.R. Phillips, of Ashstead, who was good enough to read the manuscript of this book, and whose great observational experience enabled him to make valuable suggestions in regard to the scientific matters dealt with therein.
Truly "a labour of love," this little book—which Professor Lowell has most kindly permitted me to dedicate to him—is now submitted to the public, in the sincere hope that its perusal may serve not only to while away a leisure hour, but tend to nurture a love of the sublime science of astronomy, and at the same time provide some food for thought.
A few maps, plates, and charts have been added to give completeness to the work, and it is hoped that they will aid the reader in understanding the several matters dealt with.
LIST OF PLATES AND MAPS xvii
NOTES ON THE MAPS AND CHARTS xix
THE SUN, MOON, AND PLANETS xxiii
(Narrative by Wilfrid Poynders, Esq.)
CHAP. I. WE START ON A VERY LONG VOYAGE 25
II. PERSONAL REMINISCENCES—WHY WE DECIDED ON THE VOYAGE 35
III. WE APPROACH THE MOON—A MAGNIFICENT SPECTACLE 44
IV. CLOSE TO THE MOON—I GIVE SOME INFORMATION ABOUT IT 52
V. WE VIEW THE LUNAR SCENERY IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE 63
VI. THE SCENERY OF THE MOON'S SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE 78
VII. WE RESUME OUR VOYAGE—THE SUN AND THE SKY AS SEEN FROM SPACE 92
VIII. JOHN INSISTS ON GOING BACK AGAIN—A STRANGE, BUT AMUSING INCIDENT OCCURS 101
IX. A NARROW ESCAPE FROM DESTRUCTION—I GIVE SOME PARTICULARS ABOUT MARS AND MARTIAN DISCOVERY 113
X. THE DISCOVERY OF LINES UPON MARS—THE GREAT MARTIAN CONTROVERSY 128
XI. THE GREAT MARTIAN CONTROVERSY (continued) 139
XII. WE ARE MYSTERIOUSLY PREVENTED FROM APPROACHING MARS 155
XIII. WE ARRIVE ON MARS AND MEET WITH A STARTLING SURPRISE 162
XIV. I MAKE A MOST AMAZING DISCOVERY 166
XV. WHAT IS IN A NAME!—THE STORY OF MERNA 169
XVI. WE LEARN SOMETHING ABOUT THE POWERS OF THE MARTIANS 184
XVII. WE VISIT THE CANALS AND DISCOVER THEIR SECRET—MARTIAN VIEWS OF LIFE AND DEATH 194
XVIII. WE ATTEND A MARTIAN BANQUET 207
XIX. THE CHIEF OF THE MARTIAN COUNCIL DISCUSSES THE SOCIAL CONDITIONS OF OUR WORLD AND MARS 212
XX. THE SECRET OF THE "CARETS"—THE SUN AS SEEN FROM MARS 224
XXI. OUR FIRST VIEW OF THE EARTH FROM MARS—A MARTIAN COURTSHIP 236
XXII. CELESTIAL PHENOMENA SEEN FROM MARS—M'ALLISTER RECEIVES A PRACTICAL LESSON IN GRAVITATION 242
XXIII. I HAVE A SERIOUS TALK WITH JOHN 253
XXIV. THE MARTIAN SEASONS 256
XXV. MANY THINGS SEEN UPON MARS—I RECEIVE SOME NEWS 264
XXVI. WE WITNESS SOME WONDERFUL AERIAL EVOLUTIONS AND LISTEN TO MARVELLOUS MUSIC 282
XXVII. A FAREWELL BANQUET AND A PAINFUL PARTING 293
XXVIII. LAST WORDS TO MY READERS 298
(Addendum by John Yiewsley Claxton)
XXIX. WHAT HAPPENED UPON OUR RETURN HOME—RESULTS OF THE MOST RECENT OBSERVATIONS OF MARS—PROFESSOR LOWELL'S IMPORTANT DISCOVERY 302
LIST OF PLATES AND MAPS
I. "WHAT A SPLENDID VIEW WE THEN HAD!" frontispiece
II. IDEAL VIEW OF LUNAR SCENERY 54
III. CHART OF THE MOON, SHOWING THE PRINCIPAL } FORMATIONS SEEN ON ITS SURFACE } 80 } IV. INDEX MAP TO CHART OF THE MOON }
V. DIAGRAM SHOWING THE RELATIVE POSITIONS AND MOVEMENTS OF THE PLANETS DURING THE VOYAGE OF THE AREONAL 100
VI. DIAGRAM SHOWING THE RELATIVE POSITIONS OF THE EARTH AND MARS AT THE TIME OF VARIOUS OPPOSITIONS OF MARS 110
VII. CHART SHOWING THE RELATIVE POSITIONS OF THE EARTH AND MARS DURING THE YEARS 1909-1910 118
VIII. MARS. MAP 1 128
IX. MARS. MAP 2 138
X. MARS. MAP 3 154
XI. MARS. MAP 4 206
XII. MARS. MAP 5 224
XIII. MARS. MAP 6 256
XIV. MARS. MAP 7, SHOWING THE PLANET'S SOUTHERN SNOW-CAP AT ITS MAXIMUM 266
XV. MARS AS SEEN ON AUGUST 16, 1909 } } 314 XVI. MARS AS SEEN ON OCTOBER 29, 1909 }
NOTES ON THE MAPS AND CHARTS
The maps included in this work have been photographed from a globe of Mars specially made for the purpose from various charts. In all the maps the south is at the top and the north at the bottom; and the series shows the general surface configuration all round the planet, together with the principal canal lines which have been observed; but many other canal lines exist, especially on the dark areas near the south pole. These lines are usually straight and uniform in width throughout their whole length: indeed it is difficult to mark them upon a globe so that they shall appear as regular and uniform as they are actually seen on the planet.
The names on the maps are those now generally accepted and used by astronomers.
The "Greenwich" of Mars, i.e. the point on the Meridian from which astronomers reckon the Martian longitudes, is indicated by the apex of the small triangular light area just above the equator in Map I. It is marked on the map as "Fastigium Aryn," and is chosen as longitude "0," because from its general outline it cannot be mistaken by observers.
"Sirapion," the supposed landing-place of the travellers mentioned in the story, is shown on Map III., just above the central and lowest point of the dark area at the top of the map. This name will not be found upon any other map of Mars.
The chart showing the relative positions of the Earth and Mars during the years 1909-10 is reduced and modified from one prepared accurately to scale by the author for his own use in connection with the book. From it the reader will gain a clear idea of the shape of the two orbits and how they are placed with regard to each other.
It also shows the course supposed to be taken by the air-ship on its outward and homeward journeys, and the point reached when one of the travellers desired to turn back; together with the alternative routes which were then discussed.
This chart, and the other one showing the positions of the two planets at different oppositions of Mars, will enable the reader to understand how it is that Mars approaches so much nearer to the earth at some oppositions than it does at others. The positions of the oppositions from 1916 to 1922 are only approximations, as no exact data are yet available. The earth is closest to the orbit of Mars about the 27th of August each year, and if Mars comes into opposition about that date it is then only about thirty-five million miles away. If, however, the opposition occurs near the 22nd February, the earth is then at its greatest possible distance from the orbit of Mars, and that planet will then be over sixty million miles away: appearing very much smaller than when at its most favourable point of approach.
On the 18th of September, 1909, Mars was only slightly over thirty-six million miles from the earth, and it will be fifteen years before such a favourable situation again occurs.
The nearest point of approach does not necessarily occur on the actual date of the opposition. In 1907 Mars was in perigee, as it is termed, seven days after the opposition; while in 1909, perigee was before opposition.
The diagram showing the positions and movements of the planets during the period covered by the outward voyage of the Areonal is sufficiently explained by the notes printed thereon. It may, however, be pointed out that though the orbits of the planets are all elliptical, especially those of Mercury and Mars, they are so nearly true circles that, when reduced to the scale of these diagrams, they practically become circles. The exaggerated ellipses so often found in astronomical books are very misleading. The orbits of Mercury and Mars have an appearance of ellipticity because the sun does not occupy the central point in the diagram.
The view of the moon is photographed from a large coloured drawing by the author, which occupied many months in preparation and execution. It shows all the principal formations seen through the telescope as the moon passes through its various phases, but it must be understood that the formations can never all be seen at one view as shown in this picture. As the sun rises on any particular formation the details are gradually revealed by the long shadows cast by the more elevated portions when the sun is low down in the lunar sky. As the sun rises higher and higher the shadows grow shorter and shorter, and when the sun is vertically over the formation the shadows entirely disappear; all details are thus rendered invisible.
When the moon is full the sun is practically vertical over the whole lunar surface, so the only details then seen are those which are vaguely brought out by differences in tint.
The bright ray-streaks are only suggested in the picture, because, if shown complete, they would have the same effect as upon the moon, viz. they would entirely obliterate all the formations over which they passed.
The Key Map indicates the principal lunar formations, and includes the names of those mentioned in the book.
The last two plates in the book are from drawings made at the telescope (a 12-inch Calver reflector) by the Rev. T. E. R. Phillips. The opposition of 1909 was not favourable for the observation of Martian details from England; for although the planet was near to us, it was too low down in the sky; and many of the nights were either cloudy or misty.
THE SUN, MOON, AND PLANETS
Diameter. Period of Rotation. Mean Distance from the Earth. —————————————————————————————————————- SUN 865,000 miles 25 to 26 days 92,800,000 miles
MOON 2,160 miles 27-1/3 days 238,000 miles (It revolves round the earth in the same time.) —————————————————————————————————————- PLANETS. Diameter in Number of Period of Period of Mean Distance Miles. Satellites Rotation. Revolution from the Sun in Known. Round the Sun. Millions of Miles. —————————————————————————————————————- Hrs. Mins. Days. Mercury 2,992 None ? 88 36 Venus 7,660 None ? 225 67 Earth 7,918 One 23 56 365-1/4 92-3/4 Mars 4,220 Two 24 37 687 141-1/2 Asteroids Very tiny planets, hundreds in number; and more are frequently being discovered. Jupiter 86,000 Eight 9 55 4,332-1/2 482 Saturn 74,000 Ten 10 14 10,759 886 Uranus 31,700 Four Not known 30,687 1,780 Neptune 34,500 One " " 60,127 2,780 —————————————————————————————————————-
TO MARS via THE MOON
(Narrative written by Wilfrid Poynders, Esquire, late of Norbury, in the County Borough of Croydon, Surrey)
WE START ON A VERY LONG VOYAGE
"Well, I suppose it is about time to get ready for starting?"
The speaker was a smart, well-set-up man about forty-three years of age, whose keen and alert expression, clear eyes and well-cut features were a true index to the intellectuality and integrity of his character; whilst his closely compressed lips and the deep vertical line down the centre of his forehead betokened a dogged perseverance in carrying into effect anything he might undertake.
John Yiewsley Claxton, for that was his name, was my very intimate friend of at least twenty-five years' standing; and during the greater portion of that time he had been my constant companion. We had passed through many trials and troubles together, but a better friend and companion no man could have desired.
We were just finishing a last quiet smoke and chat in my snuggery at Norbury, near Croydon, preparatory to starting off on a very long journey for which all arrangements had been completed, and we had risen early that morning in order to have everything in readiness.
John took his pipe from his lips as he spoke, then, rising, stretched out his arms and braced himself up like one ready and eager for any emergency; the next minute he was smoking in his usual calm and thoughtful manner. I rose when he did, then giving a few final instructions to Mrs. Challen, my housekeeper, we bade her "good-bye" and stepped out on to the lawn, thence crossing over to a gate at the far end of the garden, we passed into an extensive field and walked toward a large shed that stood near its centre.
It was a most beautiful evening near the beginning of August 1909, clear and calm. The sun had only just passed below the horizon, the sky immediately above it being a rippled glory of gold, merging higher up into gold flecked with crimson, then into a placid sea of pale apple-green. Above this were fleecy clouds of delicate rose-pink, which reflected their splendours upon the higher parts of the surrounding hills, the latter standing out clear and sharp, and glowing with roseate hues, whilst their bases were seen dimly as through a thin veiling of purple mist.
Surely nothing could be better for the commencement of our long-planned trip. The moon would not rise until about a quarter-past nine, and darkness would have descended by the time we were ready to start. This was exactly what we required, because we did not wish either our preparations or our departure to be observed.
Just as we arrived within hail of the shed the door opened, and a rugged-featured man with sandy hair stepped out. This was Kenneth M'Allister, our engineer and general factotum in all mechanical matters—a typical specimen of a Scotch engineer. He had followed his profession in its different phases on tramp-steamers, on ocean liners, naval gunboats, and even on battle-ships, besides having served for several years in the workshops of a great firm of electrical engineers.
Whether repairing a broken propeller-shaft two or three scores of tons in weight, the most intricate machinery, or the most delicate electric mechanism, he was equally at home and sure in his work; in fact nothing seemed to come amiss to him. His machinery was always the object of his most anxious care, and, providing that all worked satisfactorily, nothing else troubled him much.
"Well, M'Allister," I called to him, "is everything ready for our trip to-night?"
"Heh, mon," he replied, "everything is all ready; will you look in and take a turn round the ship?"
"Certainly we will," I answered; so we all went into the shed, where we gazed with equal pride and satisfaction upon the splendid shining object which was housed therein. Here, in perfect readiness for its destined service, was our air-ship—if it could be so called—upon which we three had expended years of thought, experiment, and work.
Outwardly it was shaped somewhat like a fish, being constructed of a special metal—our joint invention—which we had named "martalium." The metal was composed of aluminium and two other rarer metals which, when combined together, produced a substance almost as light as aluminium, yet many times harder and tougher than case-hardened steel; whilst its surface shone like burnished silver and could never in any circumstances become tarnished or affected by rust.
The ship was ninety-five feet in length, and its diameter twenty feet in the broadest part, tapering off to a point at either end.
With the exception of the steering and balancing fans, there was no machinery whatever visible on the exterior of the vessel. Several windows along each side, together with a few at the top and bottom of the vessel, gave light to the interior, and would allow for observations being made in any direction. These windows were all constructed of a special toughened glass obtained from Vienna, very thick and warranted to withstand the hardest blows. Along each side of the vessel there was an observation platform or gallery on to which the exterior doors opened, and each gallery was provided with a protecting railing.
The interior of the ship was divided into five separate compartments, the rear one being the general living and sleeping room, having observation windows so arranged as to command an outlook in all directions. The next compartment was mainly a store-room, but, like all the others, could be used for observation purposes; next to that was a small compartment intended for a special purpose which will hereafter be apparent; then another containing water storage, apparatus for compressing or rarefying air, as well as machinery for producing the latter chemically.
Lastly, right in the forepart of the vessel was M'Allister's special sanctum, containing the driving, lighting, warming, and steering machinery, but electric buttons and switches were also provided for controlling these in every compartment, so that whichever one we happened to be in we were prepared for all emergencies. Periscopes capable of being turned in all directions also communicated with every compartment, thus we could always see what might be around us.
All the machinery was either electric or magnetic, some of it being very simple; other portions were extremely intricate, but nearly all was the outcome of our joint inventions. Such parts as could not profitably be made by ourselves had been carefully distributed between several firms of founders and engineers, in order that none could have any means of discovering the use to which they were intended to be put. The whole of the shell of the vessel was double, with a packed space between the two skins; and each door opened into a small lobby, having another door on the farther side, to ensure that every part might be kept perfectly air-tight when required.
By the time we had completed a thorough inspection of the vessel and its machinery, and overhauled the stores to make sure that everything requisite was on board, it had become nearly dark, so, moving a switch, M'Allister swung open the great doors at the end of the shed. The vessel was standing upon a low trolley having many wheels running on rails, with a small electric motor beneath it, and, upon M'Allister moving the trolley switch, the whole affair glided smoothly out into the open field. I may as well confess that we owed this trolley and the mode of its working to ideas gained during an inspection of the construction and working of the conduit trams belonging to the London County Council.
When the vessel was out in the open we congratulated ourselves upon its splendid proportions and business-like appearance.
I asked M'Allister whether "he was satisfied with the result of our labours?"
"Mon," he replied, "she's grand, and it's fine to have the handling of such machinery; everything works as slick as grease!" It was a pleasure to hear him talk about his machines, for he was always so enthusiastic where they were concerned.
"Now," I suggested, "before we start we'll give our good ship her name."
"Bravo!" said John Claxton, "and we'll drink to her success, a good voyage and a safe return"; and he was so struck by the brilliancy of his idea that he actually took his pipe from his lips, and, holding it in his hand, regarded it with thoughtful contemplation for quite three minutes.
I accordingly went to the store-room and brought out two bottles of champagne. Directly M'Allister saw them he entered a vigorous and emphatic protest, saying, "Heh, Professor! you're surely not going to celebrate this most auspicious event with such poor fizzy stuff as champagne? Let's have a wee drop of good old Scotch whisky, and do the thing properly!"
John Claxton here interposed: "Let M'Allister have his whisky if he prefers it, and we'll have the 'fizz'!" So I went laughing to the store again and returned with a bottle of special Scotch, whereat M'Allister's eye gleamed as he smiled approval.
Then, taking up a bottle of the champagne, I broke it over the prow of the vessel, and we solemnly christened her the Areonal in honour of the planet for which we were bound.
Raising high our glasses we gave the toast of "The Areonal; may she and her passengers have a good voyage and a safe return home!" M'Allister peered over the rim of his glass, and, with upturned eyes, remarked that "his old wife in Glasgow would be looking for his safe return in a few months' time"; then his glass slowly tipped up, and the old Scotch whisky disappeared.
Claxton and I at once stepped on board the vessel, and having just set the machinery slowly moving so as to raise the vessel a few feet, I put on the neutral power so that the ship remained poised in the air. M'Allister ran the trolley back into the shed, closed the doors, and switched off the electric current; then climbed the extending ladder, and came on board, John steadying the vessel by an anchor rope in the meantime.
M'Allister took over the command of the machinery, and, setting it in motion, the Areonal at once rose slowly and gracefully straight up into the air.
John and I were standing outside on the platform, from whence, looking toward the house, we could plainly see Mrs. Challen at the open door of our sitting-room waving farewell to us—her figure silhouetted against the bright light of the room. We waved back to her in response, but I am very doubtful if she could see our signal, as she was looking into the darkness.
We now rose rapidly as M'Allister switched on more power, and far away to the northward we could see over the whole extent of the vast metropolis, with its countless miles of lighted streets. On turning towards the east the Crystal Palace, which was lighted up, was a very conspicuous object against the skyline over the Sydenham hills.
John, when he saw it, remarked that "it would have been an appropriate tribute to our enterprise if the Palace Company had provided one of their grand firework displays as a send-off for us"; "but," he added, "these companies will never do what is expected of them!" On the westward side the lights all along the hill where Sutton lies were clearly visible; farther off was Epsom, and, with the aid of a glass, we could even faintly see the lights of Guildford in the far distance.
Nearly south of us Croydon seemed from our altitude to lie almost beneath our vessel. We directed our course towards the south-east, passing over the railway-station at Thornton Heath, with Croydon to the right of us, just as the clock of the Croydon Town Hall was striking nine. The long lines of lighted streets made a fine panorama, and we could trace the lights of the moving tram-cars out to Anerley, South Norwood, Purley, Wallington, and Mitcham.
Although we were fully 5000 feet, or nearly a mile, above the earth it was surprising how clearly we could hear the sounds from below—the rumble of the electric tram-cars, the clang of their gongs, the toot-toot of the motor-horns, and, louder still, the whistles of the locomotives on the London and Brighton Railway were borne to us with almost startling distinctness through the still night air.
Our electric lights were now switched on at their full power, their bright beams shining out through the windows all around the vessel. Whilst we were on the ground we only used just sufficient light to see by, as we did not wish to draw attention to our proceedings; but now we were well up and on our way it mattered not who saw us.
With increased speed we passed over South Norwood and the village of Shirley, rising higher and higher as we proceeded on our way. The moon, which was just past the full, had not risen above the horizon of those upon the earth below us; but we had now attained such an altitude that it became visible to us, low down on the horizon and far ahead on our left hand. Owing to our height above the earth it soon became impossible for us to see the places over which we passed, and as we were moving over an open part of Kent there were very few lights which we could have seen in any case. As there was nothing of particular interest to attract our attention which we had not already seen on our trial trips, we entered our general room and sat down to supper.
The machinery had been set to maintain a speed of 150 miles an hour until we passed beyond the limits of the earth's atmosphere; for though, no doubt, we might safely have travelled faster, we did not intend taking any risk of overheating our vessel by the friction of the atmosphere.
Notwithstanding the speed at which we were travelling we were quite unconscious of any movement in our vessel. The impression we received was not that we were rushing away from the earth, but that the earth was rapidly falling away from our position in space.
It may, perhaps, be desirable that I should now give a little information respecting myself and my friends, together with some explanation of our reasons for embarking upon such a very long voyage.
PERSONAL REMINISCENCES—WHY WE DECIDED ON THE VOYAGE
My name is Wilfrid Poynders, and during the greater part of my lifetime of more than sixty-three years astronomy has been my favourite study. For the last thirty years the planet Mars has been an object of special interest to me, and I have devoted much time to observation of the planet and have endeavoured to make myself fully acquainted with all that has been discovered or surmised respecting it.
My dear wife had died when I was thirty-six years of age, leaving me with one child, my son Mark, then about fifteen years old. In my intense sorrow at my bereavement I should probably have become almost a hermit had it not been for my boy who, having been carefully educated, was a bright and intelligent lad. I now took him under my special care and made it my constant endeavour to impart to him such of my own knowledge as seemed likely to be useful or interesting, hoping to keep him with me for many years as a companion. He soon became imbued with my love of mechanical pursuits and also with my passion for astronomy and allied sciences, developing an interest in Mars equal to if not surpassing my own.
His most intimate schoolfellow was John Claxton, and, as there was a very strong friendship between them, we were so much together that I came to regard him almost as a second son.
When my boy was in his twentieth year I noticed that a great change came over him, for instead of being cheerful and high-spirited he became very quiet and self-absorbed, and there was often a faraway look in his eyes which puzzled me very much. One morning I went to call him at his usual time for rising and found him in a deep sleep from which I was unable to rouse him. After trying some time without effect his stupor so alarmed me that I immediately sent off for a doctor, who advised that it would be best to let him lie and he would probably awaken naturally in a few hours' time. This indeed proved to be the case; and, as soon as he awoke, the doctor carefully examined him, but could find nothing wrong to account for what had happened. A month later he had a similar seizure, with the same result, but this time his sleep lasted nearly thirty hours. On the doctor's advice I then took him to the seaside for several weeks' stay, and there he soon regained his usual buoyancy of spirits.
Shortly after our return home, however, he had a third seizure from which he never awoke, but, to my profound sorrow, passed quietly away. Just before the end came I noticed his lips move slightly as though he were trying to speak, and on bending down to listen I thought I caught faintly what sounded like the words, "I am coming," but whether this really were so I could not be sure.
I will not dwell upon the pain and sorrow of that dark and dreary portion of my life when I was left quite alone, without a single relative to cheer me, but merely say that my grief at his loss was so overwhelming that it was long before my former mode of living could be resumed. John Claxton was almost as deeply affected as myself, for poor Mark was a most affectionate lad, and had greatly endeared himself to both of us. John also had his own troubles, having lost his father during the previous year, and was then living with an aunt and two cousins, but had never been comfortable with them, as both the boys were rather wild, and of anything but good dispositions. He had inherited a substantial income from his father, but this piece of good fortune only aroused the jealousy and envy of his cousins, who only seemed to tolerate his presence in their home because of what they could obtain from him by their sponging propensities.
Although I was not rich, my income was amply sufficient to render me quite independent of work, and as I felt most lonely and desolate since Mark's death, I at length begged John to come and live with me. He joyfully agreed, and from that time our relations have practically been those of father and son. As our dispositions and likings are very similar, we are as happy together as past sorrows will permit.
John always had a great fancy for engineering and electrical work, in which, after some years of training, he became an expert. Being well endowed with the faculty of invention, he devised and constructed many new kinds of electric and magnetic machines, and as my tastes also run in the direction of mechanical work, I have also done a great deal in connection with such matters.
About six years ago, when the problem of aerial navigation began to be studied in earnest, John became greatly interested in the matter, devoting all his time and energies to designing and constructing working models of air-ships, aeroplanes, and other flying machines.
At that period I was very keen on Martian matters, to such an extent indeed that my mind was always occupied with the various problems they presented. One day, in the course of conversation, I suggested that it would be a splendid thing if we could construct a vessel which would enable us to visit Mars and see it for ourselves, and thus settle all our doubts and speculations on the various controversial points which were so much discussed.
The idea soon had him in its grip, and he then immediately commenced a series of experiments with a view to designing machinery capable of carrying a vessel through space. After many failures he thought out a plan for utilising the earth's gravitation and magnetism as a means of obtaining the requisite power and storing it up for future use. This scheme was thoroughly tested and proved to have solved the problem, for the machinery could transform the power from either positive or negative to neutral.
The task of making the vessel and machinery was of course too great for two pairs of hands to undertake, and we were therefore under the necessity of obtaining a third man to help us. John had known M'Allister when he was studying electrical work, and suggested that, if available, he would be just the man to suit us. We at once communicated with him, making a liberal offer for his assistance in our scheme, and as it was a question of dealing with an entirely new kind of machinery it appealed to his professional pride, so, being out of an engagement, he gladly accepted our offer. He came over to my house and has lived with us ever since, apparently quite in his element. M'Allister was about fifty years of age when he joined us, married, but without children. His wife's home was at Glasgow, and owing to his so often being away at sea for long periods, she had become so accustomed to the separation that she declined our offer to find a home for herself and her husband near us. She paid him a visit occasionally, or he went to spend a few days with her, but as a permanent arrangement she preferred staying with her relatives in Glasgow. It was not exactly my ideal of married life, but as the couple always seemed happy enough when together, and the arrangement appeared to suit them both, it was not my place to make any comment.
My house on the outskirts of Norbury was well situated for securing the privacy we required in carrying on our work and experiments, lying as it did in the valley on the westward side of a small eminence known as Pollard's Hill, which effectually screened us from observation by the inhabitants of the houses in the London Road. Thus we enjoyed complete seclusion, although not more than a quarter of a mile from that busy thoroughfare.
Notwithstanding that Pollard's Hill is only a small elevation, and its rise scarcely noticed when approached from the London Road, when its summit is gained one is astonished by the extensive and splendid view it commands over hills and valleys, town and country; and it breaks upon one almost as a startling surprise when its beauties are seen for the first time. It is, indeed, so very unexpected to come upon such a fine and far-spreading view so suddenly and so close to bricks and mortar. Alas! the latter are fast encroaching upon this delightful but somewhat neglected spot, and unless the Croydonians are wise enough to secure the acquirement of the summit of the hill as a public open space, this splendid view will be entirely lost to future generations.
A further advantage of our situation was its nearness to Croydon and Wallington, where there were engineering and electrical machinery works; besides which we also had convenient and easy means of reaching the metropolis, from whence we could travel to any other town to purchase or order anything we might require.
Once we had fairly set to work our progress was rapid and our vessel had practically been complete nearly a year, since when we have undertaken many voyages at night in order to test its powers and to ascertain where improvements were needed.
We were much amused to find in the newspapers of this period, especially in the London Press, numerous letters from various parts of England describing the appearance of a strange and very brilliant star in the sky, either at night or in the morning hours before sunrise. Some described the star as moving in one direction, others stated that it passed in quite another direction; though it does not appear to have occurred to any one that stars do not move in this eccentric fashion, nor at the rapid rate at which this peculiar star was stated to travel. No one guessed that it was the light of our air-ship which they saw as we flitted about the country in the dark hours, and often at extremely high altitudes.
Three extensive fields were occupied by me in connection with my residence, and these afforded plenty of room for our large shed and workshops; whilst as north, south, and west of us there was a large stretch of open country, extending in some directions for miles, there was little risk of our operations attracting attention. Moreover, we were always careful not to prepare for any ascent until it was fairly dark.
Our establishment was a small one, Mrs. Challen being our only indoor servant. She came to me as a young widow after my wife's death, and has proved an excellent manager and a most trustworthy servant. I have therefore left my house in her charge with a feeling of entire certainty that it will be well looked after in my absence. My solicitors have a sealed packet containing full instructions as to what is to be done in the event of my not returning home or communicating with them within fifteen months from the date of our departure.
Altogether, our little party of three has been a very agreeable one up to the present. John Claxton is a splendid fellow—a good talker when in the humour, and an excellent listener when either myself or M'Allister are in the vein for airing our own particular views. He is rather fond of chaffing M'Allister, who has a quiet humour of his own, and takes it all in good part. John has only one weakness—he has become a most inveterate smoker, and we have learned by experience that in this matter his wishes must never be opposed. Both M'Allister and myself are also smokers, though to a much less extent; the former, indeed, more often prefers to chew navy plug-tobacco—a habit which I am glad to say I never acquired, but it is a pretty general one amongst those who have been employed on sea-going vessels. In these matters it is an understood thing that each is to do as he pleases, without let or hindrance.
One more point and then I will finish this rather long but very necessary digression. In conversation I am generally addressed by my colleagues as "Professor." Not that I ever occupied a Professorial Chair at a university or elsewhere, but it arose in this way: When John first came to live with me he felt a diffidence, owing to the disparity between our ages, in addressing me by my Christian name; on the other hand, to call me by my surname seemed to him far too cold and formal. So on one occasion, when I had been holding forth on my favourite science, he remarked, "I think, sir, if you will allow me, I shall call you 'Professor' in future; the title seems most appropriate for one who has the power of conveying information on scientific subjects in so clear and interesting a manner."
I was much amused at this proposal, but fully appreciating the difficulty he felt in the matter, replied, "John, you really flatter me too much; but as you seem to think the title fits, you may call me by it if you like." So from that time forth John always addressed me as "Professor," and from hearing him constantly using the term, M'Allister soon acquired the same habit. I am afraid they both credited me with rather more erudition than I really possessed; but although I should never attempt to talk at large on matters with which I was not fully acquainted, I have lived long enough to know that it is not always wise to go very far in disillusioning others of the favourable opinions they may have formed respecting one's own abilities. It is, perhaps, one of those matters in which "a still tongue makes a wise head"; and, if dealt with in a tactful way, may be of real advantage to both persons. The one will continue to be receptive of the ideas of the person whom he esteems as well qualified to impart sound and reliable information, whilst the other will honestly endeavour to live up to his reputation, and be most scrupulously careful to make sure of the accuracy of the information which he desires to impart.
WE APPROACH THE MOON—A MAGNIFICENT SPECTACLE
When we had finished our supper John remarked, "Professor, I am a little mystified in regard to our present position. We have started on a voyage to Mars, but up to the present I have not seen even a glimpse of the planet to-night. How is that?"
"Hear, hear," chimed in M'Allister. "Mon, I've been bothering over the very same thing ever since we started, and wondering where yon little red star has gone to!"
"The question is very soon answered," I replied: "it is a case of 'the Spanish fleet you cannot see because it's not in sight.' Mars does not rise above our late horizon until about a quarter-past ten, and was therefore hidden by the earth whilst we were out on the platform; so we could not expect to see it then, but if we look out now no doubt we shall see it."
We went over to a window, and I pointed out the planet, remarking, "There it is; that little red star is the world which we hope to land upon in a few weeks' time. You will notice that it does not lie quite in the direction in which we are moving, for I must tell you that we are not on our course to Mars at present. I thought we should all be glad to have a look at the moon from a close point of view now we have the chance, and M'Allister will remember that I gave him instructions just before supper to direct our course so as to head off the moon in its journey."
"Quite right, Professor, so you did," said M'Allister; "but I did not fully understand the reason of your instructions."
"But," interrupted John, "are we not going rather out of our way?"
"Yes, that is so, John," I replied, "but a few thousand miles more or less will make very little difference to us at the rate we shall travel, especially if you allow for the fact that the earth and moon are both moving nearly in the direction we wish to go. Besides, I hope to approach sufficiently near the moon to enable us to add a little more power to our store, so it will not all be lost time; and we can also use the moon to give us a fresh start. But for the fact that it would be best for us to reach the moon before it has waned to any large extent we might have delayed our start for many days, and, whilst considerably shortening our journey, still arrived at Mars on the date we have fixed."
Our chronometer was housed in a substantial non-magnetic cubicle, with a very thick glass window, in order to protect it from the magnetism and electricity which pervaded our vessel. On looking at the chronometer I found the time was nearly eleven o'clock. We had, therefore, been nearly two hours on our journey and had travelled some three hundred miles, mostly in an upward direction from the earth; so if there were any of the earth's atmosphere around our vessel it must be of the most extreme tenuity, and we might safely increase our speed.
I accordingly gave M'Allister the order to switch on the power gradually, up to our full speed, and it was not long before we were rushing through space at the rate of over eighty-three thousand miles an hour. At this rate, as I told them, we might expect to reach the moon in a little over sixteen hours, allowing for loss in slackening down at the latter part of the journey.
"It so happens," I said, "that the moon's present distance from the earth is rather less than 226,000 miles, being its nearest approach to the earth during this month."
John at once asked, "How it happened that, if the moon were only this comparatively short distance away from us, I reckoned it would require over sixteen hours to reach it at the tremendous speed we were now moving"; and added, "I thought we should be there in about three hours."
"Ah, John," I replied, "you have forgotten that the earth is rushing along and carrying the moon with it nearly as fast as we are travelling, and you are reckoning as though they were standing still all the time. As a matter of fact we are only gaining on the moon by a little over fifteen thousand miles an hour, and we must allow for slackening speed long before we reach the moon, so we cannot expect to cover the distance in less than sixteen hours. You will see that if we did not travel faster than the moon is moving away from us we should never catch it up at all!"
"That explains it all, Professor," said John, "and I must confess I felt rather puzzled at the length of time required to reach the moon, so was altogether out in my calculations."
After we had been proceeding at this rate for nearly two hours, M'Allister came hurrying into our compartment in a state of great excitement.
"Professor," he exclaimed with a gasp, "something's gone wrong altogether, and I don't know what to do!"
"Gone wrong!" I repeated. "Why, what is the matter?"
"Mon," he answered, "everything is the matter! A while back we were rushing towards the moon, but just now when I looked ahead there wasn't any moon to be seen. I happened to go round to the other window and look back and, my word! if there wasn't the moon right behind us! We have been travelling so very fast that we must have run past it without knowing we had done so."
"Oh, we could not possibly have done that!" I exclaimed.
"But there's more to come, Professor," continued M'Allister. "When I last saw the moon it was nearly full and not so very much bigger than when we saw it at starting, but now this moon behind us is an enormous thing; yet it is only a new moon, or rather what folks call a new moon with the old moon in its arms!"
"Oh, now I understand," I replied. "It's all right, M'Allister, and you can make your mind quite easy. You were not able to see the moon when you first looked through the window because it was nearly in a direct line with your course, and therefore just hidden by the prow of the vessel. It's still ahead of us and still nearly full: if you had looked out of the conning tower or used the periscope you would have seen it."
"Heh, Professor," he interjected, "I know I couldn't see the moon if it was straight ahead of our course, but then what about that enormous new moon that's behind us? I saw that right enough."
"That enormous new moon, M'Allister, is only our own little world which we left a few hours ago," I replied.
He stared at me as though bewildered, and after pondering a while, exclaimed, "Losh, mon, you surely don't mean to say that our own little world changes about in the same way as the moon does—sometimes new and sometimes full?"
Here John interposed. "Yes, M'Allister, you can take it from me that it is just what our world does do. I think you are aware that, like the moon, our world simply reflects the light it receives from the sun, and does not shine by its own light. So one side is light and the other side is dark, according to its position in regard to the sun. From our present position we are only able to see a small portion of the lighted side, the remainder being dark except for the moonlight shining upon it, so it looks just like a large new moon. It really serves as a moon to our moon, but its phases follow each other in reverse order. Thus, when the moon is full, the earth's disc is all dark, and when the moon is in its first quarter the earth, as seen from there, would be in its third quarter, and so on through all its phases. Do you follow all that, M'Allister?"
"Well, mon," replied M'Allister, with a sly grin, "I've just heard you say it; but"—and here he turned to me—"is it all correct, Professor?"
"Yes, quite correct," I answered, greatly amused at his distrust of John's statements.
"M'Allister, you're like the Apostle Thomas," commented John, evidently a little nettled; "so you really doubted my word after all!"
"Heh, mon," he answered, "you're not the Professor, you know; and I thought maybe you were pulling my leg!"
"Well," laughed John, "perhaps you will get your leg pulled the next time I condescend to give you a lesson in astronomy!"
After this little spar between my two colleagues we proceeded to the machine-room, which John and I carefully inspected, to make sure that all was working properly; and having satisfied ourselves on this point, we gave M'Allister his instructions for the 'night'; though of course there was no night now.
Mounting the steps of the conning turret, we then had a look at the earth, from which we were so rapidly moving away. It appeared about fifteen degrees in angular diameter, showing that we had travelled some thirty thousand miles from it.
The full moon, as seen from the earth, appears just about half a degree in diameter—sometimes a little more, sometimes rather less; so the earth was apparently about thirty times the diameter the moon usually appears to us. It was only a thin crescent where lighted by the sun, but well might M'Allister describe it as "enormous," for it appeared still larger to him when he saw it some thirty minutes earlier and mistook it for the new moon.
When we came down again John, very thoughtfully, said to me, "Professor, you have had a very long, tiring day; and when we reach the moon, we shall probably stay up several hours to look at it, so you had better take as long a sleep as possible. There will be no need to break your rest, for I'm the younger, and will get about by six o'clock, and relieve M'Allister, who can go on all right up to then, as he has three hours less work to his credit than we have to-day. If your advice is needed, I will call you at once; but, no doubt, we shall do very well till we arrive within a few thousand miles of the moon. We will slacken speed very gradually from about two o'clock in the afternoon, so as not to approach the orb too rapidly."
I had, indeed, as he said, had a long, tiring day, having risen soon after four o'clock yesterday morning, and it was now nearly 2 "A.M." by terrestrial time; so, thanking him for his kind consideration, I bade them both "good night," and gladly proceeded to bed, John following soon after.
He was as good as his word, and actually allowed me to sleep on until nearly half-past three in the "afternoon," when he roused me, and, having dressed, I snatched a hasty meal and then at once proceeded to the machine-room, where my first act was to look at the moon. There it was below us, but still slightly ahead of the Areonal; and its magnificence was so overpowering, that it almost seemed to take my breath away, although I was fairly well prepared for the sight. Many times when viewing it through the telescope I have almost lost myself in admiration of the sublime spectacle it presents; but what I had seen on those occasions could not be compared with the splendour of the view now before us.
Here, without any atmosphere to dim or otherwise mar the view, the brilliancy of the lighted portion of the disc was absolutely dazzling, whilst the extreme delicacy of its varied tints and the subtle nuances of colour, which we now saw to perfection, were most charming and delightful to any one endowed with artistic perceptions. We were only about four thousand miles from this beautiful orb, its angular diameter measuring about thirty degrees, or nearly sixty times its apparent diameter, as seen from the earth; thus it appeared to cover a very large circle on the sky.
John and M'Allister told me they had both been gazing upon the splendid scene for a very long time with astonishment and delight equal to my own; and the latter went on to say, "Professor, did you ever see such a sight in your life? I never did, and could never have imagined that anything could be so beautiful! Mon, it's worth many a journey like this to see such a bonnie thing!"
"You are quite right in saying that, M'Allister," I answered; "it is, indeed, a grand and marvellous sight! I can assure you that when I have been observing the moon in its full and glowing splendour, it has often seemed to me the most exquisitely beautiful object I have ever looked upon; yet now it appears far more beautiful than when seen through the telescope!"
CLOSE TO THE MOON—I GIVE SOME INFORMATION ABOUT IT
We were now moving at a comparatively slow speed, yet the size of the moon's disc was very rapidly expanding as we approached nearer and nearer to it. In the course of a little over half-an-hour we were within ten miles of its surface, which now seemed to fill the whole space below us; and its rotundity was most impressive. The shadows of the mountains and other elevated portions near the terminator were jet black, owing to the absence of an atmosphere; and, seen contrasted with the brilliant lighting of the parts exposed to the full glare of the sun, appeared almost like deep holes in the lunar surface.
John now remarked, "Professor, you are aware that I have only a rather vague general knowledge of astronomy, although I take an interest in the subject, and that I know still less about the dimensions and physical character of the moon and planets; so perhaps you will be good enough to give us a little detailed information respecting this beautiful orb. Most of it will be news to me, and probably it will all be fresh to M'Allister."
"Heh mon," the latter replied, "just put me among machinery and I'll tell you what's what, but I never learned anything about astronomy, so will not pretend to any knowledge of it, but now I should be very glad to hear what the Professor has to say about it."
"Well, friends," I replied, "it is not my wish to lecture you upon the subject, so I will merely just run over a few of the bare facts.
"To begin with—the moon is very much smaller than the earth, its diameter being only 2160 miles, while the earth's diameter is 7918 miles. Being a smaller globe its mass is much more loosely compacted than that of the earth, so, although it would take nearly fifty globes the same as the moon to make one globe as large as the earth, it would require nearly eighty such globes to make one as heavy as the earth.
"The moon's distance from the earth is generally given as being about 238,000 miles, but this is its mean distance. When farthest away from our world its distance is about 260,000 miles, but at its nearest it is less than 220,000 miles distant. This difference of course arises from the eccentricity of the moon's orbit, and it explains why we sometimes see the moon a trifle larger than it appears at other times. By this I mean that it really is seen larger, because it is closer to us. But you have no doubt often noticed that when the moon is near the horizon it seems to be very large indeed. This apparent increase of size is, however, an illusion, owing to our unconsciously comparing it with the apparent size of terrestrial objects.
"The surface of the moon shows evidence of very violent volcanic action having occurred in every part of it, and astronomers in the past were much puzzled to account for the excessive volcanic energy which was indicated by what they saw, as such a small globe as the moon would not, in the ordinary course of events, have ever possessed sufficient heat to have developed such violent action. A theory of later years has, however, provided a reasonable explanation. It is that the moon was at one time a part of the same mass as the earth, which became separated from it before the earth had quite cooled down and solidified into its present form, and was then gradually driven farther and farther away from the earth by natural forces. It was therefore originally as hot as the rest of the mass which formed the earth, but being formed into a smaller globe of much less gravity—only one-sixth of that of the earth—volcanic action of the same intensity as that on the earth would have a much more far-reaching effect. A force which on the earth would project volcanic lava and scoriae a distance of three miles would, on the moon, project it a distance of eighteen miles. This accounts for the very high mountains we see on the moon, some of which are comparatively, for the size of the globe, much higher than those on the earth. It also accounts for the vast size of the lunar craters, ring-plains, and ring-mountains.
"These latter are formations quite unknown upon our earth, but on the moon they are numbered by hundreds of all sizes, from a few miles up to one hundred and fifty miles in diameter. They are large plains, roughly circular in shape, and surrounded by mountains; in a few cases the ring is in some parts a double range of mountains. Sometimes the plain (or 'floor,' as it is termed) is many thousands of feet below the general level of the lunar surface; in a few cases it is raised considerably above it, and in one or two instances, instead of being flat, the floor is convex. Some of the mountain rings are comparatively low, but in other cases the mountains are fifteen to twenty thousand feet in height, or even higher. Frequently a mountain rises near the centre of the floor, some rings containing more than one such mountain, whilst others have none at all.
"There are numerous instances where one mountain ring has overlapped or cut into another, thus indicating that it was a later formation; and in many cases the mountains are 'terraced,' as it is termed, either owing to a series of landslips or to the rise and fall of a sea of lava, which cooled as it sank down, thus forming terraces. Small craters abound all over the surface of the moon and on the floors of the rings; cracks in the lunar surface are also numerous.
"As regards the lunar mountains, it may truly be said that we have a fairly accurate knowledge of peaks and mountains which would either be too precipitous to be climbed, or quite inaccessible to us, if we could actually land upon the moon; and the whole visible surface has been more carefully and thoroughly mapped out and studied than is the case with many parts of our own earth.
"If the moon has any atmosphere it must be so very attenuated indeed that human beings could not possibly live in it at all; but nothing has yet been detected which would enable us to say positively that any atmosphere does exist there, although there have been some indications observed which support the supposition that there may be an extremely thin air.
"Nor does it appear possible that there is any water upon its surface at the present; in fact, many astronomers are of opinion that the moon never did have any water upon it. Personally, from a study of many of the formations as seen through the telescope, it seems to me quite impossible that they could owe their existence in their present state to anything but the action of water. They present much the same appearance as formations on our own earth which we know have been fashioned by that means. There is no water upon the moon now, I think, though several large depressions are still called oceans, seas, lakes, or marshes, because at one time they were believed to be such. Probably in some of those places, if not in all, water existed millions of years ago; but ages since they must have lost it either by evaporation or by absorption into the soil.
"I will not say any more just now, but as we pass above the lunar surface I will point out a few of the natural features that may be of interest to you."
M'Allister here paid me the compliment of saying, "Well, Professor, I always thought astronomy was a very dry and difficult subject; but your remarks were really very interesting, and quite easy to understand. There is only one thing that seemed to me rather strange as coming from a scientific man, and I would like you to explain that."
"Certainly; if there is anything you do not quite understand, you have only to ask and I will try to clear the matter up," I answered. "What is it you wish to know?"
"Well," he answered, "I noticed that when you were speaking about the distance of the moon you always said it was about so far away. Why didn't you tell us the exact distance? I'm not a scientific man by any means, but if any one were to ask me the length of a connecting rod on one of my machines I should say '25 inches,' not 'about 25 inches,' for that would not do for a practical man!"
"It's like this, M'Allister," I said. "You measure things with a two-foot rule, which is something you can actually handle, and you know it is made according to a standard measure and must contain exactly 24 inches. If, however, your rule was 24-1/4 inches long, yet still divided into twenty-four equal parts, you could measure work with it just the same, but would know that every measurement was just a little bit out. If you had no possible means of obtaining another rule, you would have to put up with a little inexactitude.
"That is just the position in which astronomers are placed; they have to put up with a measure which they know is not perfectly accurate, yet it is the best which can be secured.
"Their two-foot rule, so to speak, may be the distance from the earth to the sun, or the length of the whole diameter of the earth's orbit, and these cannot be handled like your rule; and although we know the measurements of these are nearly correct, they are not quite so. Yet the distances of the moon, planets, stars, &c., have to be measured by these rules, so it is clear we can only know those distances with a near approximation to accuracy.
"For this reason astronomers are always trying different means of ascertaining the sun's exact distance from the earth in order to obtain a perfectly correct measure; but there are so many difficulties and complications which affect the result, that it will be a long time yet before they succeed in their work.
"You will therefore understand that all these figures as to distances and dimensions of planets and stars are only as near approaches to correctness as is possible to attain in our present circumstances. They must not be regarded as literally exact, although they are usually sufficiently accurate for all general purposes. Astronomers know this and allow for it; but general readers of books, when they find figures which do not agree with others they have seen, are apt to regard them as all being mere guesses, and in this they are doing an injustice to the painstaking labours of generations of astronomers and mathematicians.
"I shall presently be mentioning the heights of mountains, the size of ring-plains, craters, &c., but the same reasoning applies to them; the dimensions given are averages of measurements made by different observers, and, though not quite accurate, are as near the truth as the difficult conditions under which they have to be measured will allow."
"Thank you, Professor," said M'Allister as I concluded. "I'm glad I don't have to work with such rules as those you mention, for measurements a little bit out of correctness would ruin any machine in the world."
"Still, M'Allister," I said, "you would have the advantage over astronomers with your two-foot rule, because you would know that it was a quarter of an inch too long. Their difficulty is that they do not know exactly how much their rule is out of correctness, so cannot obtain absolute accuracy however they may try."
We now set the machines going very slowly and moved toward the northern part of the moon, where I pointed out the position of the lunar north pole, and explained that, owing to the very slight inclination of the lunar axis, there can be but very little variation of seasons in any one particular part of the moon. Thus, if at one place it were spring, it would practically always be spring there, but with very cold nights all through the lunar year. Where it was summer it would practically always be summer, also with very cold nights, and so on.
I further explained that, as the moon revolves on its axis in the same time that it takes to make one revolution round the earth, those on the earth always see the same side of the moon, except when occasionally, owing to inequalities in the lunar motions, they are afforded a peep just round portions of the edges at different periods. The remainder of the other side of the moon has never yet been seen from the earth by human eyes, and in all probability never will be seen for millions of years to come.
John, who as usual was smoking like a factory chimney, here removed his pipe from his mouth and said, "Professor, you stated just now that the nights on the moon would always be intensely cold, and I should like to know whether there is any really reliable information respecting the temperature of the lunar days and nights. I have seen so many contradictory theories on the subject that I scarcely know what to believe."
"In that respect," I answered, "I fear that my position is much the same as yours, for I have absolutely no certain knowledge on the point, but will just state shortly how the matter stands at present.
"During the past century many investigations have been made by scientific men respecting the temperatures on the moon, and their results have differed to an amazing extent. It would take too long, and be too wearisome, to quote all the authorities, so a few must suffice. Lord Rosse, who used a thermopile in his experiments, found that in order to produce the results he obtained, the sunlit surface of the moon must be heated to a temperature of 500 degrees on Fahrenheit's scale. Sir John Herschel had previously concluded that the temperature must be much greater than that of boiling water. On the other hand Ericsson and, more recently, Professor Langley—who used a bolometer of his own invention for measuring the heat of the sun's invisible rays—came to the conclusion that even under continued sunshine the temperature would rarely, if ever, rise above the freezing point of water.
"Professor Very, however, who has continued the delicate experiments with the bolometer, and also made other experiments and calculations of quite recent date, has obtained results more nearly in accordance with those first quoted, for he found that near the end of the second week's sunshine on the moon the temperature of the rocks, soil, &c., must rise to at least 80 degrees Centigrade above the heat of boiling water."
"My word!" said M'Allister, "that's hotter than a ship's engine-room, and I shouldn't care for such a very high temperature."
"As this is so recent," I proceeded, "and the work of one of our highest authorities, I think we must accept it as being more correct, especially as Professor Very has taken into consideration some factors which had not previously been allowed due weight.
"In connection with this matter of temperature it is necessary to remember that the days and nights upon the moon are both very long, for the full lunar 'day' is equal to a month, so the actual lunar day is equal to fourteen of our days, and the lunar night is of the same duration. Our 'day' of twenty-four hours is divided into day and night in unequal proportions, according to the changes in the seasons; but, as I before remarked, the seasonal changes on the moon are very slight, so the variations in the lengths of the days and nights are very small.
"But, whatever may be the difference of opinion as to the heat of the lunar day, there seems to be a pretty general agreement that, owing to the absence of an atmosphere, the nights must be so intensely cold as to be almost beyond our conception—probably approaching nearly to the absolute zero of outer space. Even with an atmosphere the long nights in our polar regions are so cold that only very strong people can endure them, notwithstanding every device for obtaining warmth.
"You will gather from this that although the moon appears so beautiful from a distance, it must be anything but a desirable place of residence even from a climatic point of view, for we should practically be fried at midday, while at midnight—or even in the daytime when out of the direct rays of the sun—we should soon be frozen stiff."
As I said this John chimed in with: "Professor, all things considered, I think I could smoke my pipe more comfortably upon the earth than upon the moon. I really don't like such extremes of temperature."
"I am of the same mind," I replied, "and it is because I prefer a more equable temperature that I have carefully kept our martalium blinds drawn over those windows of our vessel upon which the sun is shining."
WE VIEW THE LUNAR SCENERY IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE
"Now, Professor," exclaimed M'Allister, jumping up with a shrug of the shoulders, "you've given our friend John a considerable amount of information on a wee bit dry subject, so, mayhap, you will now give us something more interesting, and go on with the description of the natural features of the moon down yonder."
"Yes do, please, Professor," said John; "M'Allister's own temperature is evidently rising rapidly. Strange, isn't it, that a douche of cold facts should make our friend so warm!"
"Well, not altogether," I replied laughingly; "there should always be a healthy reaction after a cold douche. Much depends on the intensity of the cold applied, and you know that if you touch extremely cold metal it burns you like hot iron!"
"Professor," chimed in M'Allister, "maybe I was a bit warm, but really your facts were not so cold as to make me hot."
"I'm glad to hear you say so," I answered.
"At all events, Professor," continued John, "whatever may be M'Allister's actual temperature, I'm simply burning to know something about that very striking formation with the steel-grey coloured flooring which is situated not very far down from the North Pole, and a little to the east of the central meridian."
"That," I said, "is a large walled plain called Plato, and, being on a receding curve of the moon, it is seen from the earth foreshortened, so that it appears to be elliptical in shape. It is about sixty miles in diameter, and encloses an area of 2700 square miles, which is just about the area of Lincolnshire. The general height of the mountain walls is over 3600 feet; one mountain on the east is nearly 7500 feet high, and others on the north and west are but little lower.
"You will notice that there are several breaks in the walls, and a large one on the south-west; whilst on the inner slope of the mountains you can see where a great landslide has occurred.
"It is rather singular, John, that in your first selection you have chosen a formation which is one of the lunar mysteries!"
"Ah! Professor," said John, smiling, "I always was lucky! What is this dreadful mystery?" he asked, with an assumed expression of awe.
"Oh, it's not a ghost story, John, nor anything to make your flesh creep," I said rather grimly. "Usually the floor of a walled plain becomes brighter as the sun rises higher and higher in the sky, but Plato actually becomes darker under a high sun. By some it has been thought that this is merely the effect of contrast with the very bright surroundings of this formation, and that there is no actual darkening of the tint. This is certainly not the case, for I have examined it carefully myself with the telescope—shutting out all the bright surroundings from the field of view, but the floor still appeared equally dark.
"Others have suggested that the hot sun causes the growth of some kind of vegetation all over the plain, the ripening of which makes the floor darker in tint. As regards this suggestion, it is the fact that upon Mars the old sea-beds are the places where vegetation is most luxuriant at the present time; so, if Plato were at one time an enclosed sea, it might not be impossible that vegetation in some low form might grow and be nourished by the crude gaseous remains of a former atmosphere. A greenish tint has occasionally been noticed by some observers, also several light streaks across the floor, as well as several small craterlets, which have been duly noted on the maps.
"But before we go any further we will have a better means of seeing, for it is rather uncomfortable looking directly down upon the moon. So, John, just lend a hand and we'll fetch one of those large mirrors."
This was done, and the mirror suspended with the upper part projecting forward, so that when adjusted at the proper angle we could sit and look straight into the mirror before us and see the reflection of all that was below. We could still look down at the objects, if we wished to do so, without shifting our position.
"There, John," I remarked, as we completed this arrangement, "I have already arranged mirrors in the proper positions at the windows in the forepart of the vessel, so that in future M'Allister will be able to see what is nearly straight ahead of him. Now you will understand that I had a scientific use for the mirrors I provided, and did not require them merely to admire my beautiful face in as you suggested."
John laughed as I recalled his suggestion, saying, "All right, Professor, I know you generally have a good reason for what you do."
Now, being more comfortably seated, I drew their attention to some small isolated mountains on the area to the south of Plato, pointing out Pico, an isolated mountain over 8000 feet in height, and another with three peaks not very far from it. To the north-east of these, some distance away, are the Teneriffe and Straight Ranges; also isolated groups.
"You will remember," I remarked, "that I said there were several formations which seemed to me to owe their present appearance to the action of water. Now look well at all this district before us—does it not seem to bear out my contention? Those numerous small mountains and isolated groups were not, I think, originally isolated, but connected with the adjoining ranges. If we assume that Plato was once an enclosed sea, or lake, which burst through the mountain walls—possibly owing to their being weakened or broken by volcanic action—there would have been a tremendous outrush of water, which must have carried away a good deal of the softer material of these hills and mountains; whilst, in after years, the continual wash of the waters, combined with aerial denudation, would gradually have worn away all but the hardest parts of these formations.
"Most probably the whole of the surrounding area was also at some time a sea, though volcanic action has since altered its surface conformation, and in places it bears evidence of having been covered with lava. It is not unusual on our world for volcanoes to burst up from under the sea, so even the evidence of volcanic action does not, as some seem to think, negative the possibility of water ever existing here; and it may not be inappropriate to point out that our hydrographers have proved that our ocean-beds are not always smooth, but are often diversified by high hills and deep valleys."
M'Allister here interjected: "Professor, would you kindly tell us something about that fine range of mountains over yonder, just to the right hand?"
"Oh yes," I replied; "I was just about to mention that mountain range, which is called the Alps after those in Switzerland; and that peak on the front portion, just south of the great valley you see, is named Mont Blanc, and is about 12,000 feet in height.
"You will notice a very large number of peaks in this and the other neighbouring ranges—in fact, several thousands have been marked on our large maps.
"Cutting diagonally in a north-westerly direction, completely through the Alps, you will notice a long and deep valley. This is known as the 'Great Alpine Valley,' and is over eighty miles long, and varies from about three miles to six and a half miles in width. At the eastern end it is some 11,000 feet deep, debouching on to the plain in several comparatively narrow passes, whilst at its north-western extremity it is very shallow, and emerges on to what is known as the Sea of Cold, which covers an area of about 100,000 square miles. This valley seems to afford another example of formation by the action of water.
"Amongst the three thousand peaks comprised in the Apennine range just below the Alps, are several mountains of considerable altitude," I remarked, pointing out Mount Huygens, nearly 20,000 feet high, Mount Hadley, 15,000 feet, and Mount Woolf, 12,000 feet in height. "This range curves round towards the east, and finishes with a fine ring-plain called Eratosthenes—some thirty-seven miles in diameter, with a floor depressed 8000 feet below the lunar surface. It encloses a central mountain, and on the east wall there is one peak which rises 16,000 feet above the floor.
"The ranges in this part of the moon are, perhaps, more like those on our earth than others to be found on its surface, but much more wild and rugged.
"Eastward and northward of these ranges is the Sea of Showers, on which there are several fine ring-mountains and walled plains—notably Autolychus and Aristillus, two very perfect ring-mountains some 9000 feet high.
"One of the most striking, on account of its size and situation, is that large one which is called Archimedes, and is about fifty miles in diameter; and you will notice that a rugged mass of mountains and high hills extends from it to a distance of over a hundred miles on the south. The floor of this walled plain is only about 600 feet below the general level, and the mountain walls average about 4000 feet in height; but there is at least one peak some 7000 feet high.
"You will see a little below and westward of Archimedes the commencement of a system of large cracks or crevasses in the lunar surface which are known as 'rills.' Many such systems are found in various parts of the moon; some of the cracks are comparatively shallow, but, according to Professor Langley, others are known to be at least eight miles deep, and may be infinitely deeper, though I cannot say I understand how these great depths have been arrived at. The length of the cracks varies from a few miles to over three hundred miles, and from a few hundred yards to some miles in width. They are attributed partly to volcanic action, but mainly to the contraction of the crust of the lunar globe as it became cold. Being so much smaller, the moon would cool much more rapidly than the earth, and the disruptive effects would necessarily be greater."
John here touched my arm, and pointing to some mountains on the borders of a large elongated oval area, close to the north-western terminator where the sun was setting, asked me what they were. I explained that the dark area was known as the Mare Crisium, or Sea of Conflicts, and is possibly the deepest of the large lunar depressions.
"It is about 280 miles long from north to south, and 355 miles wide from east to west, but, owing to its position, the width is seen from the earth very much foreshortened, so that it really looks nearly twice as long as it is wide. It contains an area of about 75,000 square miles, thus being as large as the combined area of Scotland and Ireland, and the five largest northern counties of England. It is surrounded by mountains, some being over 11,000 feet high, reckoning from the dark floor."
I drew their attention to Proclus—a ring-mountain on the eastern side of this sea—which is about eighteen miles in diameter, and the second brightest of the lunar formations. "From its neighbourhood several bright streaks diverge in different directions, two extending a long way across the dark area, and there is a longer one striking towards the north and another towards the south at an angle of about 120 degrees with each other.
"Seen through the telescope, these ray-streaks often appear very brilliant under a high sun, looking in fact very like electric search-lights; though I notice that the Rev. T.W. Webb has rather curiously remarked that these particular streaks are not very easily seen. Similar ray-streaks, many enormously longer than these, are found in various parts of the lunar surface, but their exact nature and origin has never yet been definitely settled. They only come into view when the sun is beginning to be high up in the lunar sky, and the higher the sun, the brighter the rays appear. Some of the shorter ones are ridges, but this is evidently not the case with the others, for they cast no shadows, as ridges would when the sun is low. Very many radiate from a large ring-mountain called Tycho, in the southern hemisphere; and one of them extends, with some breaks, nearly three thousand miles, passing northward over the Sea of Serenity and finally disappearing on the moon's north-western edge, or 'limb,' as it is termed.
"Professor Pickering assumes that these rays were caused by volcanic dust or other light reflecting material emitted from a series of small craters, and states that they are really made up of a series of short rays placed or joined end to end. What I have observed myself seems to bear out this latter statement; but the opinion I have formed as to their origin differs from the theory of Professor Pickering. It seems to me more probable that the volcanic dust was carried by a strong wind, split up into two or more separate currents by a succession of peaks. The wind currents swept clean the area over which they actually passed, but dust fell or drifted in the lines between the currents. Exactly the same thing may be observed in connection with snow-storms on our earth when accompanied by a high wind. One part of the earth's surface will be swept clean by the wind current, whilst a long line of the adjoining surface is covered with a thick deposit of snow. I have also noticed that where the ray-streaks impinge upon a mountain, or ring, there is an appearance of spreading out and heaping up of the bright material very much as snow would be spread out or drifted up in similar situations on the earth."
M'Allister here interrupted with the remark that, when we were approaching the moon, he had particularly noticed that all appearance of the face of the "man in the moon" had vanished. He said he had expected to see that more distinctly as we got nearer.
"That would not be the case, M'Allister," I answered. "The resemblance to a human face which we see from the earth is caused by the combined effect of the bright and dusky areas on the lunar surface as seen from a distance. The depressed dark areas, which we call seas, form the eyes, nose, and mouth of the face, but when we had approached nearer to the moon the details of the surface configuration stood out so much more distinctly that they entirely obliterated the general effect of the markings as seen from a distance."
"Professor," exclaimed John, "I have read that before telescopes were invented it was thought by many that the markings seen on the moon were really the features of our own earth reflected by the moon as in a mirror. Is that correct?"
"Oh yes, John," I said. "It seems to have been a fairly general belief in many parts of the world, and travellers tell us that, even within very recent times, they have found in some of the more out-of-the-way parts of the world that the same idea is still held by uneducated people!"
Objects of interest being so numerous on the lunar surface we could only give a comprehensive glance at many of them, and as we had so many places to inspect, I now gave M'Allister the order to steer eastward.
He accordingly moved his switches and the Areonal quickly passed over the Sea of Tranquillity, which has an area of 140,000 square miles; then over the Sea of Vapours, a smaller area, parts of which have a dusky green tint, from whence to the northward we had a view over the Sea of Serenity, another deep depression nearly as large as the Sea of Tranquillity, and much of which is a light green colour.
Then we came again to the Sea of Showers, a large "sea" having an area of 340,000 square miles; and, still moving eastward, the great lunar "Ocean of Storms" soon came into view. This covers a very large portion of the eastern and north-eastern part of the moon's surface, and, with all its bays and indentations, is estimated to be two million square miles in extent.
I, however, again reminded them that, although these areas are termed seas and oceans, no water exists there now, whatever may have been the case in the long distant past. They are now only large depressions, and not often level but intersected by hills, ridges, and even mountains.
As we passed along I called their particular attention to the magnificent "Bay of Rainbows" on the north-eastern coast of the Sea of Showers. "From Cape Laplace (9000 feet high) on the western extremity, to Cape Heraclides (4000 feet high) on the eastern extremity, this great bay is about 140 miles across, the depth of its curvature being over eighty miles. It bears a very strong resemblance to many large bays on our sea-coasts in various parts of the world, but I am not aware of any such bay which is bordered by a mass of such lofty mountains as this is.
"We are looking at it now under a high sun, but when the sun has only just risen sufficiently high to illuminate all those high mountains, whilst the lower surroundings are still in shadow, the great bay presents in the telescope the appearance of a brilliant luminous arch springing from the lighted part of the moon and extending far out over the dark part of the disc.
"Farther eastward, and lower down on the Ocean of Storms, you will observe what is admitted by all to be the very brightest large formation upon the moon, viz. Aristarchus—a ring-plain nearly thirty miles in diameter, the floor of which is 5000 feet below the surface level. It possesses a central mountain, very difficult to measure on account of the general brightness, but believed to be about 1300 feet high. Well-defined terraces are seen on the mountain walls enclosing the area, and many external ridges are connected with the walls, especially to the south. This formation is evidently covered with some substance which reflects light to a greater extent than that on similar formations; indeed it appears so bright that when the moon is new and the whole of this part of the disc is dark, Aristarchus can still be seen with a telescope, and this gave rise in the past to the idea that it was a volcano in actual eruption. The explanation is, however, more prosaic, because the mountain is really brought into view by earthshine on its bright covering. When the moon is new the earth is almost fully lighted on the side toward the moon, and sheds a faint light on the dark portion of its disc, thus producing the phenomenon known as 'the old moon in the new moon's arms.'
"Close to Aristarchus you will notice another ring-plain, which is called Herodotus, about twenty-three miles in diameter, with a floor 7000 feet depressed; but this formation is not nearly so bright as its neighbour. That high plateau between them is notable on account of the T-shaped cleft in it, which runs into that other long zig-zag cleft (in some parts two miles wide and 1600 feet in depth), whose direction changes abruptly several times in its length of over one hundred miles.
"Turning from this towards the south-west you will see the most majestic formation to be found upon the moon—the great ring-plain called 'Copernicus,' after the founder of our present system of astronomy. It is about sixty miles in diameter, only roughly circular in shape, and as it stands isolated upon the great ocean-bed it is most favourably situated for observation. A large number of very high ridges, separated by deep valleys, radiate from it in all directions to a distance of hundreds of miles, presenting the appearance of a grand system of buttresses to the mountain walls. These walls are high, and contain a very large number of peaks which, when seen through the telescope as they catch the sunlight, look like a string of bright pearls shining on the border of the ring. A peak on one side is 12,000 feet in altitude, on the other side is one only 1000 feet lower, whilst, rising from near the central part of the floor, are no less than five small mountain peaks. Owing to its size, brightness, and isolated position, this splendid ring-mountain can be seen from the earth without the aid of a glass; but even a field-glass will reveal much in this and similar formations which cannot be detected by the unaided eye.
"The Rev. T.W. Webb has termed Tycho, in the southern hemisphere, 'the Metropolitan Crater of the Moon,' but, in my opinion, Copernicus is, owing to its position and grandeur, much more worthy of that dignity. Tycho is fine in itself, but is not so favourably situated, being surrounded by other formations somewhat in the same way as St. Paul's Cathedral is surrounded and shut in, for the most part, by other and meaner buildings.
"How much more should we appreciate the splendid proportions and majesty of our Metropolitan Cathedral if we could view it as an isolated building with a fine open space all around it!"
"I quite agree with that, Professor," remarked John, "and I have always thought it a great pity that Sir Christopher Wren was not allowed to carry out his original plan in this respect."
We were looking at the Carpathian range of mountains just to the northward of Copernicus, when M'Allister touched my arm, exclaiming, "Look, Professor, at all those tiny craters near the western side of Copernicus. Why, there are so many of them that the ground for miles round looks like a honeycomb, and in some places there are straight rows of them!"
"Yes," I said, "this part of the lunar surface is simply riddled with tiny craterlets, and some of them are utilised as tests for the definition of our telescopes. I have heard it remarked that a map of this part of the moon presents almost the appearance of the froth on a glass of stout when it has settled down, the very numerous tiny air-bubbles of different sizes representing the craterlets; and really it does bear such a resemblance.
"Almost due east of Copernicus is another bright and isolated ring-plain named Kepler, after the celebrated astronomer. This is some twenty-two miles in diameter and surrounded by very bright streaks of light, extending in some directions over seventy miles, the whole nimbus of light covering an area of nearly ten thousand square miles. These really are streaks, not ridges, for, as you will see, nearly all the surface surrounding this formation is flat and level.