Part 5 out of 7
AT SEVENTY-EIGHT THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN LEAGUES
What had happened? Whence the cause of this singular
intoxication, the consequences of which might have been
very disastrous? A simple blunder of Michel's, which,
fortunately, Nicholl was able to correct in time.
After a perfect swoon, which lasted some minutes, the captain,
recovering first, soon collected his scattered senses.
Although he had breakfasted only two hours before, he felt a
gnawing hunger, as if he had not eaten anything for several days.
Everything about him, stomach and brain, were overexcited to the
highest degree. He got up and demanded from Michel a
supplementary repast. Michel, utterly done up, did not answer.
Nicholl then tried to prepare some tea destined to help the
absorption of a dozen sandwiches. He first tried to get some
fire, and struck a match sharply. What was his surprise to see
the sulphur shine with so extraordinary a brilliancy as to be
almost unbearable to the eye. From the gas-burner which he lit
rose a flame equal to a jet of electric light.
A revelation dawned on Nicholl's mind. That intensity of light,
the physiological troubles which had arisen in him, the
overexcitement of all his moral and quarrelsome faculties-- he
"The oxygen!" he exclaimed.
And leaning over the air apparatus, he saw that the tap was
allowing the colorless gas to escape freely, life-giving, but in
its pure state producing the gravest disorders in the system.
Michel had blunderingly opened the tap of the apparatus to the full.
Nicholl hastened to stop the escape of oxygen with which the
atmosphere was saturated, which would have been the death of the
travelers, not by suffocation, but by combustion. An hour
later, the air less charged with it restored the lungs to their
normal condition. By degrees the three friends recovered from
their intoxication; but they were obliged to sleep themselves
sober over their oxygen as a drunkard does over his wine.
When Michel learned his share of the responsibility of this
incident, he was not much disconcerted. This unexpected
drunkenness broke the monotony of the journey. Many foolish
things had been said while under its influence, but also
"And then," added the merry Frenchman, "I am not sorry to have
tasted a little of this heady gas. Do you know, my friends,
that a curious establishment might be founded with rooms of
oxygen, where people whose system is weakened could for a few
hours live a more active life. Fancy parties where the room was
saturated with this heroic fluid, theaters where it should be
kept at high pressure; what passion in the souls of the actors
and spectators! what fire, what enthusiasm! And if, instead of
an assembly only a whole people could be saturated, what activity
in its functions, what a supplement to life it would derive.
From an exhausted nation they might make a great and strong one,
and I know more than one state in old Europe which ought to put
itself under the regime of oxygen for the sake of its health!"
Michel spoke with so much animation that one might have fancied
that the tap was still too open. But a few words from Barbicane
soon shattered his enthusiasm.
"That is all very well, friend Michel," said he, "but will you
inform us where these chickens came from which have mixed
themselves up in our concert?"
Indeed, half a dozen chickens and a fine cock were walking
about, flapping their wings and chattering.
"Ah, the awkward things!" exclaimed Michel. "The oxygen has
made them revolt."
"But what do you want to do with these chickens?" asked Barbicane.
"To acclimatize them in the moon, by Jove!"
"Then why did you hide them?"
"A joke, my worthy president, a simple joke, which has proved a
miserable failure. I wanted to set them free on the lunar
continent, without saying anything. Oh, what would have been
your amazement on seeing these earthly-winged animals pecking in
your lunar fields!"
"You rascal, you unmitigated rascal," replied Barbicane, "you do
not want oxygen to mount to the head. You are always what we
were under the influence of the gas; you are always foolish!"
"Ah, who says that we were not wise then?" replied Michel Ardan.
After this philosophical reflection, the three friends set about
restoring the order of the projectile. Chickens and cock were
reinstated in their coop. But while proceeding with this
operation, Barbicane and his two companions had a most desired
perception of a new phenomenon. From the moment of leaving the
earth, their own weight, that of the projectile, and the objects
it enclosed, had been subject to an increasing diminution. If they
could not prove this loss of the projectile, a moment would arrive
when it would be sensibly felt upon themselves and the utensils
and instruments they used.
It is needless to say that a scale would not show this loss; for
the weight destined to weight the object would have lost exactly
as much as the object itself; but a spring steelyard for
example, the tension of which was independent of the attraction,
would have given a just estimate of this loss.
We know that the attraction, otherwise called the weight, is in
proportion to the densities of the bodies, and inversely as the
squares of the distances. Hence this effect: If the earth had
been alone in space, if the other celestial bodies had been
suddenly annihilated, the projectile, according to Newton's
laws, would weigh less as it got farther from the earth, but
without ever losing its weight entirely, for the terrestrial
attraction would always have made itself felt, at whatever distance.
But, in reality, a time must come when the projectile would no
longer be subject to the law of weight, after allowing for the
other celestial bodies whose effect could not be set down as zero.
Indeed, the projectile's course was being traced between
the earth and the moon. As it distanced the earth, the
terrestrial attraction diminished: but the lunar attraction
rose in proportion. There must come a point where these two
attractions would neutralize each other: the projectile would
possess weight no longer. If the moon's and the earth's
densities had been equal, this point would have been at an equal
distance between the two orbs. But taking the different
densities into consideration, it was easy to reckon that this
point would be situated at 47/60ths of the whole journey,
_i.e._, at 78,514 leagues from the earth. At this point, a body
having no principle of speed or displacement in itself, would
remain immovable forever, being attracted equally by both orbs,
and not being drawn more toward one than toward the other.
Now if the projectile's impulsive force had been correctly
calculated, it would attain this point without speed, having
lost all trace of weight, as well as all the objects within it.
What would happen then? Three hypotheses presented themselves.
1. Either it would retain a certain amount of motion, and pass
the point of equal attraction, and fall upon the moon by virtue
of the excess of the lunar attraction over the terrestrial.
2. Or, its speed failing, and unable to reach the point of equal
attraction, it would fall upon the moon by virtue of the excess
of the lunar attraction over the terrestrial.
3. Or, lastly, animated with sufficient speed to enable it to
reach the neutral point, but not sufficient to pass it, it would
remain forever suspended in that spot like the pretended tomb of
Mahomet, between the zenith and the nadir.
Such was their situation; and Barbicane clearly explained the
consequences to his traveling companions, which greatly
interested them. But how should they know when the projectile
had reached this neutral point situated at that distance,
especially when neither themselves, nor the objects enclosed in
the projectile, would be any longer subject to the laws of weight?
Up to this time, the travelers, while admitting that this action
was constantly decreasing, had not yet become sensible to its
But that day, about eleven o'clock in the morning, Nicholl
having accidentally let a glass slip from his hand, the glass,
instead of falling, remained suspended in the air.
"Ah!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, "that is rather an amusing piece
of natural philosophy."
And immediately divers other objects, firearms and bottles,
abandoned to themselves, held themselves up as by enchantment.
Diana too, placed in space by Michel, reproduced, but without
any trick, the wonderful suspension practiced by Caston and
Robert Houdin. Indeed the dog did not seem to know that she was
floating in air.
The three adventurous companions were surprised and stupefied,
despite their scientific reasonings. They felt themselves being
carried into the domain of wonders! they felt that weight was
really wanting to their bodies. If they stretched out their
arms, they did not attempt to fall. Their heads shook on
their shoulders. Their feet no longer clung to the floor of
the projectile. They were like drunken men having no stability
Fancy has depicted men without reflection, others without shadow.
But here reality, by the neutralizations of attractive forces,
produced men in whom nothing had any weight, and who weighed
Suddenly Michel, taking a spring, left the floor and remained
suspended in the air, like Murillo's monk of the _Cusine des Anges_.
The two friends joined him instantly, and all three formed a
miraculous "Ascension" in the center of the projectile.
"Is it to be believed? is it probable? is it possible?"
exclaimed Michel; "and yet it is so. Ah! if Raphael had seen us
thus, what an `Assumption' he would have thrown upon canvas!"
"The `Assumption' cannot last," replied Barbicane. "If the
projectile passes the neutral point, the lunar attraction will
draw us to the moon."
"Then our feet will be upon the roof," replied Michel.
"No," said Barbicane, "because the projectile's center of
gravity is very low; it will only turn by degrees."
"Then all our portables will be upset from top to bottom, that
is a fact."
"Calm yourself, Michel," replied Nicholl; "no upset is to be
feared; not a thing will move, for the projectile's evolution
will be imperceptible."
"Just so," continued Barbicane; "and when it has passed the
point of equal attraction, its base, being the heavier, will
draw it perpendicularly to the moon; but, in order that this
phenomenon should take place, we must have passed the neutral line."
"Pass the neutral line," cried Michel; "then let us do as the
sailors do when they cross the equator."
A slight side movement brought Michel back toward the padded
side; thence he took a bottle and glasses, placed them "in
space" before his companions, and, drinking merrily, they
saluted the line with a triple hurrah. The influence of these
attractions scarcely lasted an hour; the travelers felt
themselves insensibly drawn toward the floor, and Barbicane
fancied that the conical end of the projectile was varying a
little from its normal direction toward the moon. By an inverse
motion the base was approaching first; the lunar attraction was
prevailing over the terrestrial; the fall toward the moon was
beginning, almost imperceptibly as yet, but by degrees the
attractive force would become stronger, the fall would be more
decided, the projectile, drawn by its base, would turn its cone
to the earth, and fall with ever-increasing speed on to the
surface of the Selenite continent; their destination would then
be attained. Now nothing could prevent the success of their
enterprise, and Nicholl and Michel Ardan shared Barbicane's joy.
Then they chatted of all the phenomena which had astonished them
one after the other, particularly the neutralization of the laws
of weight. Michel Ardan, always enthusiastic, drew conclusions
which were purely fanciful.
"Ah, my worthy friends," he exclaimed, "what progress we should
make if on earth we could throw off some of that weight, some of
that chain which binds us to her; it would be the prisoner set
at liberty; no more fatigue of either arms or legs. Or, if it
is true that in order to fly on the earth's surface, to keep
oneself suspended in the air merely by the play of the muscles,
there requires a strength a hundred and fifty times greater than
that which we possess, a simple act of volition, a caprice,
would bear us into space, if attraction did not exist."
"Just so," said Nicholl, smiling; "if we could succeed in
suppressing weight as they suppress pain by anaesthesia,
that would change the face of modern society!"
"Yes," cried Michel, full of his subject, "destroy weight, and
no more burdens!"
"Well said," replied Barbicane; "but if nothing had any weight,
nothing would keep in its place, not even your hat on your head,
worthy Michel; nor your house, whose stones only adhere by
weight; nor a boat, whose stability on the waves is only caused
by weight; not even the ocean, whose waves would no longer be
equalized by terrestrial attraction; and lastly, not even the
atmosphere, whose atoms, being no longer held in their places,
would disperse in space!"
"That is tiresome," retorted Michel; "nothing like these
matter-of-fact people for bringing one back to the bare reality."
"But console yourself, Michel," continued Barbicane, "for if no
orb exists from whence all laws of weight are banished, you are
at least going to visit one where it is much less than on the earth."
"Yes, the moon, on whose surface objects weigh six times less
than on the earth, a phenomenon easy to prove."
"And we shall feel it?" asked Michel.
"Evidently, as two hundred pounds will only weigh thirty pounds
on the surface of the moon."
"And our muscular strength will not diminish?"
"Not at all; instead of jumping one yard high, you will rise
eighteen feet high."
"But we shall be regular Herculeses in the moon!" exclaimed Michel.
"Yes," replied Nicholl; "for if the height of the Selenites is
in proportion to the density of their globe, they will be
scarcely a foot high."
"Lilliputians!" ejaculated Michel; "I shall play the part
of Gulliver. We are going to realize the fable of the giants.
This is the advantage of leaving one's own planet and
over-running the solar world."
"One moment, Michel," answered Barbicane; "if you wish to play
the part of Gulliver, only visit the inferior planets, such as
Mercury, Venus, or Mars, whose density is a little less than
that of the earth; but do not venture into the great planets,
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune; for there the order will be
changed, and you will become Lilliputian."
"And in the sun?"
"In the sun, if its density is thirteen hundred and twenty-four
thousand times greater, and the attraction is twenty-seven times
greater than on the surface of our globe, keeping everything in
proportion, the inhabitants ought to be at least two hundred
"By Jove!" exclaimed Michel; "I should be nothing more than a
pigmy, a shrimp!"
"Gulliver with the giants," said Nicholl.
"Just so," replied Barbicane.
"And it would not be quite useless to carry some pieces of
artillery to defend oneself."
"Good," replied Nicholl; "your projectiles would have no effect
on the sun; they would fall back upon the earth after some minutes."
"That is a strong remark."
"It is certain," replied Barbicane; "the attraction is so great
on this enormous orb, that an object weighing 70,000 pounds on
the earth would weigh but 1,920 pounds on the surface of the sun.
If you were to fall upon it you would weigh-- let me see-- about
5,000 pounds, a weight which you would never be able to raise again."
"The devil!" said Michel; "one would want a portable crane.
However, we will be satisfied with the moon for the present;
there at least we shall cut a great figure. We will see about
the sun by and by."
THE CONSEQUENCES OF A DEVIATION
Barbicane had now no fear of the issue of the journey, at least
as far as the projectile's impulsive force was concerned; its
own speed would carry it beyond the neutral line; it would
certainly not return to earth; it would certainly not remain
motionless on the line of attraction. One single hypothesis
remained to be realized, the arrival of the projectile at its
destination by the action of the lunar attraction.
It was in reality a fall of 8,296 leagues on an orb, it is true,
where weight could only be reckoned at one sixth of terrestrial
weight; a formidable fall, nevertheless, and one against which
every precaution must be taken without delay.
These precautions were of two sorts, some to deaden the shock
when the projectile should touch the lunar soil, others to delay
the fall, and consequently make it less violent.
To deaden the shock, it was a pity that Barbicane was no longer
able to employ the means which had so ably weakened the shock at
departure, that is to say, by water used as springs and the
The partitions still existed, but water failed, for they could
not use their reserve, which was precious, in case during the
first days the liquid element should be found wanting on lunar soil.
And indeed this reserve would have been quite insufficient for
a spring. The layer of water stored in the projectile at
the time of starting upon their journey occupied no less than
three feet in depth, and spread over a surface of not less than
fifty-four square feet. Besides, the cistern did not contain
one-fifth part of it; they must therefore give up this efficient
means of deadening the shock of arrival. Happily, Barbicane,
not content with employing water, had furnished the movable disc
with strong spring plugs, destined to lessen the shock against
the base after the breaking of the horizontal partitions.
These plugs still existed; they had only to readjust them and
replace the movable disc; every piece, easy to handle, as their
weight was now scarcely felt, was quickly mounted.
The different pieces were fitted without trouble, it being only
a matter of bolts and screws; tools were not wanting, and soon
the reinstated disc lay on steel plugs, like a table on its legs.
One inconvenience resulted from the replacing of the disc,
the lower window was blocked up; thus it was impossible for
the travelers to observe the moon from that opening while
they were being precipitated perpendicularly upon her; but they
were obliged to give it up; even by the side openings they could
still see vast lunar regions, as an aeronaut sees the earth from
This replacing of the disc was at least an hour's work. It was
past twelve when all preparations were finished. Barbicane took
fresh observations on the inclination of the projectile, but to
his annoyance it had not turned over sufficiently for its fall;
it seemed to take a curve parallel to the lunar disc. The orb
of night shone splendidly into space, while opposite, the orb of
day blazed with fire.
Their situation began to make them uneasy.
"Are we reaching our destination?" said Nicholl.
"Let us act as if we were about reaching it," replied Barbicane.
"You are sceptical," retorted Michel Ardan. "We shall arrive,
and that, too, quicker than we like."
This answer brought Barbicane back to his preparations, and he
occupied himself with placing the contrivances intended to break
their descent. We may remember the scene of the meeting held at
Tampa Town, in Florida, when Captain Nicholl came forward as
Barbicane's enemy and Michel Ardan's adversary. To Captain
Nicholl's maintaining that the projectile would smash like glass,
Michel replied that he would break their fall by means of rockets
Thus, powerful fireworks, taking their starting-point from the
base and bursting outside, could, by producing a recoil, check
to a certain degree the projectile's speed. These rockets were
to burn in space, it is true; but oxygen would not fail them,
for they could supply themselves with it, like the lunar
volcanoes, the burning of which has never yet been stopped by
the want of atmosphere round the moon.
Barbicane had accordingly supplied himself with these fireworks,
enclosed in little steel guns, which could be screwed on to the
base of the projectile. Inside, these guns were flush with the
bottom; outside, they protruded about eighteen inches. There were
twenty of them. An opening left in the disc allowed them to light
the match with which each was provided. All the effect was
felt outside. The burning mixture had already been rammed
into each gun. They had, then, nothing to do but raise the
metallic buffers fixed in the base, and replace them by the
guns, which fitted closely in their places.
This new work was finished about three o'clock, and after taking
all these precautions there remained but to wait. But the
projectile was perceptibly nearing the moon, and evidently
succumbed to her influence to a certain degree; though its
own velocity also drew it in an oblique direction. From these
conflicting influences resulted a line which might become
a tangent. But it was certain that the projectile would not
fall directly on the moon; for its lower part, by reason of
its weight, ought to be turned toward her.
Barbicane's uneasiness increased as he saw his projectile resist
the influence of gravitation. The Unknown was opening before
him, the Unknown in interplanetary space. The man of science
thought he had foreseen the only three hypotheses possible-- the
return to the earth, the return to the moon, or stagnation on
the neutral line; and here a fourth hypothesis, big with all the
terrors of the Infinite, surged up inopportunely. To face it
without flinching, one must be a resolute savant like Barbicane,
a phlegmatic being like Nicholl, or an audacious adventurer like
Conversation was started upon this subject. Other men would
have considered the question from a practical point of view;
they would have asked themselves whither their projectile
carriage was carrying them. Not so with these; they sought for
the cause which produced this effect.
"So we have become diverted from our route," said Michel; "but why?"
"I very much fear," answered Nicholl, "that, in spite of
all precautions taken, the Columbiad was not fairly pointed.
An error, however small, would be enough to throw us out of
the moon's attraction."
"Then they must have aimed badly?" asked Michel.
"I do not think so," replied Barbicane. "The perpendicularity
of the gun was exact, its direction to the zenith of the spot
incontestible; and the moon passing to the zenith of the spot,
we ought to reach it at the full. There is another reason,
but it escapes me."
"Are we not arriving too late?" asked Nicholl.
"Too late?" said Barbicane.
"Yes," continued Nicholl. "The Cambridge Observatory's note
says that the transit ought to be accomplished in ninety-seven
hours thirteen minutes and twenty seconds; which means to say,
that _sooner_ the moon will _not_ be at the point indicated, and
_later_ it will have passed it."
"True," replied Barbicane. "But we started the 1st of December,
at thirteen minutes and twenty-five seconds to eleven at night;
and we ought to arrive on the 5th at midnight, at the exact
moment when the moon would be full; and we are now at the
5th of December. It is now half-past three in the evening;
half-past eight ought to see us at the end of our journey.
Why do we not arrive?"
"Might it not be an excess of speed?" answered Nicholl; "for we
know now that its initial velocity was greater than they supposed."
"No! a hundred times, no!" replied Barbicane. "An excess of
speed, if the direction of the projectile had been right, would
not have prevented us reaching the moon. No, there has been
a deviation. We have been turned out of our course."
"By whom? by what?" asked Nicholl.
"I cannot say," replied Barbicane.
"Very well, then, Barbicane," said Michel, "do you wish to know
my opinion on the subject of finding out this deviation?"
"I would not give half a dollar to know it. That we have
deviated is a fact. Where we are going matters little; we shall
soon see. Since we are being borne along in space we shall end
by falling into some center of attraction or other."
Michel Ardan's indifference did not content Barbicane. Not that
he was uneasy about the future, but he wanted to know at any
cost _why_ his projectile had deviated.
But the projectile continued its course sideways to the moon,
and with it the mass of things thrown out. Barbicane could even
prove, by the elevations which served as landmarks upon the
moon, which was only two thousand leagues distant, that its
speed was becoming uniform-- fresh proof that there was no fall.
Its impulsive force still prevailed over the lunar attraction,
but the projectile's course was certainly bringing it nearer to
the moon, and they might hope that at a nearer point the weight,
predominating, would cause a decided fall.
The three friends, having nothing better to do, continued their
observations; but they could not yet determine the topographical
position of the satellite; every relief was leveled under the
reflection of the solar rays.
They watched thus through the side windows until eight o'clock
at night. The moon had grown so large in their eyes that it
filled half of the firmament. The sun on one side, and the orb
of night on the other, flooded the projectile with light.
At that moment Barbicane thought he could estimate the distance
which separated them from their aim at no more than 700 leagues.
The speed of the projectile seemed to him to be more than 200
yards, or about 170 leagues a second. Under the centripetal
force, the base of the projectile tended toward the moon; but
the centrifugal still prevailed; and it was probable that its
rectilineal course would be changed to a curve of some sort,
the nature of which they could not at present determine.
Barbicane was still seeking the solution of his insoluble problem.
Hours passed without any result. The projectile was evidently
nearing the moon, but it was also evident that it would never
reach her. As to the nearest distance at which it would pass her,
that must be the result of two forces, attraction and repulsion,
affecting its motion.
"I ask but one thing," said Michel; "that we may pass near
enough to penetrate her secrets."
"Cursed be the thing that has caused our projectile to deviate
from its course," cried Nicholl.
And, as if a light had suddenly broken in upon his mind, Barbicane
answered, "Then cursed be the meteor which crossed our path."
"What?" said Michel Ardan.
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Nicholl.
"I mean," said Barbicane in a decided tone, "I mean that our
deviation is owing solely to our meeting with this erring body."
"But it did not even brush us as it passed," said Michel.
"What does that matter? Its mass, compared to that of our
projectile, was enormous, and its attraction was enough to
influence our course."
"So little?" cried Nicholl.
"Yes, Nicholl; but however little it might be," replied
Barbicane, "in a distance of 84,000 leagues, it wanted no more
to make us miss the moon."
THE OBSERVERS OF THE MOON
Barbicane had evidently hit upon the only plausible reason
of this deviation. However slight it might have been, it
had sufficed to modify the course of the projectile. It was
a fatality. The bold attempt had miscarried by a fortuitous
circumstance; and unless by some exceptional event, they could
now never reach the moon's disc.
Would they pass near enough to be able to solve certain physical
and geological questions until then insoluble? This was the
question, and the only one, which occupied the minds of these
bold travelers. As to the fate in store for themselves, they
did not even dream of it.
But what would become of them amid these infinite solitudes,
these who would soon want air? A few more days, and they would
fall stifled in this wandering projectile. But some days to
these intrepid fellows was a century; and they devoted all their
time to observe that moon which they no longer hoped to reach.
The distance which had then separated the projectile from the
satellite was estimated at about two hundred leagues. Under these
conditions, as regards the visibility of the details of the disc,
the travelers were farther from the moon than are the inhabitants
of earth with their powerful telescopes.
Indeed, we know that the instrument mounted by Lord Rosse at
Parsonstown, which magnifies 6,500 times, brings the moon to
within an apparent distance of sixteen leagues. And more than
that, with the powerful one set up at Long's Peak, the orb of
night, magnified 48,000 times, is brought to within less than
two leagues, and objects having a diameter of thirty feet are
seen very distinctly. So that, at this distance, the
topographical details of the moon, observed without glasses,
could not be determined with precision. The eye caught the vast
outline of those immense depressions inappropriately called
"seas," but they could not recognize their nature. The prominence
of the mountains disappeared under the splendid irradiation
produced by the reflection of the solar rays. The eye, dazzled
as if it was leaning over a bath of molten silver, turned from
it involuntarily; but the oblong form of the orb was quite clear.
It appeared like a gigantic egg, with the small end turned toward
the earth. Indeed the moon, liquid and pliable in the first days
of its formation, was originally a perfect sphere; but being soon
drawn within the attraction of the earth, it became elongated
under the influence of gravitation. In becoming a satellite,
she lost her native purity of form; her center of gravity was in
advance of the center of her figure; and from this fact some
savants draw the conclusion that the air and water had taken
refuge on the opposite surface of the moon, which is never seen
from the earth. This alteration in the primitive form of the
satellite was only perceptible for a few moments. The distance
of the projectile from the moon diminished very rapidly under
its speed, though that was much less than its initial velocity--
but eight or nine times greater than that which propels our
express trains. The oblique course of the projectile, from its
very obliquity, gave Michel Ardan some hopes of striking the
lunar disc at some point or other. He could not think that they
would never reach it. No! he could not believe it; and this
opinion he often repeated. But Barbicane, who was a better
judge, always answered him with merciless logic.
"No, Michel, no! We can only reach the moon by a fall, and we
are not falling. The centripetal force keeps us under the
moon's influence, but the centrifugal force draws us
irresistibly away from it."
This was said in a tone which quenched Michel Ardan's last hope.
The portion of the moon which the projectile was nearing was the
northern hemisphere, that which the selenographic maps place
below; for these maps are generally drawn after the outline
given by the glasses, and we know that they reverse the objects.
Such was the _Mappa Selenographica_ of Boeer and Moedler which
Barbicane consulted. This northern hemisphere presented vast
plains, dotted with isolated mountains.
At midnight the moon was full. At that precise moment the
travelers should have alighted upon it, if the mischievous
meteor had not diverted their course. The orb was exactly in
the condition determined by the Cambridge Observatory. It was
mathematically at its perigee, and at the zenith of the
twenty-eighth parallel. An observer placed at the bottom of the
enormous Columbiad, pointed perpendicularly to the horizon,
would have framed the moon in the mouth of the gun. A straight
line drawn through the axis of the piece would have passed
through the center of the orb of night. It is needless to say,
that during the night of the 5th-6th of December, the travelers
took not an instant's rest. Could they close their eyes when so
near this new world? No! All their feelings were concentrated
in one single thought:-- See! Representatives of the earth, of
humanity, past and present, all centered in them! It is through
their eyes that the human race look at these lunar regions, and
penetrate the secrets of their satellite! A strange emotion
filled their hearts as they went from one window to the other.
Their observations, reproduced by Barbicane, were rigidly determined.
To take them, they had glasses; to correct them, maps.
As regards the optical instruments at their disposal, they had
excellent marine glasses specially constructed for this journey.
They possessed magnifying powers of 100. They would thus have
brought the moon to within a distance (apparent) of less than
2,000 leagues from the earth. But then, at a distance which for
three hours in the morning did not exceed sixty-five miles, and
in a medium free from all atmospheric disturbances, these
instruments could reduce the lunar surface to within less than
FANCY AND REALITY
"Have you ever seen the moon?" asked a professor, ironically,
of one of his pupils.
"No, sir!" replied the pupil, still more ironically, "but I must
say I have heard it spoken of."
In one sense, the pupil's witty answer might be given by a large
majority of sublunary beings. How many people have heard speak
of the moon who have never seen it-- at least through a glass or
a telescope! How many have never examined the map of their satellite!
In looking at a selenographic map, one peculiarity strikes us.
Contrary to the arrangement followed for that of the Earth and
Mars, the continents occupy more particularly the southern
hemisphere of the lunar globe. These continents do not show
such decided, clear, and regular boundary lines as South
America, Africa, and the Indian peninsula. Their angular,
capricious, and deeply indented coasts are rich in gulfs
and peninsulas. They remind one of the confusion in the
islands of the Sound, where the land is excessively indented.
If navigation ever existed on the surface of the moon, it must
have been wonderfully difficult and dangerous; and we may well
pity the Selenite sailors and hydrographers; the former, when
they came upon these perilous coasts, the latter when they
took the soundings of its stormy banks.
We may also notice that, on the lunar sphere, the south pole is
much more continental than the north pole. On the latter, there
is but one slight strip of land separated from other continents
by vast seas. Toward the south, continents clothe almost the
whole of the hemisphere. It is even possible that the Selenites
have already planted the flag on one of their poles, while
Franklin, Ross, Kane, Dumont, d'Urville, and Lambert have never
yet been able to attain that unknown point of the terrestrial globe.
As to islands, they are numerous on the surface of the moon.
Nearly all oblong or circular, and as if traced with the
compass, they seem to form one vast archipelago, equal to that
charming group lying between Greece and Asia Minor, and which
mythology in ancient times adorned with most graceful legends.
Involuntarily the names of Naxos, Tenedos, and Carpathos, rise
before the mind, and we seek vainly for Ulysses' vessel or the
"clipper" of the Argonauts. So at least it was in Michel
Ardan's eyes. To him it was a Grecian archipelago that he saw
on the map. To the eyes of his matter-of-fact companions, the
aspect of these coasts recalled rather the parceled-out land of
New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and where the Frenchman
discovered traces of the heroes of fable, these Americans
were marking the most favorable points for the establishment
of stores in the interests of lunar commerce and industry.
After wandering over these vast continents, the eye is attracted
by the still greater seas. Not only their formation, but their
situation and aspect remind one of the terrestrial oceans; but
again, as on earth, these seas occupy the greater portion of
the globe. But in point of fact, these are not liquid spaces,
but plains, the nature of which the travelers hoped soon
to determine. Astronomers, we must allow, have graced these
pretended seas with at least odd names, which science has
respected up to the present time. Michel Ardan was right when
he compared this map to a "Tendre card," got up by a Scudary or
a Cyrano de Bergerac. "Only," said he, "it is no longer the
sentimental card of the seventeenth century, it is the card of
life, very neatly divided into two parts, one feminine, the
other masculine; the right hemisphere for woman, the left for man."
In speaking thus, Michel made his prosaic companions shrug
their shoulders. Barbicane and Nicholl looked upon the lunar
map from a very different point of view to that of their
fantastic friend. Nevertheless, their fantastic friend was a
little in the right. Judge for yourselves.
In the left hemisphere stretches the "Sea of Clouds," where
human reason is so often shipwrecked. Not far off lies the "Sea
of Rains," fed by all the fever of existence. Near this is the
"Sea of Storms," where man is ever fighting against his
passions, which too often gain the victory. Then, worn out by
deceit, treasons, infidelity, and the whole body of terrestrial
misery, what does he find at the end of his career? that vast
"Sea of Humors," barely softened by some drops of the waters
from the "Gulf of Dew!" Clouds, rain, storms, and humors-- does
the life of man contain aught but these? and is it not summed up
in these four words?
The right hemisphere, "dedicated to the ladies," encloses
smaller seas, whose significant names contain every incident of
a feminine existence. There is the "Sea of Serenity," over
which the young girl bends; "The Lake of Dreams," reflecting a
joyous future; "The Sea of Nectar," with its waves of tenderness
and breezes of love; "The Sea of Fruitfulness;" "The Sea of
Crises;" then the "Sea of Vapors," whose dimensions are perhaps
a little too confined; and lastly, that vast "Sea of
Tranquillity," in which every false passion, every useless
dream, every unsatisfied desire is at length absorbed, and whose
waves emerge peacefully into the "Lake of Death!"
What a strange succession of names! What a singular division of
the moon's two hemispheres, joined to one another like man and
woman, and forming that sphere of life carried into space!
And was not the fantastic Michel right in thus interpreting the
fancies of the ancient astronomers? But while his imagination
thus roved over "the seas," his grave companions were considering
things more geographically. They were learning this new world
by heart. They were measuring angles and diameters.
The course taken by the projectile, as we have before remarked, was
bearing it toward the moon's northern hemisphere. The travelers
were far from the central point which they would have struck,
had their course not been subject to an irremediable deviation.
It was past midnight; and Barbicane then estimated the distance
at seven hundred and fifty miles, which was a little greater than
the length of the lunar radius, and which would diminish as it
advanced nearer to the North Pole. The projectile was then not
at the altitude of the equator; but across the tenth parallel,
and from that latitude, carefully taken on the map to the pole,
Barbicane and his two companions were able to observe the moon
under the most favorable conditions. Indeed, by means of glasses,
the above-named distance was reduced to little more than
fourteen miles. The telescope of the Rocky Mountains brought
the moon much nearer; but the terrestrial atmosphere singularly
lessened its power. Thus Barbicane, posted in his projectile,
with the glasses to his eyes, could seize upon details which were
almost imperceptible to earthly observers.
"My friends," said the president, in a serious voice, "I do not
know whither we are going; I do not know if we shall ever see
the terrestrial globe again. Nevertheless, let us proceed as if
our work would one day by useful to our fellow-men. Let us keep
our minds free from every other consideration. We are
astronomers; and this projectile is a room in the Cambridge
University, carried into space. Let us make our observations!"
This said, work was begun with great exactness; and they
faithfully reproduced the different aspects of the moon,
at the different distances which the projectile reached.
At the time that the projectile was as high as the tenth
parallel, north latitude, it seemed rigidly to follow the
twentieth degree, east longitude. We must here make one
important remark with regard to the map by which they were
taking observations. In the selenographical maps where, on
account of the reversing of the objects by the glasses, the
south is above and the north below, it would seem natural that,
on account of that inversion, the east should be to the left
hand, and the west to the right. But it is not so. If the map
were turned upside down, showing the moon as we see her, the
east would be to the left, and the west to the right, contrary
to that which exists on terrestrial maps. The following is the
reason of this anomaly. Observers in the northern hemisphere
(say in Europe) see the moon in the south-- according to them.
When they take observations, they turn their backs to the north,
the reverse position to that which they occupy when they study
a terrestrial map. As they turn their backs to the north, the
east is on their left, and the west to their right. To observers
in the southern hemisphere (Patagonia for example), the moon's
west would be quite to their left, and the east to their right,
as the south is behind them. Such is the reason of the apparent
reversing of these two cardinal points, and we must bear it in mind
in order to be able to follow President Barbicane's observations.
With the help of Boeer and Moedler's _Mappa Selenographica_,
the travelers were able at once to recognize that portion
of the disc enclosed within the field of their glasses.
"What are we looking at, at this moment?" asked Michel.
"At the northern part of the `Sea of Clouds,'" answered Barbicane.
"We are too far off to recognize its nature. Are these plains
composed of arid sand, as the first astronomer maintained?
Or are they nothing but immense forests, according to M. Warren
de la Rue's opinion, who gives the moon an atmosphere, though
a very low and a very dense one? That we shall know by and by.
We must affirm nothing until we are in a position to do so."
This "Sea of Clouds" is rather doubtfully marked out upon the maps.
It is supposed that these vast plains are strewn with blocks of
lava from the neighboring volcanoes on its right, Ptolemy,
Purbach, Arzachel. But the projectile was advancing, and sensibly
nearing it. Soon there appeared the heights which bound this sea
at this northern limit. Before them rose a mountain radiant with
beauty, the top of which seemed lost in an eruption of solar rays.
"That is--?" asked Michel.
"Copernicus," replied Barbicane.
"Let us see Copernicus."
This mount, situated in 9@ north latitude and 20@ east
longitude, rose to a height of 10,600 feet above the surface of
the moon. It is quite visible from the earth; and astronomers
can study it with ease, particularly during the phase between
the last quarter and the new moon, because then the shadows are
thrown lengthways from east to west, allowing them to measure
This Copernicus forms the most important of the radiating
system, situated in the southern hemisphere, according to Tycho
Brahe. It rises isolated like a gigantic lighthouse on that
portion of the "Sea of Clouds," which is bounded by the "Sea of
Tempests," thus lighting by its splendid rays two oceans at
a time. It was a sight without an equal, those long luminous
trains, so dazzling in the full moon, and which, passing the
boundary chain on the north, extends to the "Sea of Rains."
At one o'clock of the terrestrial morning, the projectile,
like a balloon borne into space, overlooked the top of this
superb mount. Barbicane could recognize perfectly its
chief features. Copernicus is comprised in the series of
ringed mountains of the first order, in the division of
great circles. Like Kepler and Aristarchus, which overlook
the "Ocean of Tempests," sometimes it appeared like a brilliant
point through the cloudy light, and was taken for a volcano
in activity. But it is only an extinct one-- like all on that
side of the moon. Its circumference showed a diameter of about
twenty-two leagues. The glasses discovered traces of
stratification produced by successive eruptions, and the
neighborhood was strewn with volcanic remains which still choked
some of the craters.
"There exist," said Barbicane, "several kinds of circles on the
surface of the moon, and it is easy to see that Copernicus
belongs to the radiating class. If we were nearer, we should
see the cones bristling on the inside, which in former times
were so many fiery mouths. A curious arrangement, and one
without an exception on the lunar disc, is that the interior
surface of these circles is the reverse of the exterior, and
contrary to the form taken by terrestrial craters. It follows,
then, that the general curve of the bottom of these circles
gives a sphere of a smaller diameter than that of the moon."
"And why this peculiar disposition?" asked Nicholl.
"We do not know," replied Barbicane.
"What splendid radiation!" said Michel. "One could hardly see
a finer spectacle, I think."
"What would you say, then," replied Barbicane, "if chance should
bear us toward the southern hemisphere?"
"Well, I should say that it was still more beautiful," retorted
At this moment the projectile hung perpendicularly over the circle.
The circumference of Copernicus formed almost a perfect circle,
and its steep escarpments were clearly defined. They could even
distinguish a second ringed enclosure. Around spread a grayish
plain, of a wild aspect, on which every relief was marked in yellow.
At the bottom of the circle, as if enclosed in a jewel case,
sparkled for one instant two or three eruptive cones, like enormous
dazzling gems. Toward the north the escarpments were lowered by a
depression which would probably have given access to the interior
of the crater.
In passing over the surrounding plains, Barbicane noticed a
great number of less important mountains; and among others a
little ringed one called Guy Lussac, the breadth of which
measured twelve miles.
Toward the south, the plain was very flat, without one
elevation, without one projection. Toward the north, on the
contrary, till where it was bounded by the "Sea of Storms," it
resembled a liquid surface agitated by a storm, of which the
hills and hollows formed a succession of waves suddenly congealed.
Over the whole of this, and in all directions, lay the luminous
lines, all converging to the summit of Copernicus.
The travelers discussed the origin of these strange rays; but they
could not determine their nature any more than terrestrial observers.
"But why," said Nicholl, "should not these rays be simply spurs
of mountains which reflect more vividly the light of the sun?"
"No," replied Barbicane; "if it was so, under certain conditions
of the moon, these ridges would cast shadows, and they do not
And indeed, these rays only appeared when the orb of day was in
opposition to the moon, and disappeared as soon as its rays
"But how have they endeavored to explain these lines of light?"
asked Michel; "for I cannot believe that savants would ever be
stranded for want of an explanation."
"Yes," replied Barbicane; "Herschel has put forward an opinion,
but he did not venture to affirm it."
"Never mind. What was the opinion?"
"He thought that these rays might be streams of cooled lava
which shone when the sun beat straight upon them. It may be so;
but nothing can be less certain. Besides, if we pass nearer to
Tycho, we shall be in a better position to find out the cause of
"Do you know, my friends, what that plain, seen from the height
we are at, resembles?" said Michel.
"No," replied Nicholl.
"Very well; with all those pieces of lava lengthened like rockets,
it resembles an immense game of spelikans thrown pellmell.
There wants but the hook to pull them out one by one."
"Do be serious," said Barbicane.
"Well, let us be serious," replied Michel quietly; "and instead
of spelikans, let us put bones. This plain, would then be
nothing but an immense cemetery, on which would repose the
mortal remains of thousands of extinct generations. Do you
prefer that high-flown comparison?"
"One is as good as the other," retorted Barbicane.
"My word, you are difficult to please," answered Michel.
"My worthy friend," continued the matter-of-fact Barbicane, "it
matters but little what it _resembles_, when we do not know what
"Well answered," exclaimed Michel. "That will teach me to
reason with savants."
But the projectile continued to advance with almost uniform
speed around the lunar disc. The travelers, we may easily
imagine, did not dream of taking a moment's rest. Every minute
changed the landscape which fled from beneath their gaze.
About half past one o'clock in the morning, they caught a glimpse
of the tops of another mountain. Barbicane, consulting his map,
It was a ringed mountain nine thousand feet high, and one of
those circles so numerous on this satellite. With regard to
this, Barbicane related Kepler's singular opinion on the
formation of circles. According to that celebrated
mathematician, these crater-like cavities had been dug by the
hand of man.
"For what purpose?" asked Nicholl.
"For a very natural one," replied Barbicane. "The Selenites
might have undertaken these immense works and dug these enormous
holes for a refuge and shield from the solar rays which beat
upon them during fifteen consecutive days."
"The Selenites are not fools," said Michel.
"A singular idea," replied Nicholl; "but it is probable that
Kepler did not know the true dimensions of these circles, for
the digging of them would have been the work of giants quite
impossible for the Selenites."
"Why? if weight on the moon's surface is six times less than on
the earth?" said Michel.
"But if the Selenites are six times smaller?" retorted Nicholl.
"And if there are _no_ Selenites?" added Barbicane.
This put an end to the discussion.
Soon Eratosthenes disappeared under the horizon without the
projectile being sufficiently near to allow close observation.
This mountain separated the Apennines from the Carpathians. In the
lunar orography they have discerned some chains of mountains, which
are chiefly distributed over the northern hemisphere. Some, however,
occupy certain portions of the southern hemisphere also.
About two o'clock in the morning Barbicane found that they were
above the twentieth lunar parallel. The distance of the
projectile from the moon was not more than six hundred miles.
Barbicane, now perceiving that the projectile was steadily
approaching the lunar disc, did not despair; if not of reaching
her, at least of discovering the secrets of her configuration.
At half-past two in the morning, the projectile was over the
thirteenth lunar parallel and at the effective distance of five
hundred miles, reduced by the glasses to five. It still seemed
impossible, however, that it could ever touch any part of the disc.
Its motive speed, comparatively so moderate, was inexplicable to
President Barbicane. At that distance from the moon it must have
been considerable, to enable it to bear up against her attraction.
Here was a phenomenon the cause of which escaped them again.
Besides, time failed them to investigate the cause. All lunar
relief was defiling under the eyes of the travelers, and they
would not lose a single detail.
Under the glasses the disc appeared at the distance of five
miles. What would an aeronaut, borne to this distance from the
earth, distinguish on its surface? We cannot say, since the
greatest ascension has not been more than 25,000 feet.
This, however, is an exact description of what Barbicane and his
companions saw at this height. Large patches of different
colors appeared on the disc. Selenographers are not agreed upon
the nature of these colors. There are several, and rather
vividly marked. Julius Schmidt pretends that, if the
terrestrial oceans were dried up, a Selenite observer could not
distinguish on the globe a greater diversity of shades between
the oceans and the continental plains than those on the moon
present to a terrestrial observer. According to him, the color
common to the vast plains known by the name of "seas" is a dark
gray mixed with green and brown. Some of the large craters
present the same appearance. Barbicane knew this opinion of the
German selenographer, an opinion shared by Boeer and Moedler.
Observation has proved that right was on their side, and not on
that of some astronomers who admit the existence of only gray on
the moon's surface. In some parts green was very distinct, such
as springs, according to Julius Schmidt, from the seas of
"Serenity and Humors." Barbicane also noticed large craters,
without any interior cones, which shed a bluish tint similar to
the reflection of a sheet of steel freshly polished. These colors
belonged really to the lunar disc, and did not result, as some
astronomers say, either from the imperfection in the objective
of the glasses or from the interposition of the terrestrial atmosphere.
Not a doubt existed in Barbicane's mind with regard to it, as he
observed it through space, and so could not commit any optical error.
He considered the establishment of this fact as an acquisition
to science. Now, were these shades of green, belonging to
tropical vegetation, kept up by a low dense atmosphere? He could
not yet say.
Farther on, he noticed a reddish tint, quite defined. The same
shade had before been observed at the bottom of an isolated
enclosure, known by the name of Lichtenburg's circle, which is
situated near the Hercynian mountains, on the borders of the
moon; but they could not tell the nature of it.
They were not more fortunate with regard to another peculiarity
of the disc, for they could not decide upon the cause of it.
Michel Ardan was watching near the president, when he noticed
long white lines, vividly lighted up by the direct rays of the sun.
It was a succession of luminous furrows, very different from the
radiation of Copernicus not long before; they ran parallel with
Michel, with his usual readiness, hastened to exclaim:
"Look there! cultivated fields!"
"Cultivated fields!" replied Nicholl, shrugging his shoulders.
"Plowed, at all events," retorted Michel Ardan; "but what
laborers those Selenites must be, and what giant oxen they must
harness to their plow to cut such furrows!"
"They are not furrows," said Barbicane; "they are _rifts_."
"Rifts? stuff!" replied Michel mildly; "but what do you mean by
`rifts' in the scientific world?"
Barbicane immediately enlightened his companion as to what he
knew about lunar rifts. He knew that they were a kind of furrow
found on every part of the disc which was not mountainous; that
these furrows, generally isolated, measured from 400 to 500
leagues in length; that their breadth varied from 1,000 to 1,500
yards, and that their borders were strictly parallel; but he
knew nothing more either of their formation or their nature.
Barbicane, through his glasses, observed these rifts with
great attention. He noticed that their borders were formed of
steep declivities; they were long parallel ramparts, and with some
small amount of imagination he might have admitted the existence
of long lines of fortifications, raised by Selenite engineers.
Of these different rifts some were perfectly straight, as if cut
by a line; others were slightly curved, though still keeping
their borders parallel; some crossed each other, some cut through
craters; here they wound through ordinary cavities, such as
Posidonius or Petavius; there they wound through the seas, such
as the "Sea of Serenity."
These natural accidents naturally excited the imaginations of
these terrestrial astronomers. The first observations had not
discovered these rifts. Neither Hevelius, Cassin, La Hire, nor
Herschel seemed to have known them. It was Schroeter who in
1789 first drew attention to them. Others followed who studied
them, as Pastorff, Gruithuysen, Boeer, and Moedler. At this
time their number amounts to seventy; but, if they have been
counted, their nature has not yet been determined; they are
certainly _not_ fortifications, any more than they are the
ancient beds of dried-up rivers; for, on one side, the waters,
so slight on the moon's surface, could never have worn such
drains for themselves; and, on the other, they often cross
craters of great elevation.
We must, however, allow that Michel Ardan had "an idea," and
that, without knowing it, he coincided in that respect with
"Why," said he, "should not these unaccountable appearances be
simply phenomena of vegetation?"
"What do you mean?" asked Barbicane quickly.
"Do not excite yourself, my worthy president," replied Michel;
"might it not be possible that the dark lines forming that
bastion were rows of trees regularly placed?"
"You stick to your vegetation, then?" said Barbicane.
"I like," retorted Michel Ardan, "to explain what you savants
cannot explain; at least my hypotheses has the advantage of
indicating why these rifts disappear, or seem to disappear, at
"And for what reason?"
"For the reason that the trees become invisible when they lose
their leaves, and visible again when they regain them."
"Your explanation is ingenious, my dear companion," replied
Barbicane, "but inadmissible."
"Because, so to speak, there are no seasons on the moon's surface,
and that, consequently, the phenomena of vegetation of which you
speak cannot occur."
Indeed, the slight obliquity of the lunar axis keeps the sun at
an almost equal height in every latitude. Above the equatorial
regions the radiant orb almost invariably occupies the zenith,
and does not pass the limits of the horizon in the polar
regions; thus, according to each region, there reigns a
perpetual winter, spring, summer, or autumn, as in the planet
Jupiter, whose axis is but little inclined upon its orbit.
What origin do they attribute to these rifts? That is a
question difficult to solve. They are certainly anterior to the
formation of craters and circles, for several have introduced
themselves by breaking through their circular ramparts. Thus it
may be that, contemporary with the later geological epochs, they
are due to the expansion of natural forces.
But the projectile had now attained the fortieth degree of lunar
latitude, at a distance not exceeding 40 miles. Through the
glasses objects appeared to be only four miles distant.
At this point, under their feet, rose Mount Helicon, 1,520 feet
high, and round about the left rose moderate elevations,
enclosing a small portion of the "Sea of Rains," under the name
of the Gulf of Iris. The terrestrial atmosphere would have to
be one hundred and seventy times more transparent than it is,
to allow astronomers to make perfect observations on the moon's
surface; but in the void in which the projectile floated no
fluid interposed itself between the eye of the observer and
the object observed. And more, Barbicane found himself carried
to a greater distance than the most powerful telescopes had
ever done before, either that of Lord Rosse or that of the
Rocky Mountains. He was, therefore, under extremely favorable
conditions for solving that great question of the habitability
of the moon; but the solution still escaped him; he could
distinguish nothing but desert beds, immense plains, and toward
the north, arid mountains. Not a work betrayed the hand of man;
not a ruin marked his course; not a group of animals was to be
seen indicating life, even in an inferior degree. In no part
was there life, in no part was there an appearance of vegetation.
Of the three kingdoms which share the terrestrial globe between
them, one alone was represented on the lunar and that the mineral.
"Ah, indeed!" said Michel Ardan, a little out of countenance;
"then you see no one?"
"No," answered Nicholl; "up to this time, not a man, not an
animal, not a tree! After all, whether the atmosphere has taken
refuge at the bottom of cavities, in the midst of the circles,
or even on the opposite face of the moon, we cannot decide."
"Besides," added Barbicane, "even to the most piercing eye a man
cannot be distinguished farther than three and a half miles off;
so that, if there are any Selenites, they can see our projectile,
but we cannot see them."
Toward four in the morning, at the height of the fiftieth
parallel, the distance was reduced to 300 miles. To the left
ran a line of mountains capriciously shaped, lying in the
full light. To the right, on the contrary, lay a black hollow
resembling a vast well, unfathomable and gloomy, drilled into
the lunar soil.
This hole was the "Black Lake"; it was Pluto, a deep circle
which can be conveniently studied from the earth, between the
last quarter and the new moon, when the shadows fall from west
This black color is rarely met with on the surface of
the satellite. As yet it has only been recognized in the depths
of the circle of Endymion, to the east of the "Cold Sea," in the
northern hemisphere, and at the bottom of Grimaldi's circle, on
the equator, toward the eastern border of the orb.
Pluto is an annular mountain, situated in 51@ north latitude,
and 9@ east longitude. Its circuit is forty-seven miles long
and thirty-two broad.
Barbicane regretted that they were not passing directly above
this vast opening. There was an abyss to fathom, perhaps some
mysterious phenomenon to surprise; but the projectile's course
could not be altered. They must rigidly submit. They could not
guide a balloon, still less a projectile, when once enclosed
within its walls. Toward five in the morning the northern
limits of the "Sea of Rains" was at length passed. The mounts
of Condamine and Fontenelle remained-- one on the right, the
other on the left. That part of the disc beginning with 60@ was
becoming quite mountainous. The glasses brought them to within
two miles, less than that separating the summit of Mont Blanc
from the level of the sea. The whole region was bristling with
spikes and circles. Toward the 60@ Philolaus stood predominant
at a height of 5,550 feet with its elliptical crater, and seen
from this distance, the disc showed a very fantastical appearance.
Landscapes were presented to the eye under very different
conditions from those on the earth, and also very inferior to them.
The moon having no atmosphere, the consequences arising from
the absence of this gaseous envelope have already been shown.
No twilight on her surface; night following day and day following
night with the suddenness of a lamp which is extinguished or
lighted amid profound darkness-- no transition from cold to
heat, the temperature falling in an instant from boiling point
to the cold of space.
Another consequence of this want of air is that absolute
darkness reigns where the sun's rays do not penetrate.
That which on earth is called diffusion of light, that luminous
matter which the air holds in suspension, which creates the
twilight and the daybreak, which produces the _umbrae_ and
_penumbrae_, and all the magic of _chiaro-oscuro_, does not
exist on the moon. Hence the harshness of contrasts, which
only admit of two colors, black and white. If a Selenite
were to shade his eyes from the sun's rays, the sky would seem
absolutely black, and the stars would shine to him as on the
darkest night. Judge of the impression produced on Barbicane
and his three friends by this strange scene! Their eyes
were confused. They could no longer grasp the respective
distances of the different plains. A lunar landscape without
the softening of the phenomena of _chiaro-oscuro_ could not be
rendered by an earthly landscape painter; it would be spots of
ink on a white page-- nothing more.
This aspect was not altered even when the projectile, at the
height of 80@, was only separated from the moon by a distance
of fifty miles; nor even when, at five in the morning, it
passed at less than twenty-five miles from the mountain of
Gioja, a distance reduced by the glasses to a quarter of a mile.
It seemed as if the moon might be touched by the hand!
It seemed impossible that, before long, the projectile would
not strike her, if only at the north pole, the brilliant arch
of which was so distinctly visible on the black sky.
Michel Ardan wanted to open one of the scuttles and throw
himself on to the moon's surface! A very useless attempt; for
if the projectile could not attain any point whatever of the
satellite, Michel, carried along by its motion, could not attain
At that moment, at six o'clock, the lunar pole appeared. The disc
only presented to the travelers' gaze one half brilliantly lit up,
while the other disappeared in the darkness. Suddenly the
projectile passed the line of demarcation between intense light
and absolute darkness, and was plunged in profound night!
THE NIGHT OF THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FOUR HOURS AND A HALF
At the moment when this phenomenon took place so rapidly, the
projectile was skirting the moon's north pole at less than
twenty-five miles distance. Some seconds had sufficed to plunge
it into the absolute darkness of space. The transition was so
sudden, without shade, without gradation of light, without
attenuation of the luminous waves, that the orb seemed to have
been extinguished by a powerful blow.
"Melted, disappeared!" Michel Ardan exclaimed, aghast.
Indeed, there was neither reflection nor shadow. Nothing more
was to be seen of that disc, formerly so dazzling. The darkness
was complete. and rendered even more so by the rays from the stars.
It was "that blackness" in which the lunar nights are insteeped,
which last three hundred and fifty-four hours and a half at each
point of the disc, a long night resulting from the equality of
the translatory and rotary movements of the moon. The projectile,
immerged in the conical shadow of the satellite, experienced the
action of the solar rays no more than any of its invisible points.
In the interior, the obscurity was complete. They could not see
each other. Hence the necessity of dispelling the darkness.
However desirous Barbicane might be to husband the gas, the
reserve of which was small, he was obliged to ask from it a
fictitious light, an expensive brilliancy which the sun then refused.
"Devil take the radiant orb!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, "which
forces us to expend gas, instead of giving us his rays gratuitously."
"Do not let us accuse the sun," said Nicholl, "it is not his
fault, but that of the moon, which has come and placed herself
like a screen between us and it."
"It is the sun!" continued Michel.
"It is the moon!" retorted Nicholl.
An idle dispute, which Barbicane put an end to by saying:
"My friends, it is neither the fault of the sun nor of the moon;
it is the fault of the _projectile_, which, instead of rigidly
following its course, has awkwardly missed it. To be more just,
it is the fault of that unfortunate meteor which has so
deplorably altered our first direction."
"Well," replied Michel Ardan, "as the matter is settled, let us
have breakfast. After a whole night of watching it is fair to
build ourselves up a little."
This proposal meeting with no contradiction, Michel prepared the
repast in a few minutes. But they ate for eating's sake, they
drank without toasts, without hurrahs. The bold travelers being
borne away into gloomy space, without their accustomed
_cortege_ of rays, felt a vague uneasiness in their hearts.
The "strange" shadow so dear to Victor Hugo's pen bound them on
all sides. But they talked over the interminable night of three
hundred and fifty-four hours and a half, nearly fifteen days,
which the law of physics has imposed on the inhabitants of the moon.
Barbicane gave his friends some explanation of the causes and
the consequences of this curious phenomenon.
"Curious indeed," said they; "for, if each hemisphere of the
moon is deprived of solar light for fifteen days, that above
which we now float does not even enjoy during its long night any
view of the earth so beautifully lit up. In a word she has no
moon (applying this designation to our globe) but on one side of
her disc. Now if this were the case with the earth-- if, for
example, Europe never saw the moon, and she was only visible at
the antipodes, imagine to yourself the astonishment of a
European on arriving in Australia."
"They would make the voyage for nothing but to see the moon!"
"Very well!" continued Barbicane, "that astonishment is reserved
for the Selenites who inhabit the face of the moon opposite to
the earth, a face which is ever invisible to our countrymen of
the terrestrial globe."
"And which we should have seen," added Nicholl, "if we had arrived
here when the moon was new, that is to say fifteen days later."
"I will add, to make amends," continued Barbicane, "that the
inhabitants of the visible face are singularly favored by nature,
to the detriment of their brethren on the invisible face.
The latter, as you see, have dark nights of 354 hours, without
one single ray to break the darkness. The other, on the contrary,
when the sun which has given its light for fifteen days sinks
below the horizon, see a splendid orb rise on the opposite horizon.
It is the earth, which is thirteen times greater than the
diminutive moon that we know-- the earth which developes itself
at a diameter of two degrees, and which sheds a light thirteen
times greater than that qualified by atmospheric strata-- the
earth which only disappears at the moment when the sun reappears
in its turn!"
"Nicely worded!" said Michel, "slightly academical perhaps."
"It follows, then," continued Barbicane, without knitting his
brows, "that the visible face of the disc must be very agreeable
to inhabit, since it always looks on either the sun when the
moon is full, or on the earth when the moon is new."
"But," said Nicholl, "that advantage must be well compensated by
the insupportable heat which the light brings with it."
"The inconvenience, in that respect, is the same for the two
faces, for the earth's light is evidently deprived of heat.
But the invisible face is still more searched by the heat than
the visible face. I say that for _you_, Nicholl, because Michel
will probably not understand."
"Thank you," said Michel.
"Indeed," continued Barbicane, "when the invisible face receives
at the same time light and heat from the sun, it is because the
moon is new; that is to say, she is situated between the sun and
the earth. It follows, then, considering the position which she
occupies in opposition when full, that she is nearer to the sun
by twice her distance from the earth; and that distance may be
estimated at the two-hundredth part of that which separates the
sun from the earth, or in round numbers 400,000 miles. So that
invisible face is so much nearer to the sun when she receives
"Quite right," replied Nicholl.
"On the contrary," continued Barbicane.
"One moment," said Michel, interrupting his grave companion.
"What do you want?"
"I ask to be allowed to continue the explanation."
"To prove that I understand."
"Get along with you," said Barbicane, smiling.
"On the contrary," said Michel, imitating the tone and gestures
of the president, "on the contrary, when the visible face of the
moon is lit by the sun, it is because the moon is full, that is
to say, opposite the sun with regard to the earth. The distance
separating it from the radiant orb is then increased in round
numbers to 400,000 miles, and the heat which she receives must
be a little less."
"Very well said!" exclaimed Barbicane. "Do you know, Michel,
that, for an amateur, you are intelligent."
"Yes," replied Michel coolly, "we are all so on the Boulevard
Barbicane gravely grasped the hand of his amiable companion, and
continued to enumerate the advantages reserved for the inhabitants
of the visible face.
Among others, he mentioned eclipses of the sun, which only take
place on this side of the lunar disc; since, in order that they
may take place, it is necessary for the moon to be _in
opposition_. These eclipses, caused by the interposition of the
earth between the moon and the sun, can last _two hours_; during
which time, by reason of the rays refracted by its atmosphere,
the terrestrial globe can appear as nothing but a black point
upon the sun.
"So," said Nicholl, "there is a hemisphere, that invisible
hemisphere which is very ill supplied, very ill treated,
"Never mind," replied Michel; "if we ever become Selenites, we
will inhabit the visible face. I like the light."
"Unless, by any chance," answered Nicholl, "the atmosphere should
be condensed on the other side, as certain astronomers pretend."
"That would be a consideration," said Michel.
Breakfast over, the observers returned to their post. They tried
to see through the darkened scuttles by extinguishing all light
in the projectile; but not a luminous spark made its way through
One inexplicable fact preoccupied Barbicane. Why, having passed
within such a short distance of the moon--about twenty-five
miles only-- why the projectile had not fallen? If its speed
had been enormous, he could have understood that the fall would
not have taken place; but, with a relatively moderate speed,
that resistance to the moon's attraction could not be explained.
Was the projectile under some foreign influence? Did some kind
of body retain it in the ether? It was quite evident that it
could never reach any point of the moon. Whither was it going?
Was it going farther from, or nearing, the disc? Was it being
borne in that profound darkness through the infinity of space?
How could they learn, how calculate, in the midst of this night?
All these questions made Barbicane uneasy, but he could not
Certainly, the invisible orb was _there_, perhaps only some few
miles off; but neither he nor his companions could see it.
If there was any noise on its surface, they could not hear it.
Air, that medium of sound, was wanting to transmit the groanings
of that moon which the Arabic legends call "a man already half
granite, and still breathing."
One must allow that that was enough to aggravate the most
patient observers. It was just that unknown hemisphere which
was stealing from their sight. That face which fifteen days
sooner, or fifteen days later, had been, or would be, splendidly
illuminated by the solar rays, was then being lost in utter darkness.
In fifteen days where would the projectile be? Who could say?
Where would the chances of conflicting attractions have drawn
it to? The disappointment of the travelers in the midst of this
utter darkness may be imagined. All observation of the lunar
disc was impossible. The constellations alone claimed all their
attention; and we must allow that the astronomers Faye, Charconac,
and Secchi, never found themselves in circumstances so favorable
for their observation.
Indeed, nothing could equal the splendor of this starry world,
bathed in limpid ether. Its diamonds set in the heavenly vault
sparkled magnificently. The eye took in the firmament from the
Southern Cross to the North Star, those two constellations which
in 12,000 years, by reason of the succession of equinoxes, will
resign their part of the polar stars, the one to Canopus in the
southern hemisphere, the other to Wega in the northern.
Imagination loses itself in this sublime Infinity, amid which
the projectile was gravitating, like a new star created by the
hand of man. From a natural cause, these constellations shone
with a soft luster; they did not twinkle, for there was no
atmosphere which, by the intervention of its layers unequally
dense and of different degrees of humidity, produces
this scintillation. These stars were soft eyes, looking out
into the dark night, amid the silence of absolute space.
Long did the travelers stand mute, watching the constellated
firmament, upon which the moon, like a vast screen, made an
enormous black hole. But at length a painful sensation drew
them from their watchings. This was an intense cold, which soon
covered the inside of the glass of the scuttles with a thick
coating of ice. The sun was no longer warming the projectile
with its direct rays, and thus it was losing the heat stored up
in its walls by degrees. This heat was rapidly evaporating into
space by radiation, and a considerably lower temperature was
the result. The humidity of the interior was changed into ice
upon contact with the glass, preventing all observation.
Nicholl consulted the thermometer, and saw that it had fallen to
seventeen degrees (Centigrade) below zero.  So that, in spite
of the many reasons for economizing, Barbicane, after having
begged light from the gas, was also obliged to beg for heat.
The projectile's low temperature was no longer endurable.
Its tenants would have been frozen to death.
 1@ Fahrenheit.
"Well!" observed Michel, "we cannot reasonably complain of the
monotony of our journey! What variety we have had, at least
in temperature. Now we are blinded with light and saturated with
heat, like the Indians of the Pampas! now plunged into profound
darkness, amid the cold, like the Esquimaux of the north pole.
No, indeed! we have no right to complain; nature does wonders in
"But," asked Nicholl, "what is the temperature outside?"
"Exactly that of the planetary space," replied Barbicane.
"Then," continued Michel Ardan, "would not this be the time to
make the experiment which we dared not attempt when we were
drowned in the sun's rays?
"It is now or never," replied Barbicane, "for we are in a good
position to verify the temperature of space, and see if Fourier
or Pouillet's calculations are exact."
"In any case it is cold," said Michel. "See! the steam of the
interior is condensing on the glasses of the scuttles. If the fall
continues, the vapor of our breath will fall in snow around us."
"Let us prepare a thermometer," said Barbicane.
We may imagine that an ordinary thermometer would afford no
result under the circumstances in which this instrument was to
be exposed. The mercury would have been frozen in its ball,
as below 42@ Fahrenheit below zero it is no longer liquid.
But Barbicane had furnished himself with a spirit thermometer
on Wafferdin's system, which gives the minima of excessively
Before beginning the experiment, this instrument was compared
with an ordinary one, and then Barbicane prepared to use it.
"How shall we set about it?" asked Nicholl.
"Nothing is easier," replied Michel Ardan, who was never at a loss.
"We open the scuttle rapidly; throw out the instrument; it follows
the projectile with exemplary docility; and a quarter of an hour
after, draw it in."
"With the hand?" asked Barbicane.
"With the hand," replied Michel.
"Well, then, my friend, do not expose yourself," answered
Barbicane, "for the hand that you draw in again will be nothing
but a stump frozen and deformed by the frightful cold."
"You will feel as if you had had a terrible burn, like that of
iron at a white heat; for whether the heat leaves our bodies
briskly or enters briskly, it is exactly the same thing.
Besides, I am not at all certain that the objects we have thrown
out are still following us."
"Why not?" asked Nicholl.
"Because, if we are passing through an atmosphere of the
slightest density, these objects will be retarded. Again, the
darkness prevents our seeing if they still float around us.
But in order not to expose ourselves to the loss of our
thermometer, we will fasten it, and we can then more easily
pull it back again."
Barbicane's advice was followed. Through the scuttle rapidly
opened, Nicholl threw out the instrument, which was held by a
short cord, so that it might be more easily drawn up. The scuttle
had not been opened more than a second, but that second had sufficed
to let in a most intense cold.
"The devil!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, "it is cold enough to
freeze a white bear."
Barbicane waited until half an hour had elapsed, which was more
than time enough to allow the instrument to fall to the level of
the surrounding temperature. Then it was rapidly pulled in.
Barbicane calculated the quantity of spirits of wine overflowed
into the little vial soldered to the lower part of the
instrument, and said:
"A hundred and forty degrees Centigrade  below zero!"
 218 degrees Fahrenheit below zero.
M. Pouillet was right and Fourier wrong. That was the undoubted
temperature of the starry space. Such is, perhaps, that of the
lunar continents, when the orb of night has lost by radiation
all the heat which fifteen days of sun have poured into her.
HYPERBOLA OR PARABOLA
We may, perhaps, be astonished to find Barbicane and his
companions so little occupied with the future reserved for them
in their metal prison which was bearing them through the
infinity of space. Instead of asking where they were going,
they passed their time making experiments, as if they had been
quietly installed in their own study.
We might answer that men so strong-minded were above such
anxieties-- that they did not trouble themselves about such
trifles-- and that they had something else to do than to
occupy their minds with the future.
The truth was that they were not masters of their projectile;
they could neither check its course, nor alter its direction.
A sailor can change the head of his ship as he pleases; an
aeronaut can give a vertical motion to his balloon. They, on
the contrary, had no power over their vehicle. Every maneuver
was forbidden. Hence the inclination to let things alone, or as
the sailors say, "let her run."
Where did they find themselves at this moment, at eight o'clock in
the morning of the day called upon the earth the 6th of December?
Very certainly in the neighborhood of the moon, and even near
enough for her to look to them like an enormous black screen upon
the firmament. As to the distance which separated them, it was
impossible to estimate it. The projectile, held by some
unaccountable force, had been within four miles of grazing the
satellite's north pole.
But since entering the cone of shadow these last two hours, had
the distance increased or diminished? Every point of mark was
wanting by which to estimate both the direction and the speed of
Perhaps it was rapidly leaving the disc, so that it would soon
quit the pure shadow. Perhaps, again, on the other hand, it
might be nearing it so much that in a short time it might strike
some high point on the invisible hemisphere, which would doubtlessly
have ended the journey much to the detriment of the travelers.
A discussion arose on this subject, and Michel Ardan, always
ready with an explanation, gave it as his opinion that the
projectile, held by the lunar attraction, would end by falling
on the surface of the terrestrial globe like an aerolite.
"First of all, my friend," answered Barbicane, "every aerolite
does not fall to the earth; it is only a small proportion which
do so; and if we had passed into an aerolite, it does not necessarily
follow that we should ever reach the surface of the moon."
"But how if we get near enough?" replied Michel.
"Pure mistake," replied Barbicane. "Have you not seen shooting
stars rush through the sky by thousands at certain seasons?"
"Well, these stars, or rather corpuscles, only shine when they
are heated by gliding over the atmospheric layers. Now, if
they enter the atmosphere, they pass at least within forty
miles of the earth, but they seldom fall upon it. The same with
our projectile. It may approach very near to the moon, and not
yet fall upon it."
"But then," asked Michel, "I shall be curious to know how our
erring vehicle will act in space?"
"I see but two hypotheses," replied Barbicane, after some
"What are they?"
"The projectile has the choice between two mathematical curves,
and it will follow one or the other according to the speed with
which it is animated, and which at this moment I cannot estimate."
"Yes," said Nicholl, "it will follow either a parabola or
"Just so," replied Barbicane. "With a certain speed it will
assume the parabola, and with a greater the hyperbola."
"I like those grand words," exclaimed Michel Ardan; "one knows
directly what they mean. And pray what is your parabola, if
"My friend," answered the captain, "the parabola is a curve of
the second order, the result of the section of a cone
intersected by a plane parallel to one of the sides."
"Ah! ah!" said Michel, in a satisfied tone.
"It is very nearly," continued Nicholl, "the course described by
a bomb launched from a mortar."
"Perfect! And the hyperbola?"
"The hyperbola, Michel, is a curve of the second order, produced
by the intersection of a conic surface and a plane parallel to
its axis, and constitutes two branches separated one from the other,
both tending indefinitely in the two directions."
"Is it possible!" exclaimed Michel Ardan in a serious tone, as
if they had told him of some serious event. "What I particularly
like in your definition of the hyperbola (I was going to say
hyperblague) is that it is still more obscure than the word you
pretend to define."
Nicholl and Barbicane cared little for Michel Ardan's fun.
They were deep in a scientific discussion. What curve would
the projectile follow? was their hobby. One maintained the
hyperbola, the other the parabola. They gave each other reasons
bristling with _x_. Their arguments were couched in language
which made Michel jump. The discussion was hot, and neither
would give up his chosen curve to his adversary.
This scientific dispute lasted so long that it made Michel
"Now, gentlemen cosines, will you cease to throw parabolas and
hyperbolas at each other's heads? I want to understand the only
interesting question in the whole affair. We shall follow one
or the other of these curves? Good. But where will they lead
"Nowhere," replied Nicholl.
"Evidently," said Barbicane, "they are open curves, which may be
"Ah, savants!" cried Michel; "and what are either the one or the
other to us from the moment we know that they equally lead us
into infinite space?"
Barbicane and Nicholl could not forbear smiling. They had just
been creating "art for art's sake." Never had so idle a question
been raised at such an inopportune moment. The sinister truth
remained that, whether hyperbolically or parabolically borne away,
the projectile would never again meet either the earth or the moon.
What would become of these bold travelers in the immediate future?
If they did not die of hunger, if they did not die of thirst,
in some days, when the gas failed, they would die from want of air,
unless the cold had killed them first. Still, important as it was
to economize the gas, the excessive lowness of the surrounding
temperature obliged them to consume a certain quantity.
Strictly speaking, they could do without its _light_, but not
without its _heat_. Fortunately the caloric generated by Reiset's
and Regnaut's apparatus raised the temperature of the interior
of the projectile a little, and without much expenditure they
were able to keep it bearable.
But observations had now become very difficult. the dampness of
the projectile was condensed on the windows and congealed immediately.
This cloudiness had to be dispersed continually. In any case
they might hope to be able to discover some phenomena of the
But up to this time the disc remained dumb and dark. It did not
answer the multiplicity of questions put by these ardent minds;
a matter which drew this reflection from Michel, apparently a
"If ever we begin this journey over again, we shall do well to
choose the time when the moon is at the full."
"Certainly," said Nicholl, "that circumstance will be more favorable.
I allow that the moon, immersed in the sun's rays, will not be
visible during the transit, but instead we should see the earth,
which would be full. And what is more, if we were drawn round the
moon, as at this moment, we should at least have the advantage of
seeing the invisible part of her disc magnificently lit."
"Well said, Nicholl," replied Michel Ardan. "What do you
"I think this," answered the grave president: "If ever we begin
this journey again, we shall start at the same time and under
the same conditions. Suppose we had attained our end, would it
not have been better to have found continents in broad daylight
than a country plunged in utter darkness? Would not our first
installation have been made under better circumstances?
Yes, evidently. As to the invisible side, we could have visited
it in our exploring expeditions on the lunar globe. So that the
time of the full moon was well chosen. But we ought to have
arrived at the end; and in order to have so arrived, we ought
to have suffered no deviation on the road."
"I have nothing to say to that," answered Michel Ardan.
"Here is, however, a good opportunity lost of observing the
other side of the moon."
But the projectile was now describing in the shadow that
incalculable course which no sight-mark would allow them
to ascertain. Had its direction been altered, either by the
influence of the lunar attraction, or by the action of some
unknown star? Barbicane could not say. But a change had taken
place in the relative position of the vehicle; and Barbicane