FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Table of Contents
I. The Gun Club
II. President Barbicane's Communication
III. Effect of the President's Communication
IV. Reply From the Observatory of Cambridge
V. The Romance of the Moon
VI. The Permissive Limits of Ignorance and Belief in the United States
VII. The Hymn of the Cannon-Ball
VIII. History of the Cannon
IX. The Question of the Powders
X. One Enemy V. Twenty-Five Millions of Friends
XI. Florida and Texas
XII. Urbi et Orbi
XIII. Stones Hill
XIV. Pickaxe and Trowel
XV. The Fete of the Casting
XVI. The Columbiad
XVII. A Telegraphic Dispatch
XVIII. The Passenger of the Atlanta
XIX. A Monster Meeting
XX. Attack and Riposte
XXI. How A Frenchman Manages An Affair
XXII. The New Citizen of the United States
XXIII. The Projectile-Vehicle
XXIV. The Telescope of the Rocky Mountains
XXV. Final Details
XXVII. Foul Weather
XXVIII. A New Star
A TRIP AROUND IT
Preliminary Chapter— Recapitulating the First Part of
This Work, and Serving as a Preface to the Second
I. From Twenty Minutes Past Ten to Forty-Seven Minutes Past Ten P. M.
II. The First Half Hour
III. Their Place of Shelter
IV. A Little Algebra
V. The Cold of Space
VI. Question and Answer
VII. A Moment of Intoxication
VIII. At Seventy-Eight Thousand Five Hundred and Fourteen Leagues
IX. The Consequences of A Deviation
X. The Observers of the Moon
XI. Fancy and Reality
XII. Orographic Details
XIII. Lunar Landscapes
XIV. The Night of Three Hundred and Fifty-Four Hours and A Half
XV. Hyperbola or Parabola
XVI. The Southern Hemisphere
XVIII. Grave Questions
XIX. A Struggle Against the Impossible
XX. The Soundings of the Susquehanna
XXI. J. T. Maston Recalled
XXII. Recovered From the Sea
XXIII. The End
FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
THE GUN CLUB
During the War of the Rebellion, a new and influential club was
established in the city of Baltimore in the State of Maryland.
It is well known with what energy the taste for military matters
became developed among that nation of ship-owners, shopkeepers,
and mechanics. Simple tradesmen jumped their counters to become
extemporized captains, colonels, and generals, without having
ever passed the School of Instruction at West Point;
nevertheless; they quickly rivaled their compeers of the old
continent, and, like them, carried off victories by dint of
lavish expenditure in ammunition, money, and men.
But the point in which the Americans singularly distanced the
Europeans was in the science of gunnery. Not, indeed, that
their weapons retained a higher degree of perfection than
theirs, but that they exhibited unheard-of dimensions, and
consequently attained hitherto unheard-of ranges. In point of
grazing, plunging, oblique, or enfilading, or point-blank
firing, the English, French, and Prussians have nothing to
learn; but their cannon, howitzers, and mortars are mere
pocket-pistols compared with the formidable engines of the
This fact need surprise no one. The Yankees, the first
mechanicians in the world, are engineers— just as the Italians
are musicians and the Germans metaphysicians— by right of birth.
Nothing is more natural, therefore, than to perceive them
applying their audacious ingenuity to the science of gunnery.
Witness the marvels of Parrott, Dahlgren, and Rodman.
The Armstrong, Palliser, and Beaulieu guns were compelled to bow
before their transatlantic rivals.
Now when an American has an idea, he directly seeks a second
American to share it. If there be three, they elect a president
and two secretaries. Given four, they name a keeper of records,
and the office is ready for work; five, they convene a general
meeting, and the club is fully constituted. So things were
managed in Baltimore. The inventor of a new cannon associated
himself with the caster and the borer. Thus was formed the
nucleus of the "Gun Club." In a single month after its formation
it numbered 1,833 effective members and 30,565 corresponding members.
One condition was imposed as a sine qua non upon every
candidate for admission into the association, and that was the
condition of having designed, or (more or less) perfected a
cannon; or, in default of a cannon, at least a firearm of
some description. It may, however, be mentioned that mere
inventors of revolvers, fire-shooting carbines, and similar
small arms, met with little consideration. Artillerists always
commanded the chief place of favor.
The estimation in which these gentlemen were held, according to
one of the most scientific exponents of the Gun Club, was
"proportional to the masses of their guns, and in the direct
ratio of the square of the distances attained by their projectiles."
The Gun Club once founded, it is easy to conceive the result of
the inventive genius of the Americans. Their military weapons
attained colossal proportions, and their projectiles, exceeding
the prescribed limits, unfortunately occasionally cut in two
some unoffending pedestrians. These inventions, in fact, left
far in the rear the timid instruments of European artillery.
It is but fair to add that these Yankees, brave as they have
ever proved themselves to be, did not confine themselves to
theories and formulae, but that they paid heavily, in propria
persona, for their inventions. Among them were to be counted
officers of all ranks, from lieutenants to generals; military
men of every age, from those who were just making their debut
in the profession of arms up to those who had grown old in the
gun-carriage. Many had found their rest on the field of battle
whose names figured in the "Book of Honor" of the Gun Club; and
of those who made good their return the greater proportion bore
the marks of their indisputable valor. Crutches, wooden legs,
artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc jaws, silver craniums,
platinum noses, were all to be found in the collection; and it
was calculated by the great statistician Pitcairn that throughout
the Gun Club there was not quite one arm between four persons
and two legs between six.
Nevertheless, these valiant artillerists took no particular
account of these little facts, and felt justly proud when the
despatches of a battle returned the number of victims at
ten-fold the quantity of projectiles expended.
One day, however— sad and melancholy day!— peace was signed
between the survivors of the war; the thunder of the guns
gradually ceased, the mortars were silent, the howitzers were
muzzled for an indefinite period, the cannon, with muzzles
depressed, were returned into the arsenal, the shot were
repiled, all bloody reminiscences were effaced; the
cotton-plants grew luxuriantly in the well-manured fields, all
mourning garments were laid aside, together with grief; and the
Gun Club was relegated to profound inactivity.
Some few of the more advanced and inveterate theorists set
themselves again to work upon calculations regarding the laws
of projectiles. They reverted invariably to gigantic shells
and howitzers of unparalleled caliber. Still in default of
practical experience what was the value of mere theories?
Consequently, the clubrooms became deserted, the servants dozed
in the antechambers, the newspapers grew mouldy on the tables,
sounds of snoring came from dark corners, and the members of the
Gun Club, erstwhile so noisy in their seances, were reduced to
silence by this disastrous peace and gave themselves up wholly
to dreams of a Platonic kind of artillery.
"This is horrible!" said Tom Hunter one evening, while rapidly
carbonizing his wooden legs in the fireplace of the
smoking-room; "nothing to do! nothing to look forward to! what
a loathsome existence! When again shall the guns arouse us in
the morning with their delightful reports?"
"Those days are gone by," said jolly Bilsby, trying to extend
his missing arms. "It was delightful once upon a time!
One invented a gun, and hardly was it cast, when one hastened
to try it in the face of the enemy! Then one returned to camp
with a word of encouragement from Sherman or a friendly shake
of the hand from McClellan. But now the generals are gone
back to their counters; and in place of projectiles, they
despatch bales of cotton. By Jove, the future of gunnery in
America is lost!"
"Ay! and no war in prospect!" continued the famous James T.
Maston, scratching with his steel hook his gutta-percha cranium.
"Not a cloud on the horizon! and that too at such a critical
period in the progress of the science of artillery! Yes, gentlemen!
I who address you have myself this very morning perfected a
model (plan, section, elevation, etc.) of a mortar destined to
change all the conditions of warfare!"
"No! is it possible?" replied Tom Hunter, his thoughts reverting
involuntarily to a former invention of the Hon. J. T. Maston, by
which, at its first trial, he had succeeded in killing three
hundred and thirty-seven people.
"Fact!" replied he. "Still, what is the use of so many studies
worked out, so many difficulties vanquished? It's mere waste
of time! The New World seems to have made up its mind to live in
peace; and our bellicose Tribune predicts some approaching
catastrophes arising out of this scandalous increase of population."
"Nevertheless," replied Colonel Blomsberry, "they are always
struggling in Europe to maintain the principle of nationalities."
"Well, there might be some field for enterprise down there; and
if they would accept our services——"
"What are you dreaming of?" screamed Bilsby; "work at gunnery
for the benefit of foreigners?"
"That would be better than doing nothing here," returned the colonel.
"Quite so," said J. T. Matson; "but still we need not dream of
"And why not?" demanded the colonel.
"Because their ideas of progress in the Old World are contrary
to our American habits of thought. Those fellows believe that
one can't become a general without having served first as an
ensign; which is as much as to say that one can't point a gun
without having first cast it oneself!"
"Ridiculous!" replied Tom Hunter, whittling with his bowie-knife
the arms of his easy chair; "but if that be the case there, all
that is left for us is to plant tobacco and distill whale-oil."
"What!" roared J. T. Maston, "shall we not employ these
remaining years of our life in perfecting firearms? Shall there
never be a fresh opportunity of trying the ranges of projectiles?
Shall the air never again be lighted with the glare of our guns?
No international difficulty ever arise to enable us to declare
war against some transatlantic power? Shall not the French sink
one of our steamers, or the English, in defiance of the rights
of nations, hang a few of our countrymen?"
"No such luck," replied Colonel Blomsberry; "nothing of the kind
is likely to happen; and even if it did, we should not profit by it.
American susceptibility is fast declining, and we are all going
to the dogs."
"It is too true," replied J. T. Maston, with fresh violence;
"there are a thousand grounds for fighting, and yet we don't fight.
We save up our arms and legs for the benefit of nations who don't
know what to do with them! But stop— without going out of one's
way to find a cause for war— did not North America once belong
to the English?"
"Undoubtedly," replied Tom Hunter, stamping his crutch with fury.
"Well, then," replied J. T. Maston, "why should not England in
her turn belong to the Americans?"
"It would be but just and fair," returned Colonel Blomsberry.
"Go and propose it to the President of the United States," cried
J. T. Maston, "and see how he will receive you."
"Bah!" growled Bilsby between the four teeth which the war had
left him; "that will never do!"
"By Jove!" cried J. T. Maston, "he mustn't count on my vote at
the next election!"
"Nor on ours," replied unanimously all the bellicose invalids.
"Meanwhile," replied J. T. Maston, "allow me to say that, if I
cannot get an opportunity to try my new mortars on a real field
of battle, I shall say good-by to the members of the Gun Club,
and go and bury myself in the prairies of Arkansas!"
"In that case we will accompany you," cried the others.
Matters were in this unfortunate condition, and the club was
threatened with approaching dissolution, when an unexpected
circumstance occurred to prevent so deplorable a catastrophe.
On the morrow after this conversation every member of the
association received a sealed circular couched in the
BALTIMORE, October 3.
The president of the Gun Club has the honor to inform his colleagues
that, at the meeting of the 5th instant, he will bring before
them a communication of an extremely interesting nature. He requests,
therefore, that they will make it convenient to attend in
accordance with the present invitation. Very cordially,
IMPEY BARBICANE, P.G.C.
PRESIDENT BARBICANE'S COMMUNICATION
On the 5th of October, at eight p.m., a dense crowd pressed
toward the saloons of the Gun Club at No. 21 Union Square.
All the members of the association resident in Baltimore attended
the invitation of their president. As regards the corresponding
members, notices were delivered by hundreds throughout the streets
of the city, and, large as was the great hall, it was quite
inadequate to accommodate the crowd of savants. They overflowed
into the adjoining rooms, down the narrow passages, into the
outer courtyards. There they ran against the vulgar herd who
pressed up to the doors, each struggling to reach the front ranks,
all eager to learn the nature of the important communication of
President Barbicane; all pushing, squeezing, crushing with that
perfect freedom of action which is so peculiar to the masses when
educated in ideas of "self-government."
On that evening a stranger who might have chanced to be in
Baltimore could not have gained admission for love or money into
the great hall. That was reserved exclusively for resident or
corresponding members; no one else could possibly have obtained
a place; and the city magnates, municipal councilors, and
"select men" were compelled to mingle with the mere townspeople
in order to catch stray bits of news from the interior.
Nevertheless the vast hall presented a curious spectacle.
Its immense area was singularly adapted to the purpose.
Lofty pillars formed of cannon, superposed upon huge mortars as a
base, supported the fine ironwork of the arches, a perfect piece
of cast-iron lacework. Trophies of blunderbuses, matchlocks,
arquebuses, carbines, all kinds of firearms, ancient and modern,
were picturesquely interlaced against the walls. The gas lit
up in full glare myriads of revolvers grouped in the form of
lustres, while groups of pistols, and candelabra formed of
muskets bound together, completed this magnificent display
of brilliance. Models of cannon, bronze castings, sights covered
with dents, plates battered by the shots of the Gun Club,
assortments of rammers and sponges, chaplets of shells, wreaths
of projectiles, garlands of howitzers— in short, all the
apparatus of the artillerist, enchanted the eye by this
wonderful arrangement and induced a kind of belief that their
real purpose was ornamental rather than deadly.
At the further end of the saloon the president, assisted by four
secretaries, occupied a large platform. His chair, supported by
a carved gun-carriage, was modeled upon the ponderous proportions
of a 32-inch mortar. It was pointed at an angle of ninety degrees,
and suspended upon truncheons, so that the president could balance
himself upon it as upon a rocking-chair, a very agreeable fact in
the very hot weather. Upon the table (a huge iron plate supported
upon six carronades) stood an inkstand of exquisite elegance, made
of a beautifully chased Spanish piece, and a sonnette, which, when
required, could give forth a report equal to that of a revolver.
During violent debates this novel kind of bell scarcely sufficed
to drown the clamor of these excitable artillerists.
In front of the table benches arranged in zigzag form, like the
circumvallations of a retrenchment, formed a succession of
bastions and curtains set apart for the use of the members of
the club; and on this especial evening one might say, "All the
world was on the ramparts." The president was sufficiently well
known, however, for all to be assured that he would not put his
colleagues to discomfort without some very strong motive.
Impey Barbicane was a man of forty years of age, calm, cold,
austere; of a singularly serious and self-contained demeanor,
punctual as a chronometer, of imperturbable temper and immovable
character; by no means chivalrous, yet adventurous withal, and
always bringing practical ideas to bear upon the very rashest
enterprises; an essentially New Englander, a Northern colonist,
a descendant of the old anti-Stuart Roundheads, and the
implacable enemy of the gentlemen of the South, those ancient
cavaliers of the mother country. In a word, he was a Yankee to
Barbicane had made a large fortune as a timber merchant.
Being nominated director of artillery during the war, he proved
himself fertile in invention. Bold in his conceptions, he
contributed powerfully to the progress of that arm and gave an
immense impetus to experimental researches.
He was personage of the middle height, having, by a rare
exception in the Gun Club, all his limbs complete. His strongly
marked features seemed drawn by square and rule; and if it be
true that, in order to judge a man's character one must look at
his profile, Barbicane, so examined, exhibited the most certain
indications of energy, audacity, and sang-froid.
At this moment he was sitting in his armchair, silent, absorbed,
lost in reflection, sheltered under his high-crowned hat— a
kind of black cylinder which always seems firmly screwed upon
the head of an American.
Just when the deep-toned clock in the great hall struck eight,
Barbicane, as if he had been set in motion by a spring, raised
himself up. A profound silence ensued, and the speaker, in a
somewhat emphatic tone of voice, commenced as follows:
"My brave, colleagues, too long already a paralyzing peace has
plunged the members of the Gun Club in deplorable inactivity.
After a period of years full of incidents we have been compelled
to abandon our labors, and to stop short on the road of progress.
I do not hesitate to state, baldly, that any war which would
recall us to arms would be welcome!" (Tremendous applause!)
"But war, gentlemen, is impossible under existing circumstances;
and, however we may desire it, many years may elapse before our
cannon shall again thunder in the field of battle. We must make
up our minds, then, to seek in another train of ideas some field
for the activity which we all pine for."
The meeting felt that the president was now approaching the
critical point, and redoubled their attention accordingly.
"For some months past, my brave colleagues," continued
Barbicane, "I have been asking myself whether, while confining
ourselves to our own particular objects, we could not enter upon
some grand experiment worthy of the nineteenth century; and
whether the progress of artillery science would not enable us to
carry it out to a successful issue. I have been considering,
working, calculating; and the result of my studies is the conviction
that we are safe to succeed in an enterprise which to any other
country would appear wholly impracticable. This project, the result
of long elaboration, is the object of my present communication.
It is worthy of yourselves, worthy of the antecedents of the Gun
Club; and it cannot fail to make some noise in the world."
A thrill of excitement ran through the meeting.
Barbicane, having by a rapid movement firmly fixed his hat upon
his head, calmly continued his harangue:
"There is no one among you, my brave colleagues, who has not
seen the Moon, or, at least, heard speak of it. Don't be
surprised if I am about to discourse to you regarding the Queen
of the Night. It is perhaps reserved for us to become the
Columbuses of this unknown world. Only enter into my plans, and
second me with all your power, and I will lead you to its
conquest, and its name shall be added to those of the thirty-six
states which compose this Great Union."
"Three cheers for the Moon!" roared the Gun Club, with one voice.
"The moon, gentlemen, has been carefully studied," continued
Barbicane; "her mass, density, and weight; her constitution,
motions, distance, as well as her place in the solar system,
have all been exactly determined. Selenographic charts have
been constructed with a perfection which equals, if it does not
even surpass, that of our terrestrial maps. Photography has
given us proofs of the incomparable beauty of our satellite; all
is known regarding the moon which mathematical science,
astronomy, geology, and optics can learn about her. But up to
the present moment no direct communication has been established
A violent movement of interest and surprise here greeted this
remark of the speaker.
"Permit me," he continued, "to recount to you briefly how
certain ardent spirits, starting on imaginary journeys, have
penetrated the secrets of our satellite. In the seventeenth
century a certain David Fabricius boasted of having seen with
his own eyes the inhabitants of the moon. In 1649 a Frenchman,
one Jean Baudoin, published a `Journey performed from the Earth
to the Moon by Domingo Gonzalez,' a Spanish adventurer. At the
same period Cyrano de Bergerac published that celebrated
`Journeys in the Moon' which met with such success in France.
Somewhat later another Frenchman, named Fontenelle, wrote `The
Plurality of Worlds,' a chef-d'oeuvre of its time. About 1835
a small treatise, translated from the New York American, related
how Sir John Herschel, having been despatched to the Cape of
Good Hope for the purpose of making there some astronomical
calculations, had, by means of a telescope brought to perfection
by means of internal lighting, reduced the apparent distance of
the moon to eighty yards! He then distinctly perceived caverns
frequented by hippopotami, green mountains bordered by golden
lace-work, sheep with horns of ivory, a white species of deer
and inhabitants with membranous wings, like bats. This brochure,
the work of an American named Locke, had a great sale. But, to
bring this rapid sketch to a close, I will only add that a
certain Hans Pfaal, of Rotterdam, launching himself in a balloon
filled with a gas extracted from nitrogen, thirty-seven times
lighter than hydrogen, reached the moon after a passage of
nineteen hours. This journey, like all previous ones, was purely
imaginary; still, it was the work of a popular American author—
I mean Edgar Poe!"
"Cheers for Edgar Poe!" roared the assemblage, electrified by
their president's words.
"I have now enumerated," said Barbicane, "the experiments which
I call purely paper ones, and wholly insufficient to establish
serious relations with the Queen of the Night. Nevertheless, I
am bound to add that some practical geniuses have attempted to
establish actual communication with her. Thus, a few days ago,
a German geometrician proposed to send a scientific expedition
to the steppes of Siberia. There, on those vast plains, they
were to describe enormous geometric figures, drawn in characters
of reflecting luminosity, among which was the proposition
regarding the `square of the hypothenuse,' commonly called the
`Ass's Bridge' by the French. `Every intelligent being,' said
the geometrician, `must understand the scientific meaning of
that figure. The Selenites, do they exist, will respond by a
similar figure; and, a communication being thus once
established, it will be easy to form an alphabet which shall
enable us to converse with the inhabitants of the moon.' So
spoke the German geometrician; but his project was never put
into practice, and up to the present day there is no bond
in existence between the Earth and her satellite. It is
reserved for the practical genius of Americans to establish a
communication with the sidereal world. The means of arriving
thither are simple, easy, certain, infallible— and that is the
purpose of my present proposal."
A storm of acclamations greeted these words. There was not a
single person in the whole audience who was not overcome,
carried away, lifted out of himself by the speaker's words!
Long-continued applause resounded from all sides.
As soon as the excitement had partially subsided, Barbicane
resumed his speech in a somewhat graver voice.
"You know," said he, "what progress artillery science has made
during the last few years, and what a degree of perfection
firearms of every kind have reached. Moreover, you are well
aware that, in general terms, the resisting power of cannon and
the expansive force of gunpowder are practically unlimited.
Well! starting from this principle, I ask myself whether,
supposing sufficient apparatus could be obtained constructed
upon the conditions of ascertained resistance, it might not be
possible to project a shot up to the moon?"
At these words a murmur of amazement escaped from a thousand
panting chests; then succeeded a moment of perfect silence,
resembling that profound stillness which precedes the bursting
of a thunderstorm. In point of fact, a thunderstorm did peal
forth, but it was the thunder of applause, or cries, and of
uproar which made the very hall tremble. The president
attempted to speak, but could not. It was fully ten minutes
before he could make himself heard.
"Suffer me to finish," he calmly continued. "I have looked at
the question in all its bearings, I have resolutely attacked it,
and by incontrovertible calculations I find that a projectile
endowed with an initial velocity of 12,000 yards per second, and
aimed at the moon, must necessarily reach it. I have the honor,
my brave colleagues, to propose a trial of this little experiment."
EFFECT OF THE PRESIDENT'S COMMUNICATION
It is impossible to describe the effect produced by the last
words of the honorable president— the cries, the shouts, the
succession of roars, hurrahs, and all the varied vociferations
which the American language is capable of supplying. It was a
scene of indescribable confusion and uproar. They shouted, they
clapped, they stamped on the floor of the hall. All the weapons
in the museum discharged at once could not have more violently set
in motion the waves of sound. One need not be surprised at this.
There are some cannoneers nearly as noisy as their own guns.
Barbicane remained calm in the midst of this enthusiastic
clamor; perhaps he was desirous of addressing a few more words
to his colleagues, for by his gestures he demanded silence,
and his powerful alarum was worn out by its violent reports.
No attention, however, was paid to his request. He was presently
torn from his seat and passed from the hands of his faithful
colleagues into the arms of a no less excited crowd.
Nothing can astound an American. It has often been asserted
that the word "impossible" in not a French one. People have
evidently been deceived by the dictionary. In America, all is
easy, all is simple; and as for mechanical difficulties, they
are overcome before they arise. Between Barbicane's proposition
and its realization no true Yankee would have allowed even the
semblance of a difficulty to be possible. A thing with them is
no sooner said than done.
The triumphal progress of the president continued throughout
the evening. It was a regular torchlight procession. Irish, Germans,
French, Scotch, all the heterogeneous units which make up the
population of Maryland shouted in their respective vernaculars;
and the "vivas," "hurrahs," and "bravos" were intermingled in
Just at this crisis, as though she comprehended all this
agitation regarding herself, the moon shone forth with
serene splendor, eclipsing by her intense illumination all the
surrounding lights. The Yankees all turned their gaze toward
her resplendent orb, kissed their hands, called her by all kinds
of endearing names. Between eight o'clock and midnight one
optician in Jones'-Fall Street made his fortune by the sale of
Midnight arrived, and the enthusiasm showed no signs of diminution.
It spread equally among all classes of citizens— men of science,
shopkeepers, merchants, porters, chair-men, as well as "greenhorns,"
were stirred in their innermost fibres. A national enterprise was
at stake. The whole city, high and low, the quays bordering the
Patapsco, the ships lying in the basins, disgorged a crowd drunk
with joy, gin, and whisky. Every one chattered, argued, discussed,
disputed, applauded, from the gentleman lounging upon the barroom
settee with his tumbler of sherry-cobbler before him down to the
waterman who got drunk upon his "knock-me-down" in the dingy taverns
of Fell Point.
About two A.M., however, the excitement began to subside.
President Barbicane reached his house, bruised, crushed, and
squeezed almost to a mummy. Hercules could not have resisted a
similar outbreak of enthusiasm. The crowd gradually deserted
the squares and streets. The four railways from Philadelphia
and Washington, Harrisburg and Wheeling, which converge at
Baltimore, whirled away the heterogeneous population to the four
corners of the United States, and the city subsided into
On the following day, thanks to the telegraphic wires, five
hundred newspapers and journals, daily, weekly, monthly, or
bi-monthly, all took up the question. They examined it under
all its different aspects, physical, meteorological, economical,
or moral, up to its bearings on politics or civilization.
They debated whether the moon was a finished world, or whether
it was destined to undergo any further transformation. Did it
resemble the earth at the period when the latter was destitute
as yet of an atmosphere? What kind of spectacle would its hidden
hemisphere present to our terrestrial spheroid? Granting that
the question at present was simply that of sending a projectile
up to the moon, every one must see that that involved the
commencement of a series of experiments. All must hope that
some day America would penetrate the deepest secrets of that
mysterious orb; and some even seemed to fear lest its conquest
should not sensibly derange the equilibrium of Europe.
The project once under discussion, not a single paragraph
suggested a doubt of its realization. All the papers,
pamphlets, reports— all the journals published by the
scientific, literary, and religious societies enlarged upon its
advantages; and the Society of Natural History of Boston, the
Society of Science and Art of Albany, the Geographical and
Statistical Society of New York, the Philosophical Society of
Philadelphia, and the Smithsonian of Washington sent innumerable
letters of congratulation to the Gun Club, together with offers
of immediate assistance and money.
From that day forward Impey Barbicane became one of the greatest
citizens of the United States, a kind of Washington of science.
A single trait of feeling, taken from many others, will serve to
show the point which this homage of a whole people to a single
Some few days after this memorable meeting of the Gun Club, the
manager of an English company announced, at the Baltimore
theatre, the production of "Much ado about Nothing." But the
populace, seeing in that title an allusion damaging to
Barbicane's project, broke into the auditorium, smashed the
benches, and compelled the unlucky director to alter his playbill.
Being a sensible man, he bowed to the public will and replaced
the offending comedy by "As you like it"; and for many weeks he
realized fabulous profits.
REPLY FROM THE OBSERVATORY OF CAMBRIDGE
Barbicane, however, lost not one moment amid all the enthusiasm
of which he had become the object. His first care was to
reassemble his colleagues in the board-room of the Gun Club.
There, after some discussion, it was agreed to consult the
astronomers regarding the astronomical part of the enterprise.
Their reply once ascertained, they could then discuss the
mechanical means, and nothing should be wanting to ensure the
success of this great experiment.
A note couched in precise terms, containing special
interrogatories, was then drawn up and addressed to the
Observatory of Cambridge in Massachusetts. This city, where the
first university of the United States was founded, is justly
celebrated for its astronomical staff. There are to be found
assembled all the most eminent men of science. Here is to be
seen at work that powerful telescope which enabled Bond to
resolve the nebula of Andromeda, and Clarke to discover the
satellite of Sirius. This celebrated institution fully justified
on all points the confidence reposed in it by the Gun Club.
So, after two days, the reply so impatiently awaited was placed
in the hands of President Barbicane.
It was couched in the following terms:
The Director of the Cambridge Observatory to the President
of the Gun Club at Baltimore.
CAMBRIDGE, October 7.
On the receipt of your favor of the 6th instant, addressed to
the Observatory of Cambridge in the name of the members of the
Baltimore Gun Club, our staff was immediately called together,
and it was judged expedient to reply as follows:
The questions which have been proposed to it are these—
"1. Is it possible to transmit a projectile up to the moon?
"2. What is the exact distance which separates the earth from
"3. What will be the period of transit of the projectile when
endowed with sufficient initial velocity? and, consequently, at
what moment ought it to be discharged in order that it may touch
the moon at a particular point?
"4. At what precise moment will the moon present herself in the
most favorable position to be reached by the projectile?
"5. What point in the heavens ought the cannon to be aimed at
which is intended to discharge the projectile?
"6. What place will the moon occupy in the heavens at the moment
of the projectile's departure?"
Regarding the first question, "Is it possible to transmit a
projectile up to the moon?"
Answer.— Yes; provided it possess an initial velocity of
1,200 yards per second; calculations prove that to be sufficient.
In proportion as we recede from the earth the action of gravitation
diminishes in the inverse ratio of the square of the distance;
that is to say, at three times a given distance the action is
nine times less. Consequently, the weight of a shot will decrease,
and will become reduced to zero at the instant that the attraction
of the moon exactly counterpoises that of the earth; that is to say
at 47/52 of its passage. At that instant the projectile will
have no weight whatever; and, if it passes that point, it will
fall into the moon by the sole effect of the lunar attraction.
The theoretical possibility of the experiment is therefore
absolutely demonstrated; its success must depend upon the power
of the engine employed.
As to the second question, "What is the exact distance which
separates the earth from its satellite?"
Answer.— The moon does not describe a circle round the
earth, but rather an ellipse, of which our earth occupies one
of the foci; the consequence, therefore, is, that at certain
times it approaches nearer to, and at others it recedes farther
from, the earth; in astronomical language, it is at one time in
apogee, at another in perigee. Now the difference between
its greatest and its least distance is too considerable to be
left out of consideration. In point of fact, in its apogee the
moon is 247,552 miles, and in its perigee, 218,657 miles only
distant; a fact which makes a difference of 28,895 miles, or
more than one-ninth of the entire distance. The perigee
distance, therefore, is that which ought to serve as the basis
of all calculations.
To the third question.
Answer.— If the shot should preserve continuously its initial
velocity of 12,000 yards per second, it would require little
more than nine hours to reach its destination; but, inasmuch as
that initial velocity will be continually decreasing, it will
occupy 300,000 seconds, that is 83hrs. 20m. in reaching the
point where the attraction of the earth and moon will be in
equilibrio. From this point it will fall into the moon in
50,000 seconds, or 13hrs. 53m. 20sec. It will be desirable,
therefore, to discharge it 97hrs. 13m. 20sec. before the arrival
of the moon at the point aimed at.
Regarding question four, "At what precise moment will the moon
present herself in the most favorable position, etc.?"
Answer.— After what has been said above, it will be
necessary, first of all, to choose the period when the moon will
be in perigee, and also the moment when she will be crossing
the zenith, which latter event will further diminish the entire
distance by a length equal to the radius of the earth, i. e.
3,919 miles; the result of which will be that the final passage
remaining to be accomplished will be 214,976 miles. But although
the moon passes her perigee every month, she does not reach the
zenith always at exactly the same moment. She does not appear
under these two conditions simultaneously, except at long
intervals of time. It will be necessary, therefore, to wait for
the moment when her passage in perigee shall coincide with that
in the zenith. Now, by a fortunate circumstance, on the 4th of
December in the ensuing year the moon will present these
two conditions. At midnight she will be in perigee, that is,
at her shortest distance from the earth, and at the same moment
she will be crossing the zenith.
On the fifth question, "At what point in the heavens ought the
cannon to be aimed?"
Answer.— The preceding remarks being admitted, the cannon
ought to be pointed to the zenith of the place. Its fire,
therefore, will be perpendicular to the plane of the horizon;
and the projectile will soonest pass beyond the range of the
terrestrial attraction. But, in order that the moon should
reach the zenith of a given place, it is necessary that the
place should not exceed in latitude the declination of the
luminary; in other words, it must be comprised within the
degrees 0@ and 28@ of lat. N. or S. In every other spot the fire
must necessarily be oblique, which would seriously militate
against the success of the experiment.
As to the sixth question, "What place will the moon occupy in
the heavens at the moment of the projectile's departure?"
Answer.— At the moment when the projectile shall be discharged
into space, the moon, which travels daily forward 13@ 10' 35'',
will be distant from the zenith point by four times that quantity,
i. e. by 52@ 41' 20'', a space which corresponds to the path
which she will describe during the entire journey of the projectile.
But, inasmuch as it is equally necessary to take into account the
deviation which the rotary motion of the earth will impart to the
shot, and as the shot cannot reach the moon until after a deviation
equal to 16 radii of the earth, which, calculated upon the moon's
orbit, are equal to about eleven degrees, it becomes necessary to
add these eleven degrees to those which express the retardation of
the moon just mentioned: that is to say, in round numbers, about
sixty-four degrees. Consequently, at the moment of firing the
visual radius applied to the moon will describe, with the vertical
line of the place, an angle of sixty-four degrees.
These are our answers to the questions proposed to the
Observatory of Cambridge by the members of the Gun Club:
To sum up—
1st. The cannon ought to be planted in a country situated
between 0@ and 28@ of N. or S. lat.
2nd. It ought to be pointed directly toward the zenith of the place.
3rd. The projectile ought to be propelled with an initial
velocity of 12,000 yards per second.
4th. It ought to be discharged at 10hrs. 46m. 40sec. of the 1st
of December of the ensuing year.
5th. It will meet the moon four days after its discharge,
precisely at midnight on the 4th of December, at the moment of
its transit across the zenith.
The members of the Gun Club ought, therefore, without delay, to
commence the works necessary for such an experiment, and to be
prepared to set to work at the moment determined upon; for, if
they should suffer this 4th of December to go by, they will not
find the moon again under the same conditions of perigee and of
zenith until eighteen years and eleven days afterward.
The staff of the Cambridge Observatory place themselves entirely
at their disposal in respect of all questions of theoretical
astronomy; and herewith add their congratulations to those of
all the rest of America.
For the Astronomical Staff,
J. M. BELFAST,
Director of the Observatory of Cambridge.
THE ROMANCE OF THE MOON
An observer endued with an infinite range of vision, and placed
in that unknown center around which the entire world revolves,
might have beheld myriads of atoms filling all space during the
chaotic epoch of the universe. Little by little, as ages went
on, a change took place; a general law of attraction manifested
itself, to which the hitherto errant atoms became obedient:
these atoms combined together chemically according to their
affinities, formed themselves into molecules, and composed those
nebulous masses with which the depths of the heavens are strewed.
These masses became immediately endued with a rotary motion
around their own central point. This center, formed of
indefinite molecules, began to revolve around its own axis
during its gradual condensation; then, following the immutable
laws of mechanics, in proportion as its bulk diminished by
condensation, its rotary motion became accelerated, and these
two effects continuing, the result was the formation of one
principal star, the center of the nebulous mass.
By attentively watching, the observer would then have perceived
the other molecules of the mass, following the example of this
central star, become likewise condensed by gradually accelerated
rotation, and gravitating round it in the shape of innumerable stars.
Thus was formed the Nebulae, of which astronomers have reckoned
up nearly 5,000.
Among these 5,000 nebulae there is one which has received the
name of the Milky Way, and which contains eighteen millions of
stars, each of which has become the center of a solar world.
If the observer had then specially directed his attention to one
of the more humble and less brilliant of these stellar bodies,
a star of the fourth class, that which is arrogantly called the
Sun, all the phenomena to which the formation of the Universe is to
be ascribed would have been successively fulfilled before his eyes.
In fact, he would have perceived this sun, as yet in the gaseous
state, and composed of moving molecules, revolving round its axis
in order to accomplish its work of concentration. This motion,
faithful to the laws of mechanics, would have been accelerated
with the diminution of its volume; and a moment would have arrived
when the centrifugal force would have overpowered the centripetal,
which causes the molecules all to tend toward the center.
Another phenomenon would now have passed before the observer's
eye, and the molecules situated on the plane of the equator,
escaping like a stone from a sling of which the cord had
suddenly snapped, would have formed around the sun sundry
concentric rings resembling that of Saturn. In their turn,
again, these rings of cosmical matter, excited by a rotary
motion about the central mass, would have been broken up and
decomposed into secondary nebulosities, that is to say,
into planets. Similarly he would have observed these planets
throw off one or more rings each, which became the origin of the
secondary bodies which we call satellites.
Thus, then, advancing from atom to molecule, from molecule to
nebulous mass, from that to principal star, from star to sun,
from sun to planet, and hence to satellite, we have the whole
series of transformations undergone by the heavenly bodies
during the first days of the world.
Now, of those attendant bodies which the sun maintains in their
elliptical orbits by the great law of gravitation, some few in
turn possess satellites. Uranus has eight, Saturn eight, Jupiter
four, Neptune possibly three, and the Earth one. This last, one
of the least important of the entire solar system, we call the
Moon; and it is she whom the daring genius of the Americans
professed their intention of conquering.
The moon, by her comparative proximity, and the constantly
varying appearances produced by her several phases, has always
occupied a considerable share of the attention of the
inhabitants of the earth.
From the time of Thales of Miletus, in the fifth century B.C.,
down to that of Copernicus in the fifteenth and Tycho Brahe in
the sixteenth century A.D., observations have been from time to
time carried on with more or less correctness, until in the
present day the altitudes of the lunar mountains have been
determined with exactitude. Galileo explained the phenomena of
the lunar light produced during certain of her phases by the
existence of mountains, to which he assigned a mean altitude of
27,000 feet. After him Hevelius, an astronomer of Dantzic,
reduced the highest elevations to 15,000 feet; but the
calculations of Riccioli brought them up again to 21,000 feet.
At the close of the eighteenth century Herschel, armed with a powerful
telescope, considerably reduced the preceding measurements.
He assigned a height of 11,400 feet to the maximum elevations,
and reduced the mean of the different altitudes to little more
than 2,400 feet. But Herschel's calculations were in their turn
corrected by the observations of Halley, Nasmyth, Bianchini,
Gruithuysen, and others; but it was reserved for the labors of
Boeer and Maedler finally to solve the question. They succeeded
in measuring 1,905 different elevations, of which six exceed
15,000 feet, and twenty-two exceed 14,400 feet. The highest
summit of all towers to a height of 22,606 feet above the surface
of the lunar disc. At the same period the examination of the moon
was completed. She appeared completely riddled with craters, and
her essentially volcanic character was apparent at each observation.
By the absence of refraction in the rays of the planets occulted
by her we conclude that she is absolutely devoid of an atmosphere.
The absence of air entails the absence of water. It became,
therefore, manifest that the Selenites, to support life under
such conditions, must possess a special organization of their
own, must differ remarkably from the inhabitants of the earth.
At length, thanks to modern art, instruments of still higher
perfection searched the moon without intermission, not leaving
a single point of her surface unexplored; and notwithstanding
that her diameter measures 2,150 miles, her surface equals the
one-fifteenth part of that of our globe, and her bulk the
one-forty-ninth part of that of the terrestrial spheroid— not
one of her secrets was able to escape the eyes of the
astronomers; and these skillful men of science carried to an
even greater degree their prodigious observations.
Thus they remarked that, during full moon, the disc appeared
scored in certain parts with white lines; and, during the
phases, with black. On prosecuting the study of these with
still greater precision, they succeeded in obtaining an exact
account of the nature of these lines. They were long and narrow
furrows sunk between parallel ridges, bordering generally upon
the edges of the craters. Their length varied between ten and 100
miles, and their width was about 1,600 yards. Astronomers called
them chasms, but they could not get any further. Whether these
chasms were the dried-up beds of ancient rivers or not they were
unable thoroughly to ascertain.
The Americans, among others, hoped one day or other to
determine this geological question. They also undertook to
examine the true nature of that system of parallel ramparts
discovered on the moon's surface by Gruithuysen, a learned
professor of Munich, who considered them to be "a system of
fortifications thrown up by the Selenitic engineers." These two
points, yet obscure, as well as others, no doubt, could not be
definitely settled except by direct communication with the moon.
Regarding the degree of intensity of its light, there was
nothing more to learn on this point. It was known that it is
300,000 times weaker than that of the sun, and that its heat has
no appreciable effect upon the thermometer. As to the
phenomenon known as the "ashy light," it is explained naturally
by the effect of the transmission of the solar rays from the
earth to the moon, which give the appearance of completeness to
the lunar disc, while it presents itself under the crescent form
during its first and last phases.
Such was the state of knowledge acquired regarding the earth's
satellite, which the Gun Club undertook to perfect in all its
aspects, cosmographic, geological, political, and moral.
PERMISSIVE LIMITS OF IGNORANCE AND BELIEF IN THE UNITED STATES
The immediate result of Barbicane's proposition was to place upon
the orders of the day all the astronomical facts relative to the
Queen of the Night. Everybody set to work to study assiduously.
One would have thought that the moon had just appeared for the
first time, and that no one had ever before caught a glimpse of
her in the heavens. The papers revived all the old anecdotes in
which the "sun of the wolves" played a part; they recalled the
influences which the ignorance of past ages ascribed to her; in
short, all America was seized with selenomania, or had become moon-mad.
The scientific journals, for their part, dealt more especially with
the questions which touched upon the enterprise of the Gun Club.
The letter of the Observatory of Cambridge was published by them,
and commented upon with unreserved approval.
Until that time most people had been ignorant of the mode in which
the distance which separates the moon from the earth is calculated.
They took advantage of this fact to explain to them that this
distance was obtained by measuring the parallax of the moon.
The term parallax proving "caviare to the general," they further
explained that it meant the angle formed by the inclination of two
straight lines drawn from either extremity of the earth's radius
to the moon. On doubts being expressed as to the correctness of
this method, they immediately proved that not only was the mean
distance 234,347 miles, but that astronomers could not possibly
be in error in their estimate by more than seventy miles either way.
To those who were not familiar with the motions of the moon,
they demonstrated that she possesses two distinct motions, the
first being that of rotation upon her axis, the second being
that of revolution round the earth, accomplishing both together
in an equal period of time, that is to say, in twenty-seven and
The motion of rotation is that which produces day and night on
the surface of the moon; save that there is only one day and one
night in the lunar month, each lasting three hundred and
fifty-four and one-third hours. But, happily for her, the face
turned toward the terrestrial globe is illuminated by it with an
intensity equal to that of fourteen moons. As to the other
face, always invisible to us, it has of necessity three hundred
and fifty-four hours of absolute night, tempered only by that
"pale glimmer which falls upon it from the stars."
Some well-intentioned, but rather obstinate persons, could not
at first comprehend how, if the moon displays invariably the
same face to the earth during her revolution, she can describe
one turn round herself. To such they answered, "Go into your
dining-room, and walk round the table in such a way as to always
keep your face turned toward the center; by the time you will
have achieved one complete round you will have completed one
turn around yourself, since your eye will have traversed
successively every point of the room. Well, then, the room is
the heavens, the table is the earth, and the moon is yourself."
And they would go away delighted.
So, then the moon displays invariably the same face to the
earth; nevertheless, to be quite exact, it is necessary to add
that, in consequence of certain fluctuations of north and south,
and of west and east, termed her libration, she permits rather
more than half, that is to say, five-sevenths, to be seen.
As soon as the ignoramuses came to understand as much as the
director of the observatory himself knew, they began to worry
themselves regarding her revolution round the earth, whereupon
twenty scientific reviews immediately came to the rescue.
They pointed out to them that the firmament, with its infinitude
of stars, may be considered as one vast dial-plate, upon which the
moon travels, indicating the true time to all the inhabitants of
the earth; that it is during this movement that the Queen of
Night exhibits her different phases; that the moon is full
when she is in opposition with the sun, that is when the three
bodies are on the same straight line, the earth occupying the
center; that she is new when she is in conjunction with the
sun, that is, when she is between it and the earth; and, lastly
that she is in her first or last quarter, when she makes
with the sun and the earth an angle of which she herself occupies
Regarding the altitude which the moon attains above the horizon,
the letter of the Cambridge Observatory had said all that was to
be said in this respect. Every one knew that this altitude
varies according to the latitude of the observer. But the only
zones of the globe in which the moon passes the zenith, that is,
the point directly over the head of the spectator, are of
necessity comprised between the twenty-eighth parallels and
the equator. Hence the importance of the advice to try the
experiment upon some point of that part of the globe, in order
that the projectile might be discharged perpendicularly, and so
the soonest escape the action of gravitation. This was an
essential condition to the success of the enterprise, and
continued actively to engage the public attention.
Regarding the path described by the moon in her revolution round
the earth, the Cambridge Observatory had demonstrated that this
path is a re-entering curve, not a perfect circle, but an
ellipse, of which the earth occupies one of the foci. It was
also well understood that it is farthest removed from the earth
during its apogee, and approaches most nearly to it at its perigee.
Such was then the extent of knowledge possessed by every
American on the subject, and of which no one could decently
profess ignorance. Still, while these principles were being
rapidly disseminated many errors and illusory fears proved less
easy to eradicate.
For instance, some worthy persons maintained that the moon was
an ancient comet which, in describing its elongated orbit round
the sun, happened to pass near the earth, and became confined
within her circle of attraction. These drawing-room astronomers
professed to explain the charred aspect of the moon— a disaster
which they attributed to the intensity of the solar heat; only,
on being reminded that comets have an atmosphere, and that the
moon has little or none, they were fairly at a loss for a reply.
Others again, belonging to the doubting class, expressed certain
fears as to the position of the moon. They had heard it said
that, according to observations made in the time of the Caliphs,
her revolution had become accelerated in a certain degree.
Hence they concluded, logically enough, that an acceleration of
motion ought to be accompanied by a corresponding diminution in
the distance separating the two bodies; and that, supposing the
double effect to be continued to infinity, the moon would end by
one day falling into the earth. However, they became reassured
as to the fate of future generations on being apprised that,
according to the calculations of Laplace, this acceleration of
motion is confined within very restricted limits, and that a
proportional diminution of speed will be certain to succeed it.
So, then, the stability of the solar system would not be deranged
in ages to come.
There remains but the third class, the superstitious.
These worthies were not content merely to rest in ignorance;
they must know all about things which had no existence whatever,
and as to the moon, they had long known all about her. One set
regarded her disc as a polished mirror, by means of which people
could see each other from different points of the earth and
interchange their thoughts. Another set pretended that out of
one thousand new moons that had been observed, nine hundred and
fifty had been attended with remarkable disturbances, such as
cataclysms, revolutions, earthquakes, the deluge, etc. Then they
believed in some mysterious influence exercised by her over human
destinies— that every Selenite was attached to some inhabitant
of the earth by a tie of sympathy; they maintained that the
entire vital system is subject to her control, etc. But in time
the majority renounced these vulgar errors, and espoused the true
side of the question. As for the Yankees, they had no other
ambition than to take possession of this new continent of the sky,
and to plant upon the summit of its highest elevation the star-
spangled banner of the United States of America.
THE HYMN OF THE CANNON-BALL
The Observatory of Cambridge in its memorable letter had treated the
question from a purely astronomical point of view. The mechanical
part still remained.
President Barbicane had, without loss of time, nominated a
working committee of the Gun Club. The duty of this committee
was to resolve the three grand questions of the cannon, the
projectile, and the powder. It was composed of four members of
great technical knowledge, Barbicane (with a casting vote in
case of equality), General Morgan, Major Elphinstone, and J. T.
Maston, to whom were confided the functions of secretary. On the
8th of October the committee met at the house of President
Barbicane, 3 Republican Street. The meeting was opened by the
"Gentlemen," said he, "we have to resolve one of the most
important problems in the whole of the noble science of gunnery.
It might appear, perhaps, the most logical course to devote our
first meeting to the discussion of the engine to be employed.
Nevertheless, after mature consideration, it has appeared to me
that the question of the projectile must take precedence of that
of the cannon, and that the dimensions of the latter must
necessarily depend on those of the former."
"Suffer me to say a word," here broke in J. T. Maston.
Permission having been granted, "Gentlemen," said he with an
inspired accent, "our president is right in placing the question
of the projectile above all others. The ball we are about to
discharge at the moon is our ambassador to her, and I wish to
consider it from a moral point of view. The cannon-ball,
gentlemen, to my mind, is the most magnificent manifestation of
human power. If Providence has created the stars and the planets,
man has called the cannon-ball into existence. Let Providence
claim the swiftness of electricity and of light, of the stars,
the comets, and the planets, of wind and sound— we claim to
have invented the swiftness of the cannon-ball, a hundred times
superior to that of the swiftest horses or railway train.
How glorious will be the moment when, infinitely exceeding all
hitherto attained velocities, we shall launch our new projectile
with the rapidity of seven miles a second! Shall it not,
gentlemen— shall it not be received up there with the honors
due to a terrestrial ambassador?"
Overcome with emotion the orator sat down and applied himself to
a huge plate of sandwiches before him.
"And now," said Barbicane, "let us quit the domain of poetry and
come direct to the question."
"By all means," replied the members, each with his mouth full
"The problem before us," continued the president, "is how to
communicate to a projectile a velocity of 12,000 yards per second.
Let us at present examine the velocities hitherto attained.
General Morgan will be able to enlighten us on this point."
"And the more easily," replied the general, "that during the war
I was a member of the committee of experiments. I may say,
then, that the 100-pounder Dahlgrens, which carried a distance
of 5,000 yards, impressed upon their projectile an initial
velocity of 500 yards a second. The Rodman Columbiad threw a
shot weighing half a ton a distance of six miles, with a
velocity of 800 yards per second— a result which Armstrong and
Palisser have never obtained in England."
"This," replied Barbicane, "is, I believe, the maximum velocity
"It is so," replied the general.
"Ah!" groaned J. T. Maston, "if my mortar had not burst——"
"Yes," quietly replied Barbicane, "but it did burst. We must
take, then, for our starting point, this velocity of 800 yards.
We must increase it twenty-fold. Now, reserving for another
discussion the means of producing this velocity, I will call
your attention to the dimensions which it will be proper to
assign to the shot. You understand that we have nothing to do
here with projectiles weighing at most but half a ton."
"Why not?" demanded the major.
"Because the shot," quickly replied J. T. Maston, "must be big
enough to attract the attention of the inhabitants of the moon,
if there are any?"
"Yes," replied Barbicane, "and for another reason more important still."
"What mean you?" asked the major.
"I mean that it is not enough to discharge a projectile, and
then take no further notice of it; we must follow it throughout
its course, up to the moment when it shall reach its goal."
"What?" shouted the general and the major in great surprise.
"Undoubtedly," replied Barbicane composedly, "or our experiment
would produce no result."
"But then," replied the major, "you will have to give this
projectile enormous dimensions."
"No! Be so good as to listen. You know that optical
instruments have acquired great perfection; with certain
instruments we have succeeded in obtaining enlargements of 6,000
times and reducing the moon to within forty miles' distance.
Now, at this distance, any objects sixty feet square would be
"If, then, the penetrative power of telescopes has not been
further increased, it is because that power detracts from their
light; and the moon, which is but a reflecting mirror, does not
give back sufficient light to enable us to perceive objects of
"Well, then, what do you propose to do?" asked the general.
"Would you give your projectile a diameter of sixty feet?"
"Do you intend, then, to increase the luminous power of the moon?"
"Exactly so. If I can succeed in diminishing the density of the
atmosphere through which the moon's light has to travel I shall
have rendered her light more intense. To effect that object it
will be enough to establish a telescope on some elevated mountain.
That is what we will do."
"I give it up," answered the major. "You have such a way of
simplifying things. And what enlargement do you expect to
obtain in this way?"
"One of 48,000 times, which should bring the moon within an
apparent distance of five miles; and, in order to be visible,
objects need not have a diameter of more than nine feet."
"So, then," cried J. T. Maston, "our projectile need not be more
than nine feet in diameter."
"Let me observe, however," interrupted Major Elphinstone, "this
will involve a weight such as——"
"My dear major," replied Barbicane, "before discussing its
weight permit me to enumerate some of the marvels which our
ancestors have achieved in this respect. I don't mean to
pretend that the science of gunnery has not advanced, but it
is as well to bear in mind that during the middle ages they
obtained results more surprising, I will venture to say, than ours.
For instance, during the siege of Constantinople by Mahomet II.,
in 1453, stone shot of 1,900 pounds weight were employed. At Malta,
in the time of the knights, there was a gun of the fortress of St.
Elmo which threw a projectile weighing 2,500 pounds. And, now,
what is the extent of what we have seen ourselves? Armstrong guns
discharging shot of 500 pounds, and the Rodman guns projectiles
of half a ton! It seems, then, that if projectiles have gained
in range, they have lost far more in weight. Now, if we turn our
efforts in that direction, we ought to arrive, with the progress
on science, at ten times the weight of the shot of Mahomet II.
and the Knights of Malta."
"Clearly," replied the major; "but what metal do you calculate
"Simply cast iron," said General Morgan.
"But," interrupted the major, "since the weight of a shot is
proportionate to its volume, an iron ball of nine feet in
diameter would be of tremendous weight."
"Yes, if it were solid, not if it were hollow."
"Hollow? then it would be a shell?"
"Yes, a shell," replied Barbicane; "decidely it must be. A solid
shot of 108 inches would weigh more than 200,000 pounds, a weight
evidently far too great. Still, as we must reserve a certain
stability for our projectile, I propose to give it a weight of
"What, then, will be the thickness of the sides?" asked the major.
"If we follow the usual proportion," replied Morgan, "a diameter
of 108 inches would require sides of two feet thickness, or less."
"That would be too much," replied Barbicane; "for you will
observe that the question is not that of a shot intended to
pierce an iron plate; it will suffice to give it sides strong
enough to resist the pressure of the gas. The problem,
therefore, is this— What thickness ought a cast-iron shell to
have in order not to weight more than 20,000 pounds? Our clever
secretary will soon enlighten us upon this point."
"Nothing easier." replied the worthy secretary of the committee;
and, rapidly tracing a few algebraical formulae upon paper,
among which n^2 and x^2 frequently appeared, he presently said:
"The sides will require a thickness of less than two inches."
"Will that be enough?" asked the major doubtfully.
"Clearly not!" replied the president.
"What is to be done, then?" said Elphinstone, with a puzzled air.
"Employ another metal instead of iron."
"Copper?" said Morgan.
"No! that would be too heavy. I have better than that to offer."
"What then?" asked the major.
"Aluminum!" replied Barbicane.
"Aluminum?" cried his three colleagues in chorus.
"Unquestionably, my friends. This valuable metal possesses the
whiteness of silver, the indestructibility of gold, the tenacity
of iron, the fusibility of copper, the lightness of glass. It is
easily wrought, is very widely distributed, forming the base of
most of the rocks, is three times lighter than iron, and seems to
have been created for the express purpose of furnishing us with
the material for our projectile."
"But, my dear president," said the major, "is not the cost price
of aluminum extremely high?"
"It was so at its first discovery, but it has fallen now to nine
dollars a pound."
"But still, nine dollars a pound!" replied the major, who was
not willing readily to give in; "even that is an enormous price."
"Undoubtedly, my dear major; but not beyond our reach."
"What will the projectile weigh then?" asked Morgan.
"Here is the result of my calculations," replied Barbicane.
"A shot of 108 inches in diameter, and twelve inches in
thickness, would weigh, in cast-iron, 67,440 pounds; cast in
aluminum, its weight will be reduced to 19,250 pounds."
"Capital!" cried the major; "but do you know that, at nine
dollars a pound, this projectile will cost——"
"One hundred and seventy-three thousand and fifty dollars ($173,050).
I know it quite well. But fear not, my friends; the money will not
be wanting for our enterprise. I will answer for it. Now what say
you to aluminum, gentlemen?"
"Adopted!" replied the three members of the committee. So ended
the first meeting. The question of the projectile was
HISTORY OF THE CANNON
The resolutions passed at the last meeting produced a great
effect out of doors. Timid people took fright at the idea of
a shot weighing 20,000 pounds being launched into space; they
asked what cannon could ever transmit a sufficient velocity to
such a mighty mass. The minutes of the second meeting were
destined triumphantly to answer such questions. The following
evening the discussion was renewed.
"My dear colleagues," said Barbicane, without further preamble,
"the subject now before us is the construction of the engine,
its length, its composition, and its weight. It is probable
that we shall end by giving it gigantic dimensions; but however
great may be the difficulties in the way, our mechanical genius
will readily surmount them. Be good enough, then, to give me
your attention, and do not hesitate to make objections at the close.
I have no fear of them. The problem before us is how to communicate
an initial force of 12,000 yards per second to a shell of 108
inches in diameter, weighing 20,000 pounds. Now when a projectile
is launched into space, what happens to it? It is acted upon by
three independent forces: the resistance of the air, the attraction
of the earth, and the force of impulsion with which it is endowed.
Let us examine these three forces. The resistance of the air is of
little importance. The atmosphere of the earth does not exceed
forty miles. Now, with the given rapidity, the projectile will
have traversed this in five seconds, and the period is too brief
for the resistance of the medium to be regarded otherwise than
as insignificant. Proceding, then, to the attraction of the earth,
that is, the weight of the shell, we know that this weight will
diminish in the inverse ratio of the square of the distance.
When a body left to itself falls to the surface of the earth, it
falls five feet in the first second; and if the same body were
removed 257,542 miles further off, in other words, to the distance
of the moon, its fall would be reduced to about half a line in the
first second. That is almost equivalent to a state of perfect rest.
Our business, then, is to overcome progressively this action
of gravitation. The mode of accomplishing that is by the force
"There's the difficulty," broke in the major.
"True," replied the president; "but we will overcome that, for
the force of impulsion will depend on the length of the engine
and the powder employed, the latter being limited only by the
resisting power of the former. Our business, then, to-day is
with the dimensions of the cannon."
"Now, up to the present time," said Barbicane, "our longest guns
have not exceeded twenty-five feet in length. We shall
therefore astonish the world by the dimensions we shall be
obliged to adopt. It must evidently be, then, a gun of great
range, since the length of the piece will increase the detention
of the gas accumulated behind the projectile; but there is no
advantage in passing certain limits."
"Quite so," said the major. "What is the rule in such a case?"
"Ordinarily the length of a gun is twenty to twenty-five times
the diameter of the shot, and its weight two hundred and
thirty-five to two hundred and forty times that of the shot."
"That is not enough," cried J. T. Maston impetuously.
"I agree with you, my good friend; and, in fact, following this
proportion for a projectile nine feet in diameter, weighing 30,000
pounds, the gun would only have a length of two hundred and twenty-
five feet, and a weight of 7,200,000 pounds."
"Ridiculous!" rejoined Maston. "As well take a pistol."
"I think so too," replied Barbicane; "that is why I propose to
quadruple that length, and to construct a gun of nine hundred feet."
The general and the major offered some objections; nevertheless,
the proposition, actively supported by the secretary, was
"But," said Elphinstone, "what thickness must we give it?"
"A thickness of six feet," replied Barbicane.
"You surely don't think of mounting a mass like that upon a
carriage?" asked the major.
"It would be a superb idea, though," said Maston.
"But impracticable," replied Barbicane. "No, I think of sinking
this engine in the earth alone, binding it with hoops of wrought
iron, and finally surrounding it with a thick mass of masonry of
stone and cement. The piece once cast, it must be bored with
great precision, so as to preclude any possible windage. So there
will be no loss whatever of gas, and all the expansive force of
the powder will be employed in the propulsion."
"One simple question," said Elphinstone: "is our gun to be rifled?"
"No, certainly not," replied Barbicane; "we require an enormous
initial velocity; and you are well aware that a shot quits a
rifled gun less rapidly than it does a smooth-bore."
"True," rejoined the major.
The committee here adjourned for a few minutes to tea and sandwiches.
On the discussion being renewed, "Gentlemen," said Barbicane,
"we must now take into consideration the metal to be employed.
Our cannon must be possessed of great tenacity, great hardness,
be infusible by heat, indissoluble, and inoxidable by the
corrosive action of acids."
"There is no doubt about that," replied the major; "and as we
shall have to employ an immense quantity of metal, we shall not
be at a loss for choice."
"Well, then," said Morgan, "I propose the best alloy hitherto
known, which consists of one hundred parts of copper, twelve of
tin, and six of brass."
"I admit," replied the president, "that this composition has
yielded excellent results, but in the present case it would be
too expensive, and very difficult to work. I think, then, that
we ought to adopt a material excellent in its way and of low
price, such as cast iron. What is your advice, major?"
"I quite agree with you," replied Elphinstone.
"In fact," continued Barbicane, "cast iron costs ten times less
than bronze; it is easy to cast, it runs readily from the moulds
of sand, it is easy of manipulation, it is at once economical of
money and of time. In addition, it is excellent as a material,
and I well remember that during the war, at the siege of
Atlanta, some iron guns fired one thousand rounds at intervals
of twenty minutes without injury."
"Cast iron is very brittle, though," replied Morgan.
"Yes, but it possesses great resistance. I will now ask our
worthy secretary to calculate the weight of a cast-iron gun with
a bore of nine feet and a thickness of six feet of metal."
"In a moment," replied Maston. Then, dashing off some
algebraical formulae with marvelous facility, in a minute or two
he declared the following result:
"The cannon will weigh 68,040 tons. And, at two cents a pound,
it will cost——"
"Two million five hundred and ten thousand seven hundred and
Maston, the major, and the general regarded Barbicane with
"Well, gentlemen," replied the president, "I repeat what I
said yesterday. Make yourselves easy; the millions will not
With this assurance of their president the committee separated,
after having fixed their third meeting for the following evening.
THE QUESTION OF THE POWDERS
There remained for consideration merely the question of powders.
The public awaited with interest its final decision. The size
of the projectile, the length of the cannon being settled, what
would be the quantity of powder necessary to produce impulsion?
It is generally asserted that gunpowder was invented in the
fourteenth century by the monk Schwartz, who paid for his grand
discovery with his life. It is, however, pretty well proved
that this story ought to be ranked among the legends of the
middle ages. Gunpowder was not invented by any one; it was the
lineal successor of the Greek fire, which, like itself, was
composed of sulfur and saltpeter. Few persons are acquainted
with the mechanical power of gunpowder. Now this is precisely
what is necessary to be understood in order to comprehend the
importance of the question submitted to the committee.
A litre of gunpowder weighs about two pounds; during combustion
it produces 400 litres of gas. This gas, on being liberated and
acted upon by temperature raised to 2,400 degrees, occupies a
space of 4,000 litres: consequently the volume of powder is to
the volume of gas produced by its combustion as 1 to 4,000.
One may judge, therefore, of the tremendous pressure on this
gas when compressed within a space 4,000 times too confined.
All this was, of course, well known to the members of the committee
when they met on the following evening.
The first speaker on this occasion was Major Elphinstone, who
had been the director of the gunpowder factories during the war.
"Gentlemen," said this distinguished chemist, "I begin with
some figures which will serve as the basis of our calculation.
The old 24-pounder shot required for its discharge sixteen pounds
"You are certain of this amount?" broke in Barbicane.
"Quite certain," replied the major. "The Armstrong cannon
employs only seventy-five pounds of powder for a projectile
of eight hundred pounds, and the Rodman Columbiad uses only one
hundred and sixty pounds of powder to send its half ton shot a
distance of six miles. These facts cannot be called in question,
for I myself raised the point during the depositions taken before
the committee of artillery."
"Quite true," said the general.
"Well," replied the major, "these figures go to prove that the
quantity of powder is not increased with the weight of the shot;
that is to say, if a 24-pounder shot requires sixteen pounds of
powder;— in other words, if in ordinary guns we employ a
quantity of powder equal to two-thirds of the weight of the
projectile, this proportion is not constant. Calculate, and you
will see that in place of three hundred and thirty-three pounds
of powder, the quantity is reduced to no more than one hundred
and sixty pounds."
"What are you aiming at?" asked the president.
"If you push your theory to extremes, my dear major," said J. T.
Maston, "you will get to this, that as soon as your shot becomes
sufficiently heavy you will not require any powder at all."
"Our friend Maston is always at his jokes, even in serious
matters," cried the major; "but let him make his mind easy, I am
going presently to propose gunpowder enough to satisfy his
artillerist's propensities. I only keep to statistical facts
when I say that, during the war, and for the very largest guns,
the weight of the powder was reduced, as the result of
experience, to a tenth part of the weight of the shot."
"Perfectly correct," said Morgan; "but before deciding the
quantity of powder necessary to give the impulse, I think it
would be as well——"
"We shall have to employ a large-grained powder," continued the
major; "its combustion is more rapid than that of the small."
"No doubt about that," replied Morgan; "but it is very
destructive, and ends by enlarging the bore of the pieces."
"Granted; but that which is injurious to a gun destined to
perform long service is not so to our Columbiad. We shall
run no danger of an explosion; and it is necessary that our
powder should take fire instantaneously in order that its
mechanical effect may be complete."
"We must have," said Maston, "several touch-holes, so as to fire
it at different points at the same time."
"Certainly," replied Elphinstone; "but that will render the
working of the piece more difficult. I return then to my
large-grained powder, which removes those difficulties.
In his Columbiad charges Rodman employed a powder as large
as chestnuts, made of willow charcoal, simply dried in cast-
iron pans. This powder was hard and glittering, left no trace
upon the hand, contained hydrogen and oxygen in large proportion,
took fire instantaneously, and, though very destructive, did not
sensibly injure the mouth-piece."
Up to this point Barbicane had kept aloof from the discussion;
he left the others to speak while he himself listened; he had
evidently got an idea. He now simply said, "Well, my friends,
what quantity of powder do you propose?"
The three members looked at one another.
"Two hundred thousand pounds." at last said Morgan.
"Five hundred thousand," added the major.
"Eight hundred thousand," screamed Maston.
A moment of silence followed this triple proposal; it was at
last broken by the president.
"Gentlemen," he quietly said, "I start from this principle, that
the resistance of a gun, constructed under the given conditions,
is unlimited. I shall surprise our friend Maston, then, by
stigmatizing his calculations as timid; and I propose to double
his 800,000 pounds of powder."
"Sixteen hundred thousand pounds?" shouted Maston, leaping from
"We shall have to come then to my ideal of a cannon half a mile
long; for you see 1,600,000 pounds will occupy a space of about
20,000 cubic feet; and since the contents of your cannon do not
exceed 54,000 cubic feet, it would be half full; and the bore
will not be more than long enough for the gas to communicate to
the projectile sufficient impulse."
"Nevertheless," said the president, "I hold to that quantity
of powder. Now, 1,600,000 pounds of powder will create
6,000,000,000 litres of gas. Six thousand millions!
You quite understand?"
"What is to be done then?" said the general.
"The thing is very simple; we must reduce this enormous quantity
of powder, while preserving to it its mechanical power."
"Good; but by what means?"
"I am going to tell you," replied Barbicane quietly.
"Nothing is more easy than to reduce this mass to one quarter of
its bulk. You know that curious cellular matter which
constitutes the elementary tissues of vegetable? This substance
is found quite pure in many bodies, especially in cotton, which
is nothing more than the down of the seeds of the cotton plant.
Now cotton, combined with cold nitric acid, become transformed
into a substance eminently insoluble, combustible, and explosive.
It was first discovered in 1832, by Braconnot, a French chemist,
who called it xyloidine. In 1838 another Frenchman, Pelouze,
investigated its different properties, and finally, in 1846,
Schonbein, professor of chemistry at Bale, proposed its employment
for purposes of war. This powder, now called pyroxyle, or
fulminating cotton, is prepared with great facility by simply
plunging cotton for fifteen minutes in nitric acid, then washing
it in water, then drying it, and it is ready for use."
"Nothing could be more simple," said Morgan.
"Moreover, pyroxyle is unaltered by moisture— a valuable
property to us, inasmuch as it would take several days to charge
the cannon. It ignites at 170 degrees in place of 240, and its
combustion is so rapid that one may set light to it on the top
of the ordinary powder, without the latter having time to ignite."
"Perfect!" exclaimed the major.
"Only it is more expensive."
"What matter?" cried J. T. Maston.
"Finally, it imparts to projectiles a velocity four times
superior to that of gunpowder. I will even add, that if we mix
it with one-eighth of its own weight of nitrate of potassium,
its expansive force is again considerably augmented."
"Will that be necessary?" asked the major.
"I think not," replied Barbicane. "So, then, in place of
1,600,000 pounds of powder, we shall have but 400,000 pounds of
fulminating cotton; and since we can, without danger, compress
500 pounds of cotton into twenty-seven cubic feet, the whole
quantity will not occupy a height of more than 180 feet within
the bore of the Columbiad. In this way the shot will have more
than 700 feet of bore to traverse under a force of 6,000,000,000
litres of gas before taking its flight toward the moon."
At this juncture J. T. Maston could not repress his emotion; he
flung himself into the arms of his friend with the violence of
a projectile, and Barbicane would have been stove in if he had
not been boom-proof.
This incident terminated the third meeting of the committee.
Barbicane and his bold colleagues, to whom nothing seemed
impossible, had succeeding in solving the complex problems of
projectile, cannon, and powder. Their plan was drawn up, and it
only remained to put it into execution.
"A mere matter of detail, a bagatelle," said J. T. Maston.
ONE ENEMY v. TWENTY-FIVE MILLIONS OF FRIENDS
The American public took a lively interest in the smallest
details of the enterprise of the Gun Club. It followed day by
day the discussion of the committee. The most simple
preparations for the great experiment, the questions of figures
which it involved, the mechanical difficulties to be resolved—
in one word, the entire plan of work— roused the popular
excitement to the highest pitch.
The purely scientific attraction was suddenly intensified by the
We have seen what legions of admirers and friends Barbicane's
project had rallied round its author. There was, however,
one single individual alone in all the States of the Union who
protested against the attempt of the Gun Club. He attacked it
furiously on every opportunity, and human nature is such that
Barbicane felt more keenly the opposition of that one man than
he did the applause of all the others. He was well aware of the
motive of this antipathy, the origin of this solitary enmity,
the cause of its personality and old standing, and in what
rivalry of self-love it had its rise.
This persevering enemy the president of the Gun Club had never seen.
Fortunate that it was so, for a meeting between the two men would
certainly have been attended with serious consequences. This rival
was a man of science, like Barbicane himself, of a fiery, daring,
and violent disposition; a pure Yankee. His name was Captain
Nicholl; he lived at Philadelphia.
Most people are aware of the curious struggle which arose during
the Federal war between the guns and armor of iron-plated ships.
The result was the entire reconstruction of the navy of both the
continents; as the one grew heavier, the other became thicker
in proportion. The Merrimac, the Monitor, the Tennessee, the
Weehawken discharged enormous projectiles themselves, after
having been armor-clad against the projectiles of others. In fact
they did to others that which they would not they should do to them—
that grand principle of immortality upon which rests the whole art
Now if Barbicane was a great founder of shot, Nicholl was a
great forger of plates; the one cast night and day at Baltimore,
the other forged day and night at Philadelphia. As soon as ever
Barbicane invented a new shot, Nicholl invented a new plate;
each followed a current of ideas essentially opposed to the other.
Happily for these citizens, so useful to their country, a distance
of from fifty to sixty miles separated them from one another, and
they had never yet met. Which of these two inventors had the
advantage over the other it was difficult to decide from the
results obtained. By last accounts, however, it would seem that
the armor-plate would in the end have to give way to the shot;
nevertheless, there were competent judges who had their doubts
on the point.
At the last experiment the cylindro-conical projectiles of
Barbicane stuck like so many pins in the Nicholl plates.
On that day the Philadelphia iron-forger then believed himself
victorious, and could not evince contempt enough for his rival;
but when the other afterward substituted for conical shot simple
600-pound shells, at very moderate velocity, the captain was
obliged to give in. In fact, these projectiles knocked his best
metal plate to shivers.
Matters were at this stage, and victory seemed to rest with the
shot, when the war came to an end on the very day when Nicholl
had completed a new armor-plate of wrought steel. It was a
masterpiece of its kind, and bid defiance to all the projectiles
of the world. The captain had it conveyed to the Polygon at
Washington, challenging the president of the Gun Club to break it.
Barbicane, peace having been declared, declined to try the experiment.
Nicholl, now furious, offered to expose his plate to the shock
of any shot, solid, hollow, round, or conical. Refused by the
president, who did not choose to compromise his last success.
Nicholl, disgusted by this obstinacy, tried to tempt Barbicane
by offering him every chance. He proposed to fix the plate
within two hundred yards of the gun. Barbicane still obstinate
in refusal. A hundred yards? Not even seventy-five!
"At fifty then!" roared the captain through the newspapers.
"At twenty-five yards! and I'll stand behind!"
Barbicane returned for answer that, even if Captain Nicholl
would be so good as to stand in front, he would not fire any more.
Nicholl could not contain himself at this reply; threw out hints
of cowardice; that a man who refused to fire a cannon-shot was
pretty near being afraid of it; that artillerists who fight at
six miles distance are substituting mathematical formulae for
To these insinuations Barbicane returned no answer; perhaps he
never heard of them, so absorbed was he in the calculations for
his great enterprise.
When his famous communication was made to the Gun Club, the
captain's wrath passed all bounds; with his intense jealousy was
mingled a feeling of absolute impotence. How was he to invent
anything to beat this 900-feet Columbiad? What armor-plate
could ever resist a projectile of 30,000 pounds weight?
Overwhelmed at first under this violent shock, he by and by
recovered himself, and resolved to crush the proposal by weight
of his arguments.
He then violently attacked the labors of the Gun Club, published
a number of letters in the newspapers, endeavored to prove Barbicane
ignorant of the first principles of gunnery. He maintained that
it was absolutely impossible to impress upon any body whatever
a velocity of 12,000 yards per second; that even with such a
velocity a projectile of such a weight could not transcend the
limits of the earth's atmosphere. Further still, even regarding
the velocity to be acquired, and granting it to be sufficient,
the shell could not resist the pressure of the gas developed by
the ignition of 1,600,000 pounds of powder; and supposing it to
resist that pressure, it would be less able to support that
temperature; it would melt on quitting the Columbiad, and fall
back in a red-hot shower upon the heads of the imprudent spectators.
Barbicane continued his work without regarding these attacks.
Nicholl then took up the question in its other aspects. Without
touching upon its uselessness in all points of view, he regarded
the experiment as fraught with extreme danger, both to the
citizens, who might sanction by their presence so reprehensible
a spectacle, and also to the towns in the neighborhood of this
deplorable cannon. He also observed that if the projectile did
not succeed in reaching its destination (a result absolutely
impossible), it must inevitably fall back upon the earth, and
that the shock of such a mass, multiplied by the square of its
velocity, would seriously endanger every point of the globe.
Under the circumstances, therefore, and without interfering with
the rights of free citizens, it was a case for the intervention
of Government, which ought not to endanger the safety of all for
the pleasure of one individual.
In spite of all his arguments, however, Captain Nicholl
remained alone in his opinion. Nobody listened to him, and he
did not succeed in alienating a single admirer from the
president of the Gun Club. The latter did not even take the
pains to refute the arguments of his rival.
Nicholl, driven into his last entrenchments, and not able to
fight personally in the cause, resolved to fight with money.
He published, therefore, in the Richmond Inquirer a series of
wagers, conceived in these terms, and on an increasing scale:
No. 1 ($1,000).— That the necessary funds for the experiment
of the Gun Club will not be forthcoming.
No. 2 ($2,000).— That the operation of casting a cannon of 900
feet is impracticable, and cannot possibly succeed.
No. 3 ($3,000).— That is it impossible to load the Columbiad,
and that the pyroxyle will take fire spontaneously under the
pressure of the projectile.
No. 4 ($4,000).— That the Columbiad will burst at the first fire.
No. 5 ($5,000).— That the shot will not travel farther than six miles,
and that it will fall back again a few seconds after its discharge.
It was an important sum, therefore, which the captain risked in
his invincible obstinacy. He had no less than $15,000 at stake.
Notwithstanding the importance of the challenge, on the 19th of
May he received a sealed packet containing the following
superbly laconic reply:
"BALTIMORE, October 19.
FLORIDA AND TEXAS
One question remained yet to be decided; it was necessary to
choose a favorable spot for the experiment. According to the
advice of the Observatory of Cambridge, the gun must be fired
perpendicularly to the plane of the horizon, that is to say,
toward the zenith. Now the moon does not traverse the zenith,
except in places situated between 0@ and 28@ of latitude. It
became, then, necessary to determine exactly that spot on the
globe where the immense Columbiad should be cast.
On the 20th of October, at a general meeting of the Gun Club,
Barbicane produced a magnificent map of the United States.
"Gentlemen," said he, in opening the discussion, "I presume that
we are all agreed that this experiment cannot and ought not to
be tried anywhere but within the limits of the soil of the Union.
Now, by good fortune, certain frontiers of the United States
extend downward as far as the 28th parallel of the north latitude.
If you will cast your eye over this map, you will see that we have at
our disposal the whole of the southern portion of Texas and Florida."
It was finally agreed, then, that the Columbiad must be cast on
the soil of either Texas or Florida. The result, however, of
this decision was to create a rivalry entirely without precedent
between the different towns of these two States.
The 28th parallel, on reaching the American coast, traverses the
peninsula of Florida, dividing it into two nearly equal portions.
Then, plunging into the Gulf of Mexico, it subtends the arc
formed by the coast of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana;
then skirting Texas, off which it cuts an angle, it continues
its course over Mexico, crosses the Sonora, Old California,
and loses itself in the Pacific Ocean. It was, therefore,
only those portions of Texas and Florida which were situated
below this parallel which came within the prescribed conditions
Florida, in its southern part, reckons no cities of importance;
it is simply studded with forts raised against the roving Indians.
One solitary town, Tampa Town, was able to put in a claim in favor
of its situation.
In Texas, on the contrary, the towns are much more numerous
and important. Corpus Christi, in the county of Nueces, and all
the cities situated on the Rio Bravo, Laredo, Comalites, San
Ignacio on the Web, Rio Grande City on the Starr, Edinburgh in
the Hidalgo, Santa Rita, Elpanda, Brownsville in the Cameron,
formed an imposing league against the pretensions of Florida.
So, scarcely was the decision known, when the Texan and Floridan
deputies arrived at Baltimore in an incredibly short space of time.
From that very moment President Barbicane and the influential
members of the Gun Club were besieged day and night by
formidable claims. If seven cities of Greece contended for
the honor of having given birth to a Homer, here were two entire
States threatening to come to blows about the question of a cannon.
The rival parties promenaded the streets with arms in their hands;
and at every occasion of their meeting a collision was to be
apprehended which might have been attended with disastrous results.
Happily the prudence and address of President Barbicane averted
the danger. These personal demonstrations found a division in
the newspapers of the different States. The New York Herald and
the Tribune supported Texas, while the Times and the American
Review espoused the cause of the Floridan deputies. The members
of the Gun Club could not decide to which to give the preference.
Texas produced its array of twenty-six counties; Florida replied
that twelve counties were better than twenty-six in a country
only one-sixth part of the size.
Texas plumed itself upon its 330,000 natives; Florida, with a
far smaller territory, boasted of being much more densely
populated with 56,000.
The Texans, through the columns of the Herald claimed that
some regard should be had to a State which grew the best cotton
in all America, produced the best green oak for the service of
the navy, and contained the finest oil, besides iron mines, in
which the yield was fifty per cent. of pure metal.
To this the American Review replied that the soil of Florida,
although not equally rich, afforded the best conditions for the
moulding and casting of the Columbiad, consisting as it did of
sand and argillaceous earth.
"That may be all very well," replied the Texans; "but you must
first get to this country. Now the communications with Florida
are difficult, while the coast of Texas offers the bay of
Galveston, which possesses a circumference of fourteen leagues,
and is capable of containing the navies of the entire world!"
"A pretty notion truly," replied the papers in the interest of
Florida, "that of Galveston bay below the 29th parallel!
Have we not got the bay of Espiritu Santo, opening precisely upon
the 28th degree, and by which ships can reach Tampa Town by
"A fine bay; half choked with sand!"
"Choked yourselves!" returned the others.
Thus the war went on for several days, when Florida endeavored
to draw her adversary away on to fresh ground; and one morning
the Times hinted that, the enterprise being essentially
American, it ought not to be attempted upon other than purely
To these words Texas retorted, "American! are we not as much so
as you? Were not Texas and Florida both incorporated into the
Union in 1845?"
"Undoubtedly," replied the Times; "but we have belonged to the
Americans ever since 1820."
"Yes!" returned the Tribune; "after having been Spaniards or
English for two hundred years, you were sold to the United
States for five million dollars!"
"Well! and why need we blush for that? Was not Louisiana bought
from Napoleon in 1803 at the price of sixteen million dollars?"
"Scandalous!" roared the Texas deputies. "A wretched little
strip of country like Florida to dare to compare itself to
Texas, who, in place of selling herself, asserted her own
independence, drove out the Mexicans in March 2, 1846, and
declared herself a federal republic after the victory gained by
Samuel Houston, on the banks of the San Jacinto, over the troops
of Santa Anna!— a country, in fine, which voluntarily annexed
itself to the United States of America!"
"Yes; because it was afraid of the Mexicans!" replied Florida.
"Afraid!" From this moment the state of things became intolerable.
A sanguinary encounter seemed daily imminent between the two
parties in the streets of Baltimore. It became necessary to keep
an eye upon the deputies.
President Barbicane knew not which way to look. Notes, documents,
letters full of menaces showered down upon his house. Which side
ought he to take? As regarded the appropriation of the soil, the
facility of communication, the rapidity of transport, the claims
of both States were evenly balanced. As for political prepossessions,
they had nothing to do with the question.
This dead block had existed for some little time, when Barbicane
resolved to get rid of it all at once. He called a meeting of
his colleagues, and laid before them a proposition which, it will
be seen, was profoundly sagacious.
"On carefully considering," he said, "what is going on now
between Florida and Texas, it is clear that the same
difficulties will recur with all the towns of the favored State.
The rivalry will descend from State to city, and so on downward.
Now Texas possesses eleven towns within the prescribed
conditions, which will further dispute the honor and create us
new enemies, while Florida has only one. I go in, therefore,
for Florida and Tampa Town."
This decision, on being made known, utterly crushed the
Texan deputies. Seized with an indescribable fury, they
addressed threatening letters to the different members of the
Gun Club by name. The magistrates had but one course to take,
and they took it. They chartered a special train, forced the
Texans into it whether they would or no; and they quitted the
city with a speed of thirty miles an hour.
Quickly, however, as they were despatched, they found time to
hurl one last and bitter sarcasm at their adversaries.
Alluding to the extent of Florida, a mere peninsula confined
between two seas, they pretended that it could never sustain
the shock of the discharge, and that it would "bust up" at the
very first shot.
"Very well, let it bust up!" replied the Floridans, with a
brevity of the days of ancient Sparta.
URBI ET ORBI
The astronomical, mechanical, and topographical difficulties
resolved, finally came the question of finance. The sum
required was far too great for any individual, or even any
single State, to provide the requisite millions.
President Barbicane undertook, despite of the matter being a
purely American affair, to render it one of universal interest,
and to request the financial co-operation of all peoples.
It was, he maintained, the right and duty of the whole earth
to interfere in the affairs of its satellite. The subscription
opened at Baltimore extended properly to the whole world— Urbi
This subscription was successful beyond all expectation;
notwithstanding that it was a question not of lending but of
giving the money. It was a purely disinterested operation in
the strictest sense of the term, and offered not the slightest
chance of profit.
The effect, however, of Barbicane's communication was not
confined to the frontiers of the United States; it crossed
the Atlantic and Pacific, invading simultaneously Asia and
Europe, Africa and Oceanica. The observatories of the Union
placed themselves in immediate communication with those of
foreign countries. Some, such as those of Paris, Petersburg,
Berlin, Stockholm, Hamburg, Malta, Lisbon, Benares, Madras,
and others, transmitted their good wishes; the rest maintained
a prudent silence, quietly awaiting the result. As for the
observatory at Greenwich, seconded as it was by the twenty-
two astronomical establishments of Great Britain, it spoke
plainly enough. It boldly denied the possibility of success,
and pronounced in favor of the theories of Captain Nicholl.
But this was nothing more than mere English jealousy.
On the 8th of October President Barbicane published a manifesto
full of enthusiasm, in which he made an appeal to "all persons
of good will upon the face of the earth." This document,
translated into all languages, met with immense success.
Subscription lists were opened in all the principal cities of
the Union, with a central office at the Baltimore Bank, 9
In addition, subscriptions were received at the following banks
in the different states of the two continents:
At Vienna, with S. M. de Rothschild.
At Petersburg, Stieglitz and Co.
At Paris, The Credit Mobilier.
At Stockholm, Tottie and Arfuredson.
At London, N. M. Rothschild and Son.
At Turin, Ardouin and Co.
At Berlin, Mendelssohn.
At Geneva, Lombard, Odier and Co.
At Constantinople, The Ottoman Bank.
At Brussels, J. Lambert.
At Madrid, Daniel Weisweller.
At Amsterdam, Netherlands Credit Co.
At Rome, Torlonia and Co.
At Lisbon, Lecesne.
At Copenhagen, Private Bank.
At Rio de Janeiro, Private Bank.
At Montevideo, Private Bank.
At Valparaiso and Lima, Thomas la Chambre and Co.
At Mexico, Martin Daran and Co.
Three days after the manifesto of President Barbicane $4,000,000
were paid into the different towns of the Union. With such a
balance the Gun Club might begin operations at once. But some
days later advices were received to the effect that foreign
subscriptions were being eagerly taken up. Certain countries
distinguished themselves by their liberality; others untied
their purse-strings with less facility—a matter of temperament.
Figures are, however, more eloquent than words, and here is the
official statement of the sums which were paid in to the credit
of the Gun Club at the close of the subscription.
Russia paid in as her contingent the enormous sum of 368,733 roubles.
No one need be surprised at this, who bears in mind the scientific
taste of the Russians, and the impetus which they have given to
astronomical studies—thanks to their numerous observatories.
France began by deriding the pretensions of the Americans.
The moon served as a pretext for a thousand stale puns and
a score of ballads, in which bad taste contested the palm
with ignorance. But as formerly the French paid before singing,
so now they paid after having had their laugh, and they subscribed
for a sum of 1,253,930 francs. At that price they had a right
to enjoy themselves a little.
Austria showed herself generous in the midst of her financial crisis.
Her public contributions amounted to the sum of 216,000 florins—
a perfect godsend.
Fifty-two thousand rix-dollars were the remittance of Sweden
and Norway; the amount is large for the country, but it would
undoubtedly have been considerably increased had the
subscription been opened in Christiana simultaneously with that
at Stockholm. For some reason or other the Norwegians do not
like to send their money to Sweden.
Prussia, by a remittance of 250,000 thalers, testified her high
approval of the enterprise.
Turkey behaved generously; but she had a personal interest in
the matter. The moon, in fact, regulates the cycle of her years
and her fast of Ramadan. She could not do less than give
1,372,640 piastres; and she gave them with an eagerness which
denoted, however, some pressure on the part of the government.
Belgium distinguished herself among the second-rate states by
a grant of 513,000 francs— about two centimes per head of
Holland and her colonies interested themselves to the extent of
110,000 florins, only demanding an allowance of five per cent.
discount for paying ready money.
Denmark, a little contracted in territory, gave nevertheless
9,000 ducats, proving her love for scientific experiments.
The Germanic Confederation pledged itself to 34,285 florins.
It was impossible to ask for more; besides, they would not have
Though very much crippled, Italy found 200,000 lire in the
pockets of her people. If she had had Venetia she would have
done better; but she had not.
The States of the Church thought that they could not send less
than 7,040 Roman crowns; and Portugal carried her devotion to
science as far as 30,000 cruzados. It was the widow's mite—
eighty-six piastres; but self-constituted empires are always
rather short of money.
Two hundred and fifty-seven francs, this was the modest
contribution of Switzerland to the American work. One must
freely admit that she did not see the practical side of
the matter. It did not seem to her that the mere despatch of
a shot to the moon could possibly establish any relation of
affairs with her; and it did not seem prudent to her to embark
her capital in so hazardous an enterprise. After all, perhaps
she was right.
As to Spain, she could not scrape together more than 110 reals.
She gave as an excuse that she had her railways to finish.
The truth is, that science is not favorably regarded in that
country, it is still in a backward state; and moreover, certain
Spaniards, not by any means the least educated, did not form a
correct estimate of the bulk of the projectile compared with
that of the moon. They feared that it would disturb the
established order of things. In that case it were better to
keep aloof; which they did to the tune of some reals.
There remained but England; and we know the contemptuous
antipathy with which she received Barbicane's proposition.
The English have but one soul for the whole twenty-six millions
of inhabitants which Great Britain contains. They hinted that
the enterprise of the Gun Club was contrary to the "principle of
non-intervention." And they did not subscribe a single farthing.
At this intimation the Gun Club merely shrugged its shoulders
and returned to its great work. When South America, that is to
say, Peru, Chili, Brazil, the provinces of La Plata and Columbia,
had poured forth their quota into their hands, the sum of $300,000,
it found itself in possession of a considerable capital, of which
the following is a statement:
United States subscriptions, . . $4,000,000
Foreign subscriptions . . . $1,446,675
Total, . . . . $5,446,675
Such was the sum which the public poured into the treasury of
the Gun Club.
Let no one be surprised at the vastness of the amount. The work
of casting, boring, masonry, the transport of workmen, their
establishment in an almost uninhabited country, the construction
of furnaces and workshops, the plant, the powder, the projectile,
and incipient expenses, would, according to the estimates, absorb
nearly the whole. Certain cannon-shots in the Federal war cost
one thousand dollars apiece. This one of President Barbicane,
unique in the annals of gunnery, might well cost five thousand
On the 20th of October a contract was entered into with the
manufactory at Coldspring, near New York, which during the war
had furnished the largest Parrott, cast-iron guns. It was
stipulated between the contracting parties that the manufactory
of Coldspring should engage to transport to Tampa Town,
in southern Florida, the necessary materials for casting
the Columbiad. The work was bound to be completed at latest
by the 15th of October following, and the cannon delivered
in good condition under penalty of a forfeit of one hundred
dollars a day to the moment when the moon should again present
herself under the same conditions— that is to say, in eighteen
years and eleven days.
The engagement of the workmen, their pay, and all the necessary
details of the work, devolved upon the Coldspring Company.
This contract, executed in duplicate, was signed by Barbicane,
president of the Gun Club, of the one part, and T. Murchison
director of the Coldspring manufactory, of the other, who thus
executed the deed on behalf of their respective principals.
When the decision was arrived at by the Gun Club, to the
disparagement of Texas, every one in America, where reading is
a universal acquirement, set to work to study the geography
of Florida. Never before had there been such a sale for works
like "Bertram's Travels in Florida," "Roman's Natural History of
East and West Florida," "William's Territory of Florida," and
"Cleland on the Cultivation of the Sugar-Cane in Florida."
It became necessary to issue fresh editions of these works.
Barbicane had something better to do than to read. He desired
to see things with his own eyes, and to mark the exact position
of the proposed gun. So, without a moment's loss of time, he
placed at the disposal of the Cambridge Observatory the funds
necessary for the construction of a telescope, and entered into
negotiations with the house of Breadwill and Co., of Albany, for
the construction of an aluminum projectile of the required size.
He then quitted Baltimore, accompanied by J. T. Maston, Major
Elphinstone, and the manager of the Coldspring factory.
On the following day, the four fellow-travelers arrived at
New Orleans. There they immediately embarked on board the
Tampico, a despatch-boat belonging to the Federal navy, which
the government had placed at their disposal; and, getting up
steam, the banks of Louisiana speedily disappeared from sight.
The passage was not long. Two days after starting, the Tampico,
having made four hundred and eighty miles, came in sight of the
coast of Florida. On a nearer approach Barbicane found himself
in view of a low, flat country of somewhat barren aspect.
After coasting along a series of creeks abounding in lobsters
and oysters, the Tampico entered the bay of Espiritu Santo,
where she finally anchored in a small natural harbor, formed by
the embouchure of the River Hillisborough, at seven P.M., on
the 22d of October.
Our four passengers disembarked at once. "Gentlemen," said
Barbicane, "we have no time to lose; tomorrow we must obtain
horses, and proceed to reconnoiter the country."
Barbicane had scarcely set his foot on shore when three thousand
of the inhabitants of Tampa Town came forth to meet him, an
honor due to the president who had signalized their country by
Declining, however, every kind of ovation, Barbicane ensconced
himself in a room of the Franklin Hotel.
On the morrow some of the small horses of the Spanish breed,
full of vigor and of fire, stood snorting under his windows;
but instead of four steeds, here were fifty, together with
their riders. Barbicane descended with his three fellow-
travelers; and much astonished were they all to find themselves
in the midst of such a cavalcade. He remarked that every
horseman carried a carbine slung across his shoulders and
pistols in his holsters.
On expressing his surprise at these preparations, he was
speedily enlightened by a young Floridan, who quietly said:
"Sir, there are Seminoles there."
"What do you mean by Seminoles?"
"Savages who scour the prairies. We thought it best, therefore,
to escort you on your road."
"Pooh!" cried J. T. Maston, mounting his steed.
"All right," said the Floridan; "but it is true enough, nevertheless."
"Gentlemen," answered Barbicane, "I thank you for your kind
attention; but it is time to be off."
It was five A.M. when Barbicane and his party, quitting Tampa Town,
made their way along the coast in the direction of Alifia Creek.
This little river falls into Hillisborough Bay twelve miles above
Tampa Town. Barbicane and his escort coasted along its right bank
to the eastward. Soon the waves of the bay disappeared behind a
bend of rising ground, and the Floridan "champagne" alone offered
itself to view.
Florida, discovered on Palm Sunday, in 1512, by Juan Ponce de
Leon, was originally named Pascha Florida. It little deserved
that designation, with its dry and parched coasts. But after
some few miles of tract the nature of the soil gradually changes
and the country shows itself worthy of the name. Cultivated plains
soon appear, where are united all the productions of the northern
and tropical floras, terminating in prairies abounding with
pineapples and yams, tobacco, rice, cotton-plants, and sugar-canes,
which extend beyond reach of sight, flinging their riches broadcast
with careless prodigality.
Barbicane appeared highly pleased on observing the progressive
elevation of the land; and in answer to a question of J. T.
"My worthy friend, we cannot do better than sink our Columbiad
in these high grounds."
"To get nearer the moon, perhaps?" said the secretary of the Gun Club.
"Not exactly," replied Barbicane, smiling; "do you not see that
among these elevated plateaus we shall have a much easier work
of it? No struggles with the water-springs, which will save us
long expensive tubings; and we shall be working in daylight
instead of down a deep and narrow well. Our business, then, is
to open our trenches upon ground some hundreds of yards above
the level of the sea."
"You are right, sir," struck in Murchison, the engineer; "and, if I
mistake not, we shall ere long find a suitable spot for our purpose."
"I wish we were at the first stroke of the pickaxe," said the president.
"And I wish we were at the last," cried J. T. Maston.
About ten A.M. the little band had crossed a dozen miles.
To fertile plains succeeded a region of forests. There perfumes
of the most varied kinds mingled together in tropical profusion.
These almost impenetrable forests were composed of pomegranates,
orange-trees, citrons, figs, olives, apricots, bananas, huge vines,
whose blossoms and fruits rivaled each other in color and perfume.
Beneath the odorous shade of these magnificent trees fluttered and
warbled a little world of brilliantly plumaged birds.
J. T. Maston and the major could not repress their admiration on
finding themselves in the presence of the glorious beauties of
this wealth of nature. President Barbicane, however, less
sensitive to these wonders, was in haste to press forward;
the very luxuriance of the country was displeasing to him.
They hastened onward, therefore, and were compelled to ford
several rivers, not without danger, for they were infested
with huge alligators from fifteen to eighteen feet long.
Maston courageously menaced them with his steel hook, but he
only succeeded in frightening some pelicans and teal, while
tall flamingos stared stupidly at the party.
At length these denizens of the swamps disappeared in their
turn; smaller trees became thinly scattered among less dense
thickets— a few isolated groups detached in the midst of
endless plains over which ranged herds of startled deer.
"At last," cried Barbicane, rising in his stirrups, "here we are
at the region of pines!"
"Yes! and of savages too," replied the major.
In fact, some Seminoles had just came in sight upon the horizon;
they rode violently backward and forward on their fleet horses,
brandishing their spears or discharging their guns with a dull report.
These hostile demonstrations, however, had no effect upon Barbicane
and his companions.
They were then occupying the center of a rocky plain, which the
sun scorched with its parching rays. This was formed by a
considerable elevation of the soil, which seemed to offer to the
members of the Gun Club all the conditions requisite for the
construction of their Columbiad.
"Halt!" said Barbicane, reining up. "Has this place any
"It is called Stones Hill," replied one of the Floridans.
Barbicane, without saying a word, dismounted, seized his instruments,
and began to note his position with extreme exactness. The little
band, drawn up in the rear, watched his proceedings in profound silence.
At this moment the sun passed the meridian. Barbicane, after a
few moments, rapidly wrote down the result of his observations,
"This spot is situated eighteen hundred feet above the level of
the sea, in 27@ 7' N. lat. and 5@ 7' W. long. of the meridian
of Washington. It appears to me by its rocky and barren character
to offer all the conditions requisite for our experiment. On that
plain will be raised our magazines, workshops, furnaces, and
workmen's huts; and here, from this very spot," said he, stamping
his foot on the summit of Stones Hill, "hence shall our projectile
take its flight into the regions of the Solar World."
PICKAXE AND TROWEL
The same evening Barbicane and his companions returned to Tampa
Town; and Murchison, the engineer, re-embarked on board the
Tampico for New Orleans. His object was to enlist an army of
workmen, and to collect together the greater part of the materials.
The members of the Gun Club remained at Tampa Town, for the
purpose of setting on foot the preliminary works by the aid of
the people of the country.
Eight days after its departure, the Tampico returned into the
bay of Espiritu Santo, with a whole flotilla of steamboats.
Murchison had succeeded in assembling together fifteen
hundred artisans. Attracted by the high pay and considerable
bounties offered by the Gun Club, he had enlisted a choice
legion of stokers, iron-founders, lime-burners, miners,
brickmakers, and artisans of every trade, without distinction
of color. As many of these people brought their families with
them, their departure resembled a perfect emigration.
On the 31st of October, at ten o'clock in the morning, the troop
disembarked on the quays of Tampa Town; and one may imagine the
activity which pervaded that little town, whose population was
thus doubled in a single day.
During the first few days they were busy discharging the cargo
brought by the flotilla, the machines, and the rations, as well
as a large number of huts constructed of iron plates, separately
pieced and numbered. At the same period Barbicane laid the
first sleepers of a railway fifteen miles in length, intended to
unite Stones Hill with Tampa Town. On the first of November
Barbicane quitted Tampa Town with a detachment of workmen; and
on the following day the whole town of huts was erected round
Stones Hill. This they enclosed with palisades; and in respect
of energy and activity, it might have been mistaken for one of
the great cities of the Union. Everything was placed under a
complete system of discipline, and the works were commenced in
most perfect order.
The nature of the soil having been carefully examined, by means
of repeated borings, the work of excavation was fixed for the
4th of November.
On that day Barbicane called together his foremen and addressed
them as follows: "You are well aware, my friends, of the
object with which I have assembled you together in this wild
part of Florida. Our business is to construct a cannon measuring
nine feet in its interior diameter, six feet thick, and with a
stone revetment of nineteen and a half feet in thickness. We have,
therefore, a well of sixty feet in diameter to dig down to a
depth of nine hundred feet. This great work must be completed
within eight months, so that you have 2,543,400 cubic feet of
earth to excavate in 255 days; that is to say, in round numbers,
2,000 cubic feet per day. That which would present no difficulty
to a thousand navvies working in open country will be of course
more troublesome in a comparatively confined space. However, the
thing must be done, and I reckon for its accomplishment upon your
courage as much as upon your skill."
At eight o'clock the next morning the first stroke of the
pickaxe was struck upon the soil of Florida; and from that
moment that prince of tools was never inactive for one moment
in the hands of the excavators. The gangs relieved each other
every three hours.
On the 4th of November fifty workmen commenced digging, in the
very center of the enclosed space on the summit of Stones Hill,
a circular hole sixty feet in diameter. The pickaxe first
struck upon a kind of black earth, six inches in thickness,
which was speedily disposed of. To this earth succeeded two
feet of fine sand, which was carefully laid aside as being
valuable for serving the casting of the inner mould. After the
sand appeared some compact white clay, resembling the chalk of
Great Britain, which extended down to a depth of four feet.
Then the iron of the picks struck upon the hard bed of the soil;
a kind of rock formed of petrified shells, very dry, very solid,
and which the picks could with difficulty penetrate. At this
point the excavation exhibited a depth of six and a half feet
and the work of the masonry was begun.
At the bottom of the excavation they constructed a wheel of oak,
a kind of circle strongly bolted together, and of immense strength.
The center of this wooden disc was hollowed out to a diameter
equal to the exterior diameter of the Columbiad. Upon this wheel
rested the first layers of the masonry, the stones of which were
bound together by hydraulic cement, with irresistible tenacity.
The workmen, after laying the stones from the circumference to
the center, were thus enclosed within a kind of well twenty-one
feet in diameter. When this work was accomplished, the miners
resumed their picks and cut away the rock from underneath the wheel
itself, taking care to support it as they advanced upon blocks of
great thickness. At every two feet which the hole gained in depth
they successively withdrew the blocks. The wheel then sank little
by little, and with it the massive ring of masonry, on the upper
bed of which the masons labored incessantly, always reserving some
vent holes to permit the escape of gas during the operation of
This kind of work required on the part of the workmen extreme
nicety and minute attention. More than one, in digging
underneath the wheel, was dangerously injured by the splinters
of stone. But their ardor never relaxed, night or day. By day
they worked under the rays of the scorching sun; by night, under
the gleam of the electric light. The sounds of the picks against
the rock, the bursting of mines, the grinding of the machines,
the wreaths of smoke scattered through the air, traced around
Stones Hill a circle of terror which the herds of buffaloes and
the war parties of the Seminoles never ventured to pass.
Nevertheless, the works advanced regularly, as the steam-cranes
actively removed the rubbish. Of unexpected obstacles there was
little account; and with regard to foreseen difficulties, they
were speedily disposed of.
At the expiration of the first month the well had attained the
depth assigned for that lapse of time, namely, 112 feet. This depth
was doubled in December, and trebled in January.
During the month of February the workmen had to contend with a
sheet of water which made its way right across the outer soil.
It became necessary to employ very powerful pumps and
compressed-air engines to drain it off, so as to close up the
orifice from whence it issued; just as one stops a leak on
board ship. They at last succeeded in getting the upper hand of
these untoward streams; only, in consequence of the loosening of
the soil, the wheel partly gave way, and a slight partial
settlement ensued. This accident cost the life of several workmen.
No fresh occurrence thenceforward arrested the progress of the
operation; and on the tenth of June, twenty days before the
expiration of the period fixed by Barbicane, the well, lined
throughout with its facing of stone, had attained the depth of
900 feet. At the bottom the masonry rested upon a massive block
measuring thirty feet in thickness, while on the upper portion
it was level with the surrounding soil.
President Barbicane and the members of the Gun Club warmly
congratulated their engineer Murchison; the cyclopean work had
been accomplished with extraordinary rapidity.
During these eight months Barbicane never quitted Stones Hill
for a single instant. Keeping ever close by the work of
excavation, he busied himself incessantly with the welfare
and health of his workpeople, and was singularly fortunate
in warding off the epidemics common to large communities of
men, and so disastrous in those regions of the globe which
are exposed to the influences of tropical climates.
Many workmen, it is true, paid with their lives for the rashness
inherent in these dangerous labors; but these mishaps are impossible
to be avoided, and they are classed among the details with which
the Americans trouble themselves but little. They have in fact
more regard for human nature in general than for the individual
Nevertheless, Barbicane professed opposite principles to these,
and put them in force at every opportunity. So, thanks to his
care, his intelligence, his useful intervention in all
difficulties, his prodigious and humane sagacity, the average of
accidents did not exceed that of transatlantic countries, noted
for their excessive precautions— France, for instance, among
others, where they reckon about one accident for every two
hundred thousand francs of work.
THE FETE OF THE CASTING
During the eight months which were employed in the work of
excavation the preparatory works of the casting had been carried
on simultaneously with extreme rapidity. A stranger arriving at
Stones Hill would have been surprised at the spectacle offered
to his view.
At 600 yards from the well, and circularly arranged around it as
a central point, rose 1,200 reverberating ovens, each six feet
in diameter, and separated from each other by an interval of
three feet. The circumference occupied by these 1,200 ovens
presented a length of two miles. Being all constructed on the
same plan, each with its high quadrangular chimney, they
produced a most singular effect.
It will be remembered that on their third meeting the committee
had decided to use cast iron for the Columbiad, and in particular
the white description. This metal, in fact, is the most
tenacious, the most ductile, and the most malleable, and
consequently suitable for all moulding operations; and when
smelted with pit coal, is of superior quality for all
engineering works requiring great resisting power, such as
cannon, steam boilers, hydraulic presses, and the like.
Cast iron, however, if subjected to only one single fusion,
is rarely sufficiently homogeneous; and it requires a second
fusion completely to refine it by dispossessing it of its last
earthly deposits. So long before being forwarded to Tampa Town,
the iron ore, molten in the great furnaces of Coldspring, and
brought into contact with coal and silicium heated to a high
temperature, was carburized and transformed into cast iron.
After this first operation, the metal was sent on to Stones Hill.
They had, however, to deal with 136,000,000 pounds of iron, a
quantity far too costly to send by railway. The cost of
transport would have been double that of material. It appeared
preferable to freight vessels at New York, and to load them with
the iron in bars. This, however, required not less than sixty-
eight vessels of 1,000 tons, a veritable fleet, which, quitting
New York on the 3rd of May, on the 10th of the same month ascended
the Bay of Espiritu Santo, and discharged their cargoes, without
dues, in the port at Tampa Town. Thence the iron was transported
by rail to Stones Hill, and about the middle of January this
enormous mass of metal was delivered at its destination.
It will easily be understood that 1,200 furnaces were not too
many to melt simultaneously these 60,000 tons of iron. Each of
these furnaces contained nearly 140,000 pounds weight of metal.
They were all built after the model of those which served for
the casting of the Rodman gun; they were trapezoidal in shape,
with a high elliptical arch. These furnaces, constructed of
fireproof brick, were especially adapted for burning pit coal,
with a flat bottom upon which the iron bars were laid. This bottom,
inclined at an angle of 25 degrees, allowed the metal to flow into
the receiving troughs; and the 1,200 converging trenches carried
the molten metal down to the central well.
The day following that on which the works of the masonry and
boring had been completed, Barbicane set to work upon the
central mould. His object now was to raise within the center of
the well, and with a coincident axis, a cylinder 900 feet high,
and nine feet in diameter, which should exactly fill up the
space reserved for the bore of the Columbiad. This cylinder was
composed of a mixture of clay and sand, with the addition of a
little hay and straw. The space left between the mould and the
masonry was intended to be filled up by the molten metal, which
would thus form the walls six feet in thickness. This cylinder,
in order to maintain its equilibrium, had to be bound by iron
bands, and firmly fixed at certain intervals by cross-clamps
fastened into the stone lining; after the castings these would
be buried in the block of metal, leaving no external projection.
This operation was completed on the 8th of July, and the run of
the metal was fixed for the following day.
"This fete of the casting will be a grand ceremony," said J.
T. Maston to his friend Barbicane.
"Undoubtedly," said Barbicane; "but it will not be a public fete"
"What! will you not open the gates of the enclosure to all comers?"
"I must be very careful, Maston. The casting of the Columbiad
is an extremely delicate, not to say a dangerous operation, and
I should prefer its being done privately. At the discharge of
the projectile, a fete if you like— till then, no!"
The president was right. The operation involved unforeseen
dangers, which a great influx of spectators would have hindered
him from averting. It was necessary to preserve complete
freedom of movement. No one was admitted within the enclosure
except a delegation of members of the Gun Club, who had made the
voyage to Tampa Town. Among these was the brisk Bilsby, Tom
Hunter, Colonel Blomsberry, Major Elphinstone, General Morgan,
and the rest of the lot to whom the casting of the Columbiad was
a matter of personal interest. J. T. Maston became their cicerone.
He omitted no point of detail; he conducted them throughout the
magazines, workshops, through the midst of the engines, and
compelled them to visit the whole 1,200 furnaces one after
the other. At the end of the twelve-hundredth visit they were
pretty well knocked up.
The casting was to take place at twelve o'clock precisely.
The previous evening each furnace had been charged with 114,000
pounds weight of metal in bars disposed cross-ways to each other,
so as to allow the hot air to circulate freely between them.
At daybreak the 1,200 chimneys vomited their torrents of flame
into the air, and the ground was agitated with dull tremblings.
As many pounds of metal as there were to cast, so many pounds of
coal were there to burn. Thus there were 68,000 tons of coal
which projected in the face of the sun a thick curtain of smoke.
The heat soon became insupportable within the circle of furnaces,
the rumbling of which resembled the rolling of thunder. The powerful
ventilators added their continuous blasts and saturated with
oxygen the glowing plates. The operation, to be successful,
required to be conducted with great rapidity. On a signal given
by a cannon-shot each furnace was to give vent to the molten
iron and completely to empty itself. These arrangements made,
foremen and workmen waited the preconcerted moment with an
impatience mingled with a certain amount of emotion. Not a soul
remained within the enclosure. Each superintendent took his
post by the aperture of the run.
Barbicane and his colleagues, perched on a neighboring eminence,
assisted at the operation. In front of them was a piece of
artillery ready to give fire on the signal from the engineer.
Some minutes before midday the first driblets of metal began to
flow; the reservoirs filled little by little; and, by the time
that the whole melting was completely accomplished, it was kept
in abeyance for a few minutes in order to facilitate the
separation of foreign substances.
Twelve o'clock struck! A gunshot suddenly pealed forth and shot
its flame into the air. Twelve hundred melting-troughs were
simultaneously opened and twelve hundred fiery serpents crept
toward the central well, unrolling their incandescent curves.
There, down they plunged with a terrific noise into a depth of
900 feet. It was an exciting and a magnificent spectacle.
The ground trembled, while these molten waves, launching into the
sky their wreaths of smoke, evaporated the moisture of the mould
and hurled it upward through the vent-holes of the stone lining
in the form of dense vapor-clouds. These artificial clouds
unrolled their thick spirals to a height of 1,000 yards into
the air. A savage, wandering somewhere beyond the limits of the
horizon, might have believed that some new crater was forming in
the bosom of Florida, although there was neither any eruption,
nor typhoon, nor storm, nor struggle of the elements, nor any of
those terrible phenomena which nature is capable of producing.
No, it was man alone who had produced these reddish vapors,
these gigantic flames worthy of a volcano itself, these
tremendous vibrations resembling the shock of an earthquake,
these reverberations rivaling those of hurricanes and storms;
and it was his hand which precipitated into an abyss, dug by
himself, a whole Niagara of molten metal!
Had the casting succeeded? They were reduced to mere conjecture.
There was indeed every reason to expect success, since the mould
has absorbed the entire mass of the molten metal; still some
considerable time must elapse before they could arrive at any
certainty upon the matter.
The patience of the members of the Gun Club was sorely tried during
this period of time. But they could do nothing. J. T. Maston
escaped roasting by a miracle. Fifteen days after the casting
an immense column of smoke was still rising in the open sky and
the ground burned the soles of the feet within a radius of two
hundred feet round the summit of Stones Hill. It was impossible
to approach nearer. All they could do was to wait with what
patience they might.
"Here we are at the 10th of August," exclaimed J. T. Maston one
morning, "only four months to the 1st of December! We shall
never be ready in time!" Barbicane said nothing, but his
silence covered serious irritation.
However, daily observations revealed a certain change going on
in the state of the ground. About the 15th of August the vapors
ejected had sensibly diminished in intensity and thickness.
Some days afterward the earth exhaled only a slight puff of
smoke, the last breath of the monster enclosed within its circle
of stone. Little by little the belt of heat contracted, until
on the 22nd of August, Barbicane, his colleagues, and the
engineer were enabled to set foot on the iron sheet which lay
level upon the summit of Stones Hill.
"At last!" exclaimed the president of the Gun Club, with an
immense sigh of relief.
The work was resumed the same day. They proceeded at once to
extract the interior mould, for the purpose of clearing out the
boring of the piece. Pickaxes and boring irons were set to work
without intermission. The clayey and sandy soils had acquired
extreme hardness under the action of the heat; but, by the aid
of the machines, the rubbish on being dug out was rapidly carted
away on railway wagons; and such was the ardor of the work, so
persuasive the arguments of Barbicane's dollars, that by the 3rd
of September all traces of the mould had entirely disappeared.
Immediately the operation of boring was commenced; and by the
aid of powerful machines, a few weeks later, the inner surface
of the immense tube had been rendered perfectly cylindrical, and
the bore of the piece had acquired a thorough polish.
At length, on the 22d of September, less than a twelvemonth
after Barbicane's original proposition, the enormous weapon,
accurately bored, and exactly vertically pointed, was ready
for work. There was only the moon now to wait for; and they
were pretty sure that she would not fail in the rendezvous.
The ecstasy of J. T. Maston knew no bounds, and he narrowly
escaped a frightful fall while staring down the tube. But for
the strong hand of Colonel Blomsberry, the worthy secretary,
like a modern Erostratus, would have found his death in the
depths of the Columbiad.
The cannon was then finished; there was no possible doubt as to
its perfect completion. So, on the 6th of October, Captain
Nicholl opened an account between himself and President Barbicane,
in which he debited himself to the latter in the sum of two
thousand dollars. One may believe that the captain's wrath was
increased to its highest point, and must have made him seriously ill.
However, he had still three bets of three, four, and five
thousand dollars, respectively; and if he gained two out of these,
his position would not be very bad. But the money question did
not enter into his calculations; it was the success of his rival
in casting a cannon against which iron plates sixty feet thick
would have been ineffectual, that dealt him a terrible blow.
After the 23rd of September the enclosure of Stones hill was
thrown open to the public; and it will be easily imagined what
was the concourse of visitors to this spot! There was an
incessant flow of people to and from Tampa Town and the place,
which resembled a procession, or rather, in fact, a pilgrimage.
It was already clear to be seen that, on the day of the
experiment itself, the aggregate of spectators would be counted
by millions; for they were already arriving from all parts of
the earth upon this narrow strip of promontory. Europe was
emigrating to America.
Up to that time, however, it must be confessed, the curiosity
of the numerous comers was but scantily gratified. Most had
counted upon witnessing the spectacle of the casting, and they
were treated to nothing but smoke. This was sorry food for
hungry eyes; but Barbicane would admit no one to that operation.
Then ensued grumbling, discontent, murmurs; they blamed the
president, taxed him with dictatorial conduct. His proceedings
were declared "un-American." There was very nearly a riot round
Stones Hill; but Barbicane remained inflexible. When, however,
the Columbiad was entirely finished, this state of closed doors
could no longer be maintained; besides it would have been bad
taste, and even imprudence, to affront the public feeling.
Barbicane, therefore, opened the enclosure to all comers; but,
true to his practical disposition, he determined to coin money
out of the public curiosity.
It was something, indeed, to be enabled to contemplate this
immense Columbiad; but to descend into its depths, this seemed
to the Americans the ne plus ultra of earthly felicity.
Consequently, there was not one curious spectator who was not
willing to give himself the treat of visiting the interior of
this great metallic abyss. Baskets suspended from steam-cranes
permitted them to satisfy their curiosity. There was a
perfect mania. Women, children, old men, all made it a point
of duty to penetrate the mysteries of the colossal gun.
The fare for the descent was fixed at five dollars per head;
and despite this high charge, during the two months which
preceded the experiment, the influx of visitors enabled the
Gun Club to pocket nearly five hundred thousand dollars!
It is needless to say that the first visitors of the Columbiad
were the members of the Gun Club. This privilege was justly
reserved for that illustrious body. The ceremony took place on
the 25th of September. A basket of honor took down the
president, J. T. Maston, Major Elphinstone, General Morgan,
Colonel Blomsberry, and other members of the club, to the number
of ten in all. How hot it was at the bottom of that long tube
of metal! They were half suffocated. But what delight!
What ecstasy! A table had been laid with six covers on the
massive stone which formed the bottom of the Columbiad, and
lighted by a jet of electric light resembling that of day itself.
Numerous exquisite dishes, which seemed to descend from heaven,
were placed successively before the guests, and the richest wines
of France flowed in profusion during this splendid repast, served
nine hundred feet beneath the surface of the earth!
The festival was animated, not to say somewhat noisy. Toasts flew
backward and forward. They drank to the earth and to her satellite,
to the Gun Club, the Union, the Moon, Diana, Phoebe, Selene, the
"peaceful courier of the night!" All the hurrahs, carried upward
upon the sonorous waves of the immense acoustic tube, arrived with
the sound of thunder at its mouth; and the multitude ranged round
Stones Hill heartily united their shouts with those of the ten
revelers hidden from view at the bottom of the gigantic Columbiad.
J. T. Maston was no longer master of himself. Whether he
shouted or gesticulated, ate or drank most, would be a difficult
matter to determine. At all events, he would not have given his
place up for an empire, "not even if the cannon— loaded,
primed, and fired at that very moment—were to blow him in
pieces into the planetary world."
A TELEGRAPHIC DISPATCH
The great works undertaken by the Gun Club had now virtually
come to an end; and two months still remained before the day for
the discharge of the shot to the moon. To the general impatience
these two months appeared as long as years! Hitherto the smallest
details of the operation had been daily chronicled by the journals,
which the public devoured with eager eyes.
Just at this moment a circumstance, the most unexpected, the
most extraordinary and incredible, occurred to rouse afresh
their panting spirits, and to throw every mind into a state of
the most violent excitement.
One day, the 30th of September, at 3:47 P.M., a telegram,
transmitted by cable from Valentia (Ireland) to Newfoundland and
the American Mainland, arrived at the address of President Barbicane.
The president tore open the envelope, read the dispatch, and,
despite his remarkable powers of self-control, his lips turned
pale and his eyes grew dim, on reading the twenty words of
Here is the text of the dispatch, which figures now in the
archives of the Gun Club:
30 September, 4 A.M.
Barbicane, Tampa Town, Florida, United States.
Substitute for your spherical shell a cylindro-conical projectile.
I shall go inside. Shall arrive by steamer Atlanta.
THE PASSENGER OF THE ATLANTA
If this astounding news, instead of flying through the electric
wires, had simply arrived by post in the ordinary sealed envelope,
Barbicane would not have hesitated a moment. He would have held
his tongue about it, both as a measure of prudence, and in order
not to have to reconsider his plans. This telegram might be a
cover for some jest, especially as it came from a Frenchman.
What human being would ever have conceived the idea of such
a journey? and, if such a person really existed, he must be an
idiot, whom one would shut up in a lunatic ward, rather than
within the walls of the projectile.
The contents of the dispatch, however, speedily became known;
for the telegraphic officials possessed but little discretion,
and Michel Ardan's proposition ran at once throughout the
several States of the Union. Barbicane, had, therefore, no
further motives for keeping silence. Consequently, he called
together such of his colleagues as were at the moment in Tampa
Town, and without any expression of his own opinions simply read
to them the laconic text itself. It was received with every
possible variety of expressions of doubt, incredulity, and
derision from every one, with the exception of J. T. Maston, who
exclaimed, "It is a grand idea, however!"
When Barbicane originally proposed to send a shot to the moon
every one looked upon the enterprise as simple and practicable
enough— a mere question of gunnery; but when a person,
professing to be a reasonable being, offered to take passage
within the projectile, the whole thing became a farce, or, in
plainer language a humbug.
One question, however, remained. Did such a being exist?
This telegram flashed across the depths of the Atlantic, the
designation of the vessel on board which he was to take his
passage, the date assigned for his speedy arrival, all combined
to impart a certain character of reality to the proposal.
They must get some clearer notion of the matter. Scattered groups
of inquirers at length condensed themselves into a compact crowd,
which made straight for the residence of President Barbicane.
That worthy individual was keeping quiet with the intention of
watching events as they arose. But he had forgotten to take
into account the public impatience; and it was with no pleasant
countenance that he watched the population of Tampa Town
gathering under his windows. The murmurs and vociferations
below presently obliged him to appear. He came forward,
therefore, and on silence being procured, a citizen put
point-blank to him the following question: "Is the person
mentioned in the telegram, under the name of Michel Ardan, on
his way here? Yes or no."
"Gentlemen," replied Barbicane, "I know no more than you do."
"We must know," roared the impatient voices.
"Time will show," calmly replied the president.
"Time has no business to keep a whole country in suspense,"
replied the orator. "Have you altered the plans of the
projectile according to the request of the telegram?"
"Not yet, gentlemen; but you are right! we must have better
information to go by. The telegraph must complete its information."
"To the telegraph!" roared the crowd.
Barbicane descended; and heading the immense assemblage, led the
way to the telegraph office. A few minutes later a telegram was
dispatched to the secretary of the underwriters at Liverpool,
requesting answers to the following queries:
"About the ship Atlanta— when did she leave Europe? Had she on
board a Frenchman named Michel Ardan?"
Two hours afterward Barbicane received information too exact to
leave room for the smallest remaining doubt.
"The steamer Atlanta from Liverpool put to sea on the 2nd of
October, bound for Tampa Town, having on board a Frenchman borne
on the list of passengers by the name of Michel Ardan."
That very evening he wrote to the house of Breadwill and Co.,
requesting them to suspend the casting of the projectile until
the receipt of further orders. On the 10th of October, at nine
A.M., the semaphores of the Bahama Canal signaled a thick smoke
on the horizon. Two hours later a large steamer exchanged
signals with them. the name of the Atlanta flew at once over
Tampa Town. At four o'clock the English vessel entered the Bay
of Espiritu Santo. At five it crossed the passage of
Hillisborough Bay at full steam. At six she cast anchor at
Port Tampa. The anchor had scarcely caught the sandy bottom when
five hundred boats surrounded the Atlanta, and the steamer was
taken by assault. Barbicane was the first to set foot on deck,
and in a voice of which he vainly tried to conceal the emotion,
called "Michel Ardan."
"Here!" replied an individual perched on the poop.
Barbicane, with arms crossed, looked fixedly at the passenger of
He was a man of about forty-two years of age, of large build,
but slightly round-shouldered. His massive head momentarily
shook a shock of reddish hair, which resembled a lion's mane.
His face was short with a broad forehead, and furnished with a
moustache as bristly as a cat's, and little patches of yellowish
whiskers upon full cheeks. Round, wildish eyes, slightly
near-sighted, completed a physiognomy essentially feline.
His nose was firmly shaped, his mouth particularly sweet in
expression, high forehead, intelligent and furrowed with
wrinkles like a newly-plowed field. The body was powerfully
developed and firmly fixed upon long legs. Muscular arms,
and a general air of decision gave him the appearance of a hardy,
jolly, companion. He was dressed in a suit of ample dimensions,
loose neckerchief, open shirtcollar, disclosing a robust neck;
his cuffs were invariably unbuttoned, through which appeared
a pair of red hands.
On the bridge of the steamer, in the midst of the crowd, he
bustled to and fro, never still for a moment, "dragging his
anchors," as the sailors say, gesticulating, making free with
everybody, biting his nails with nervous avidity. He was one of
those originals which nature sometimes invents in the freak of
a moment, and of which she then breaks the mould.
Among other peculiarities, this curiosity gave himself out for
a sublime ignoramus, "like Shakespeare," and professed supreme
contempt for all scientific men. Those "fellows," as he called
them, "are only fit to mark the points, while we play the game."
He was, in fact, a thorough Bohemian, adventurous, but not an
adventurer; a hare-brained fellow, a kind of Icarus, only
possessing relays of wings. For the rest, he was ever in
scrapes, ending invariably by falling on his feet, like those
little figures which they sell for children's toys. In a few
words, his motto was "I have my opinions," and the love of the
impossible constituted his ruling passion.
Such was the passenger of the Atlanta, always excitable, as if
boiling under the action of some internal fire by the character
of his physical organization. If ever two individuals offered
a striking contrast to each other, these were certainly Michel
Ardan and the Yankee Barbicane; both, moreover, being equally
enterprising and daring, each in his own way.
The scrutiny which the president of the Gun Club had instituted
regarding this new rival was quickly interrupted by the shouts
and hurrahs of the crowd. The cries became at last so
uproarious, and the popular enthusiasm assumed so personal a
form, that Michel Ardan, after having shaken hands some
thousands of times, at the imminent risk of leaving his fingers
behind him, was fain at last to make a bolt for his cabin.
Barbicane followed him without uttering a word.
"You are Barbicane, I suppose?" said Michel Ardan, in a tone
of voice in which he would have addressed a friend of twenty
"Yes," replied the president of the Gun Club.
"All right! how d'ye do, Barbicane? how are you getting on—
pretty well? that's right."
"So," said Barbicane without further preliminary, "you are quite
determined to go."
"Nothing will stop you?"
"Nothing. Have you modified your projectile according to my telegram."
"I waited for your arrival. But," asked Barbicane again, "have
you carefully reflected?"
"Reflected? have I any time to spare? I find an opportunity of
making a tour in the moon, and I mean to profit by it. There is
the whole gist of the matter."
Barbicane looked hard at this man who spoke so lightly of his
project with such complete absence of anxiety. "But, at least,"
said he, "you have some plans, some means of carrying your
project into execution?"
"Excellent, my dear Barbicane; only permit me to offer one remark:
My wish is to tell my story once for all, to everybody, and then
have done with it; then there will be no need for recapitulation.
So, if you have no objection, assemble your friends, colleagues,
the whole town, all Florida, all America if you like, and
to-morrow I shall be ready to explain my plans and answer any
objections whatever that may be advanced. You may rest assured
I shall wait without stirring. Will that suit you?"
"All right," replied Barbicane.
So saying, the president left the cabin and informed the crowd of
the proposal of Michel Ardan. His words were received with clappings
of hands and shouts of joy. They had removed all difficulties.
To-morrow every one would contemplate at his ease this European hero.
However, some of the spectators, more infatuated than the rest,
would not leave the deck of the Atlanta. They passed the night
on board. Among others J. T. Maston got his hook fixed in the
combing of the poop, and it pretty nearly required the capstan to
get it out again.
"He is a hero! a hero!" he cried, a theme of which he was never
tired of ringing the changes; "and we are only like weak, silly
women, compared with this European!"
As to the president, after having suggested to the visitors it
was time to retire, he re-entered the passenger's cabin, and
remained there till the bell of the steamer made it midnight.
But then the two rivals in popularity shook hands heartily and
parted on terms of intimate friendship.
A MONSTER MEETING
On the following day Barbicane, fearing that indiscreet
questions might be put to Michel Ardan, was desirous of reducing
the number of the audience to a few of the initiated, his own
colleagues for instance. He might as well have tried to
check the Falls of Niagara! he was compelled, therefore, to
give up the idea, and let his new friend run the chances of a
public conference. The place chosen for this monster meeting
was a vast plain situated in the rear of the town. In a few
hours, thanks to the help of the shipping in port, an immense
roofing of canvas was stretched over the parched prairie, and
protected it from the burning rays of the sun. There three
hundred thousand people braved for many hours the stifling heat
while awaiting the arrival of the Frenchman. Of this crowd of
spectators a first set could both see and hear; a second set saw
badly and heard nothing at all; and as for the third, it could
neither see nor hear anything at all. At three o'clock Michel
Ardan made his appearance, accompanied by the principal members
of the Gun Club. He was supported on his right by President
Barbicane, and on his left by J. T. Maston, more radiant than
the midday sun, and nearly as ruddy. Ardan mounted a platform,
from the top of which his view extended over a sea of black hats.
He exhibited not the slightest embarrassment; he was just as
gay, familiar, and pleasant as if he were at home. To the
hurrahs which greeted him he replied by a graceful bow; then,
waving his hands to request silence, he spoke in perfectly
correct English as follows:
"Gentlemen, despite the very hot weather I request your patience
for a short time while I offer some explanations regarding the
projects which seem to have so interested you. I am neither an
orator nor a man of science, and I had no idea of addressing you
in public; but my friend Barbicane has told me that you would
like to hear me, and I am quite at your service. Listen to me,
therefore, with your six hundred thousand ears, and please
excuse the faults of the speaker. Now pray do not forget that
you see before you a perfect ignoramus whose ignorance goes so
far that he cannot even understand the difficulties! It seemed
to him that it was a matter quite simple, natural, and easy
to take one's place in a projectile and start for the moon!
That journey must be undertaken sooner or later; and, as for the
mode of locomotion adopted, it follows simply the law of progress.
Man began by walking on all-fours; then, one fine day, on two
feet; then in a carriage; then in a stage-coach; and lastly
by railway. Well, the projectile is the vehicle of the future,
and the planets themselves are nothing else! Now some of you,
gentlemen, may imagine that the velocity we propose to impart to
it is extravagant. It is nothing of the kind. All the stars
exceed it in rapidity, and the earth herself is at this moment
carrying us round the sun at three times as rapid a rate, and
yet she is a mere lounger on the way compared with many others
of the planets! And her velocity is constantly decreasing.
Is it not evident, then, I ask you, that there will some day appear
velocities far greater than these, of which light or electricity
will probably be the mechanical agent?
"Yes, gentlemen," continued the orator, "in spite of the
opinions of certain narrow-minded people, who would shut up the
human race upon this globe, as within some magic circle which it
must never outstep, we shall one day travel to the moon, the
planets, and the stars, with the same facility, rapidity, and
certainty as we now make the voyage from Liverpool to New York!
Distance is but a relative expression, and must end by being
reduced to zero."
The assembly, strongly predisposed as they were in favor of the
French hero, were slightly staggered at this bold theory.
Michel Ardan perceived the fact.
"Gentlemen," he continued with a pleasant smile, "you do not
seem quite convinced. Very good! Let us reason the matter out.
Do you know how long it would take for an express train to reach
the moon? Three hundred days; no more! And what is that?
The distance is no more than nine times the circumference of
the earth; and there are no sailors or travelers, of even
moderate activity, who have not made longer journeys than that
in their lifetime. And now consider that I shall be only ninety-
seven hours on my journey. Ah! I see you are reckoning that the
moon is a long way off from the earth, and that one must think
twice before making the experiment. What would you say, then,
if we were talking of going to Neptune, which revolves at a
distance of more than two thousand seven hundred and twenty
millions of miles from the sun! And yet what is that compared
with the distance of the fixed stars, some of which, such as Arcturus,
are billions of miles distant from us? And then you talk of the
distance which separates the planets from the sun! And there
are people who affirm that such a thing as distance exists.
Absurdity, folly, idiotic nonsense! Would you know what I think
of our own solar universe? Shall I tell you my theory? It is
very simple! In my opinion the solar system is a solid
homogeneous body; the planets which compose it are in actual
contact with each other; and whatever space exists between them
is nothing more than the space which separates the molecules of
the densest metal, such as silver, iron, or platinum! I have
the right, therefore, to affirm, and I repeat, with the
conviction which must penetrate all your minds, `Distance is
but an empty name; distance does not really exist!'"
"Hurrah!" cried one voice (need it be said it was that of
J. T. Maston). "Distance does not exist!" And overcome by the
energy of his movements, he nearly fell from the platform to
the ground. He just escaped a severe fall, which would have
proved to him that distance was by no means an empty name.
"Gentlemen," resumed the orator, "I repeat that the distance
between the earth and her satellite is a mere trifle, and
undeserving of serious consideration. I am convinced that
before twenty years are over one-half of our earth will have
paid a visit to the moon. Now, my worthy friends, if you have
any question to put to me, you will, I fear, sadly embarrass a
poor man like myself; still I will do my best to answer you."
Up to this point the president of the Gun Club had been
satisfied with the turn which the discussion had assumed.
It became now, however, desirable to divert Ardan from
questions of a practical nature, with which he was doubtless
far less conversant. Barbicane, therefore, hastened to get in
a word, and began by asking his new friend whether he thought
that the moon and the planets were inhabited.
"You put before me a great problem, my worthy president,"
replied the orator, smiling. "Still, men of great intelligence,
such as Plutarch, Swedenborg, Bernardin de St. Pierre, and
others have, if I mistake not, pronounced in the affirmative.
Looking at the question from the natural philosopher's point of
view, I should say that nothing useless existed in the world;
and, replying to your question by another, I should venture to
assert, that if these worlds are habitable, they either are,
have been, or will be inhabited."
"No one could answer more logically or fairly," replied the
president. "The question then reverts to this: Are these
worlds habitable? For my own part I believe they are."
"For myself, I feel certain of it," said Michel Ardan.
"Nevertheless," retorted one of the audience, "there are many
arguments against the habitability of the worlds. The conditions
of life must evidently be greatly modified upon the majority
of them. To mention only the planets, we should be either
broiled alive in some, or frozen to death in others, according
as they are more or less removed from the sun."
"I regret," replied Michel Ardan, "that I have not the honor of
personally knowing my contradictor, for I would have attempted
to answer him. His objection has its merits, I admit; but I
think we may successfully combat it, as well as all others which
affect the habitability of other worlds. If I were a natural
philosopher, I would tell him that if less of caloric were set
in motion upon the planets which are nearest to the sun, and
more, on the contrary, upon those which are farthest removed
from it, this simple fact would alone suffice to equalize the
heat, and to render the temperature of those worlds supportable
by beings organized like ourselves. If I were a naturalist,
I would tell him that, according to some illustrious men of
science, nature has furnished us with instances upon the earth
of animals existing under very varying conditions of life;
that fish respire in a medium fatal to other animals; that
amphibious creatures possess a double existence very difficult
of explanation; that certain denizens of the seas maintain life
at enormous depths, and there support a pressure equal to that
of fifty or sixty atmospheres without being crushed; that
several aquatic insects, insensible to temperature, are met with
equally among boiling springs and in the frozen plains of the
Polar Sea; in fine, that we cannot help recognizing in nature a
diversity of means of operation oftentimes incomprehensible, but
not the less real. If I were a chemist, I would tell him that
the aerolites, bodies evidently formed exteriorly of our
terrestrial globe, have, upon analysis, revealed indisputable
traces of carbon, a substance which owes its origin solely to
organized beings, and which, according to the experiments of
Reichenbach, must necessarily itself have been endued with
animation. And lastly, were I a theologian, I would tell him
that the scheme of the Divine Redemption, according to St. Paul,
seems to be applicable, not merely to the earth, but to all the
celestial worlds. But, unfortunately, I am neither theologian,
nor chemist, nor naturalist, nor philosopher; therefore, in my
absolute ignorance of the great laws which govern the universe,
I confine myself to saying in reply, `I do not know whether the
worlds are inhabited or not: and since I do not know, I am going
Whether Michel Ardan's antagonist hazarded any further arguments
or not it is impossible to say, for the uproarious shouts of the
crowd would not allow any expression of opinion to gain a hearing.
On silence being restored, the triumphant orator contented himself
with adding the following remarks:
"Gentlemen, you will observe that I have but slightly touched
upon this great question. There is another altogether different
line of argument in favor of the habitability of the stars,
which I omit for the present. I only desire to call attention
to one point. To those who maintain that the planets are not
inhabited one may reply: You might be perfectly in the right,
if you could only show that the earth is the best possible
world, in spite of what Voltaire has said. She has but one
satellite, while Jupiter, Uranus, Saturn, Neptune have each
several, an advantage by no means to be despised. But that
which renders our own globe so uncomfortable is the inclination
of its axis to the plane of its orbit. Hence the inequality of
days and nights; hence the disagreeable diversity of the seasons.
On the surface of our unhappy spheroid we are always either too
hot or too cold; we are frozen in winter, broiled in summer;
it is the planet of rheumatism, coughs, bronchitis; while on the
surface of Jupiter, for example, where the axis is but slightly
inclined, the inhabitants may enjoy uniform temperatures.
It possesses zones of perpetual springs, summers, autumns, and
winters; every Jovian may choose for himself what climate he
likes, and there spend the whole of his life in security from
all variations of temperature. You will, I am sure, readily
admit this superiority of Jupiter over our own planet, to say
nothing of his years, which each equal twelve of ours!
Under such auspices and such marvelous conditions of existence,
it appears to me that the inhabitants of so fortunate a world
must be in every respect superior to ourselves. All we require,
in order to attain such perfection, is the mere trifle of having
an axis of rotation less inclined to the plane of its orbit!"
"Hurrah!" roared an energetic voice, "let us unite our efforts,
invent the necessary machines, and rectify the earth's axis!"
A thunder of applause followed this proposal, the author of
which was, of course, no other than J. T. Maston. And, in all
probability, if the truth must be told, if the Yankees could
only have found a point of application for it, they would have
constructed a lever capable of raising the earth and rectifying
its axis. It was just this deficiency which baffled these
ATTACK AND RIPOSTE
As soon as the excitement had subsided, the following words were
heard uttered in a strong and determined voice:
"Now that the speaker has favored us with so much imagination,
would he be so good as to return to his subject, and give us a
little practical view of the question?"
All eyes were directed toward the person who spoke. He was a
little dried-up man, of an active figure, with an American
"goatee" beard. Profiting by the different movements in the crowd,
he had managed by degrees to gain the front row of spectators.
There, with arms crossed and stern gaze, he watched the hero of
the meeting. After having put his question he remained silent,
and appeared to take no notice of the thousands of looks directed
toward himself, nor of the murmur of disapprobation excited by
his words. Meeting at first with no reply, he repeated his
question with marked emphasis, adding, "We are here to talk about
the moon and not about the earth."
"You are right, sir," replied Michel Ardan; "the discussion has
become irregular. We will return to the moon."
"Sir," said the unknown, "you pretend that our satellite is inhabited.
Very good, but if Selenites do exist, that race of beings assuredly
must live without breathing, for— I warn you for your own sake—
there is not the smallest particle of air on the surface of the moon."
At this remark Ardan pushed up his shock of red hair; he saw
that he was on the point of being involved in a struggle with
this person upon the very gist of the whole question. He looked
sternly at him in his turn and said:
"Oh! so there is no air in the moon? And pray, if you are so
good, who ventures to affirm that?
"The men of science."
"Sir," replied Michel, "pleasantry apart, I have a profound
respect for men of science who do possess science, but a
profound contempt for men of science who do not."
"Do you know any who belong to the latter category?"
"Decidedly. In France there are some who maintain that,
mathematically, a bird cannot possibly fly; and others who
demonstrate theoretically that fishes were never made to
live in water."
"I have nothing to do with persons of that description, and I
can quote, in support of my statement, names which you cannot
refuse deference to."
"Then, sir, you will sadly embarrass a poor ignorant, who,
besides, asks nothing better than to learn."
"Why, then, do you introduce scientific questions if you have
never studied them?" asked the unknown somewhat coarsely.
"For the reason that `he is always brave who never suspects danger.'
I know nothing, it is true; but it is precisely my very weakness
which constitutes my strength."
"Your weakness amounts to folly," retorted the unknown in a passion.
"All the better," replied our Frenchman, "if it carries me up to
Barbicane and his colleagues devoured with their eyes the intruder
who had so boldly placed himself in antagonism to their enterprise.
Nobody knew him, and the president, uneasy as to the result of so
free a discussion, watched his new friend with some anxiety.
The meeting began to be somewhat fidgety also, for the contest
directed their attention to the dangers, if not the actual
impossibilities, of the proposed expedition.
"Sir," replied Ardan's antagonist, "there are many and
incontrovertible reasons which prove the absence of an
atmosphere in the moon. I might say that, a priori, if one
ever did exist, it must have been absorbed by the earth; but I
prefer to bring forward indisputable facts."
"Bring them forward then, sir, as many as you please."
"You know," said the stranger, "that when any luminous rays
cross a medium such as the air, they are deflected out of the
straight line; in other words, they undergo refraction. Well!
When stars are occulted by the moon, their rays, on grazing the
edge of her disc, exhibit not the least deviation, nor offer the
slightest indication of refraction. It follows, therefore, that
the moon cannot be surrounded by an atmosphere.
"In point of fact," replied Ardan, "this is your chief, if not
your only argument; and a really scientific man might be
puzzled to answer it. For myself, I will simply say that it is
defective, because it assumes that the angular diameter of the
moon has been completely determined, which is not the case.
But let us proceed. Tell me, my dear sir, do you admit the
existence of volcanoes on the moon's surface?"
"Extinct, yes! In activity, no!"
"These volcanoes, however, were at one time in a state of activity?"
"True, but, as they furnish themselves the oxygen necessary for
combustion, the mere fact of their eruption does not prove the
presence of an atmosphere."
"Proceed again, then; and let us set aside this class of
arguments in order to come to direct observations. In 1715 the
astronomers Louville and Halley, watching the eclipse of the
3rd of May, remarked some very extraordinary scintillations.
These jets of light, rapid in nature, and of frequent recurrence,
they attributed to thunderstorms generated in the lunar atmosphere."
"In 1715," replied the unknown, "the astronomers Louville and
Halley mistook for lunar phenomena some which were purely
terrestrial, such as meteoric or other bodies which are
generated in our own atmosphere. This was the scientific
explanation at the time of the facts; and that is my answer now."
"On again, then," replied Ardan; "Herschel, in 1787, observed a
great number of luminous points on the moon's surface, did he not?"
"Yes! but without offering any solution of them. Herschel himself
never inferred from them the necessity of a lunar atmosphere.
And I may add that Baeer and Maedler, the two great authorities
upon the moon, are quite agreed as to the entire absence of air
on its surface."
A movement was here manifest among the assemblage, who appeared
to be growing excited by the arguments of this singular personage.
"Let us proceed," replied Ardan, with perfect coolness, "and
come to one important fact. A skillful French astronomer, M.
Laussedat, in watching the eclipse of July 18, 1860, probed that
the horns of the lunar crescent were rounded and truncated.
Now, this appearance could only have been produced by a
deviation of the solar rays in traversing the atmosphere of
the moon. There is no other possible explanation of the facts."
"But is this established as a fact?"
A counter-movement here took place in favor of the hero of the
meeting, whose opponent was now reduced to silence. Ardan resumed
the conversation; and without exhibiting any exultation at the
advantage he had gained, simply said:
"You see, then, my dear sir, we must not pronounce with absolute
positiveness against the existence of an atmosphere in the moon.
That atmosphere is, probably, of extreme rarity; nevertheless at
the present day science generally admits that it exists."
"Not in the mountains, at all events," returned the unknown,
unwilling to give in.
"No! but at the bottom of the valleys, and not exceeding a few
hundred feet in height."
"In any case you will do well to take every precaution, for the
air will be terribly rarified."
"My good sir, there will always be enough for a solitary
individual; besides, once arrived up there, I shall do my best
to economize, and not to breathe except on grand occasions!"
A tremendous roar of laughter rang in the ears of the mysterious
interlocutor, who glared fiercely round upon the assembly.
"Then," continued Ardan, with a careless air, "since we are in
accord regarding the presence of a certain atmosphere, we are
forced to admit the presence of a certain quantity of water.
This is a happy consequence for me. Moreover, my amiable
contradictor, permit me to submit to you one further observation.
We only know one side of the moon's disc; and if there is but
little air on the face presented to us, it is possible that there
is plenty on the one turned away from us."
"And for what reason?"
"Because the moon, under the action of the earth's attraction,
has assumed the form of an egg, which we look at from the
smaller end. Hence it follows, by Hausen's calculations, that
its center of gravity is situated in the other hemisphere.
Hence it results that the great mass of air and water must have
been drawn away to the other face of our satellite during the
first days of its creation."
"Pure fancies!" cried the unknown.
"No! Pure theories! which are based upon the laws of mechanics,
and it seems difficult to me to refute them. I appeal then to
this meeting, and I put it to them whether life, such as exists
upon the earth, is possible on the surface of the moon?"
Three hundred thousand auditors at once applauded the proposition.
Ardan's opponent tried to get in another word, but he could not
obtain a hearing. Cries and menaces fell upon him like hail.
"Enough! enough!" cried some.
"Drive the intruder off!" shouted others.
"Turn him out!" roared the exasperated crowd.
But he, holding firmly on to the platform, did not budge an
inch, and let the storm pass on, which would soon have assumed
formidable proportions, if Michel Ardan had not quieted it by
a gesture. He was too chivalrous to abandon his opponent in an
"You wished to say a few more words?" he asked, in a pleasant voice.
"Yes, a thousand; or rather, no, only one! If you persevere in
your enterprise, you must be a——"
"Very rash person! How can you treat me as such? me, who have
demanded a cylindro-conical projectile, in order to prevent
turning round and round on my way like a squirrel?"
"But, unhappy man, the dreadful recoil will smash you to pieces
at your starting."
"My dear contradictor, you have just put your finger upon the
true and only difficulty; nevertheless, I have too good an
opinion of the industrial genius of the Americans not to believe
that they will succeed in overcoming it."
"But the heat developed by the rapidity of the projectile in
crossing the strata of air?"
"Oh! the walls are thick, and I shall soon have crossed
"But victuals and water?"
"I have calculated for a twelvemonth's supply, and I shall be
only four days on the journey."
"But for air to breathe on the road?"
"I shall make it by a chemical process."
"But your fall on the moon, supposing you ever reach it?"
"It will be six times less dangerous than a sudden fall upon the
earth, because the weight will be only one-sixth as great on the
surface of the moon."
"Still it will be enough to smash you like glass!"
"What is to prevent my retarding the shock by means of rockets
conveniently placed, and lighted at the right moment?"
"But after all, supposing all difficulties surmounted, all
obstacles removed, supposing everything combined to favor you,
and granting that you may arrive safe and sound in the moon, how
will you come back?"
"I am not coming back!"
At this reply, almost sublime in its very simplicity, the
assembly became silent. But its silence was more eloquent than
could have been its cries of enthusiasm. The unknown profited
by the opportunity and once more protested:
"You will inevitably kill yourself!" he cried; "and your death
will be that of a madman, useless even to science!"
"Go on, my dear unknown, for truly your prophecies are most agreeable!"
"It really is too much!" cried Michel Ardan's adversary. "I do
not know why I should continue so frivolous a discussion!
Please yourself about this insane expedition! We need not
trouble ourselves about you!"
"Pray don't stand upon ceremony!"
"No! another person is responsible for your act."
"Who, may I ask?" demanded Michel Ardan in an imperious tone.
"The ignoramus who organized this equally absurd and
The attack was direct. Barbicane, ever since the interference
of the unknown, had been making fearful efforts of self-control;
now, however, seeing himself directly attacked, he could
restrain himself no longer. He rose suddenly, and was rushing
upon the enemy who thus braved him to the face, when all at once
he found himself separated from him.
The platform was lifted by a hundred strong arms, and the president
of the Gun Club shared with Michel Ardan triumphal honors.
The shield was heavy, but the bearers came in continuous relays,
disputing, struggling, even fighting among themselves in their
eagerness to lend their shoulders to this demonstration.
However, the unknown had not profited by the tumult to quit
his post. Besides he could not have done it in the midst of that
compact crowd. There he held on in the front row with crossed
arms, glaring at President Barbicane.
The shouts of the immense crowd continued at their highest pitch
throughout this triumphant march. Michel Ardan took it all with
evident pleasure. His face gleamed with delight. Several times
the platform seemed seized with pitching and rolling like a
weatherbeaten ship. But the two heros of the meeting had good
sea-legs. They never stumbled; and their vessel arrived without
dues at the port of Tampa Town.
Michel Ardan managed fortunately to escape from the last
embraces of his vigorous admirers. He made for the Hotel
Franklin, quickly gained his chamber, and slid under the
bedclothes, while an army of a hundred thousand men kept watch
under his windows.
During this time a scene, short, grave, and decisive, took place
between the mysterious personage and the president of the Gun Club.
Barbicane, free at last, had gone straight at his adversary.
"Come!" he said shortly.
The other followed him on the quay; and the two presently found
themselves alone at the entrance of an open wharf on Jones' Fall.
The two enemies, still mutually unknown, gazed at each other.
"Who are you?" asked Barbicane.
"So I suspected. Hitherto chance has never thrown you in my way."
"I am come for that purpose."
"You have insulted me."
"And you will answer to me for this insult?"
"At this very moment."
"No! I desire that all that passes between us shall be secret.
Their is a wood situated three miles from Tampa, the wood
of Skersnaw. Do you know it?"
"I know it."
"Will you be so good as to enter it to-morrow morning at five
o'clock, on one side?"
"Yes! if you will enter at the other side at the same hour."
"And you will not forget your rifle?" said Barbicane.
"No more than you will forget yours?" replied Nicholl.
These words having been coldly spoken, the president of the Gun
Club and the captain parted. Barbicane returned to his lodging;
but instead of snatching a few hours of repose, he passed the
night in endeavoring to discover a means of evading the recoil
of the projectile, and resolving the difficult problem proposed
by Michel Ardan during the discussion at the meeting.
HOW A FRENCHMAN MANAGES AN AFFAIR
While the contract of this duel was being discussed by the
president and the captain— this dreadful, savage duel, in which
each adversary became a man-hunter— Michel Ardan was resting
from the fatigues of his triumph. Resting is hardly an
appropriate expression, for American beds rival marble or
granite tables for hardness.
Ardan was sleeping, then, badly enough, tossing about between
the cloths which served him for sheets, and he was dreaming of
making a more comfortable couch in his projectile when a
frightful noise disturbed his dreams. Thundering blows shook
his door. They seemed to be caused by some iron instrument.
A great deal of loud talking was distinguishable in this racket,
which was rather too early in the morning. "Open the door,"
some one shrieked, "for heaven's sake!" Ardan saw no reason
for complying with a demand so roughly expressed. However, he
got up and opened the door just as it was giving way before the
blows of this determined visitor. The secretary of the Gun Club
burst into the room. A bomb could not have made more noise or
have entered the room with less ceremony.
"Last night," cried J. T. Maston, ex abrupto, "our president
was publicly insulted during the meeting. He provoked his
adversary, who is none other than Captain Nicholl! They are
fighting this morning in the wood of Skersnaw. I heard all the
particulars from the mouth of Barbicane himself. If he is
killed, then our scheme is at an end. We must prevent his duel;
and one man alone has enough influence over Barbicane to stop
him, and that man is Michel Ardan."
While J. T. Maston was speaking, Michel Ardan, without
interrupting him, had hastily put on his clothes; and, in less
than two minutes, the two friends were making for the suburbs of
Tampa Town with rapid strides.
It was during this walk that Maston told Ardan the state of the
case. He told him the real causes of the hostility between
Barbicane and Nicholl; how it was of old date, and why, thanks
to unknown friends, the president and the captain had, as yet,
never met face to face. He added that it arose simply from
a rivalry between iron plates and shot, and, finally, that the
scene at the meeting was only the long-wished-for opportunity
for Nicholl to pay off an old grudge.
Nothing is more dreadful than private duels in America. The two
adversaries attack each other like wild beasts. Then it is that
they might well covet those wonderful properties of the Indians
of the prairies— their quick intelligence, their ingenious
cunning, their scent of the enemy. A single mistake, a moment's
hesitation, a single false step may cause death. On these
occasions Yankees are often accompanied by their dogs, and keep
up the struggle for hours.
"What demons you are!" cried Michel Ardan, when his companion
had depicted this scene to him with much energy.
"Yes, we are," replied J. T. modestly; "but we had better make haste."
Though Michel Ardan and he had crossed the plains still wet with
dew, and had taken the shortest route over creeks and ricefields,
they could not reach Skersnaw in under five hours and a half.
Barbicane must have passed the border half an hour ago.
There was an old bushman working there, occupied in selling
fagots from trees that had been leveled by his axe.
Maston ran toward him, saying, "Have you seen a man go into the
wood, armed with a rifle? Barbicane, the president, my best friend?"
The worthy secretary of the Gun Club thought that his president
must be known by all the world. But the bushman did not seem to
"A hunter?" said Ardan.
"A hunter? Yes," replied the bushman.
"About an hour."
"Too late!" cried Maston.
"Have you heard any gunshots?" asked Ardan.
"Not one! that hunter did not look as if he knew how to hunt!"
"What is to be done?" said Maston.
"We must go into the wood, at the risk of getting a ball which
is not intended for us."
"Ah!" cried Maston, in a tone which could not be mistaken, "I would
rather have twenty balls in my own head than one in Barbicane's."
"Forward, then," said Ardan, pressing his companion's hand.
A few moments later the two friends had disappeared in the copse.
It was a dense thicket, in which rose huge cypresses, sycamores,
tulip-trees, olives, tamarinds, oaks, and magnolias.
These different trees had interwoven their branches into an
inextricable maze, through which the eye could not penetrate.
Michel Ardan and Maston walked side by side in silence through
the tall grass, cutting themselves a path through the strong
creepers, casting curious glances on the bushes, and momentarily
expecting to hear the sound of rifles. As for the traces which
Barbicane ought to have left of his passage through the wood,
there was not a vestige of them visible: so they followed the
barely perceptible paths along which Indians had tracked some
enemy, and which the dense foliage darkly overshadowed.
After an hour spent in vain pursuit the two stopped in
"It must be all over," said Maston, discouraged. "A man like
Barbicane would not dodge with his enemy, or ensnare him, would
not even maneuver! He is too open, too brave. He has gone
straight ahead, right into the danger, and doubtless far enough
from the bushman for the wind to prevent his hearing the report
of the rifles."
"But surely," replied Michel Ardan, "since we entered the wood
we should have heard!"
"And what if we came too late?" cried Maston in tones of despair.
For once Ardan had no reply to make, he and Maston resuming
their walk in silence. From time to time, indeed, they raised
great shouts, calling alternately Barbicane and Nicholl, neither
of whom, however, answered their cries. Only the birds,
awakened by the sound, flew past them and disappeared among the
branches, while some frightened deer fled precipitately before them.
For another hour their search was continued. The greater part
of the wood had been explored. There was nothing to reveal the
presence of the combatants. The information of the bushman was
after all doubtful, and Ardan was about to propose their
abandoning this useless pursuit, when all at once Maston stopped.
"Hush!" said he, "there is some one down there!"
"Some one?" repeated Michel Ardan.
"Yes; a man! He seems motionless. His rifle is not in his hands.
What can he be doing?"
"But can you recognize him?" asked Ardan, whose short sight was
of little use to him in such circumstances.
"Yes! yes! He is turning toward us," answered Maston.
"And it is?"
"Nicholl?" cried Michel Ardan, feeling a terrible pang of grief.
"Nicholl unarmed! He has, then, no longer any fear of his adversary!"
"Let us go to him," said Michel Ardan, "and find out the truth."
But he and his companion had barely taken fifty steps, when they
paused to examine the captain more attentively. They expected
to find a bloodthirsty man, happy in his revenge.
On seeing him, they remained stupefied.
A net, composed of very fine meshes, hung between two enormous
tulip-trees, and in the midst of this snare, with its wings
entangled, was a poor little bird, uttering pitiful cries, while
it vainly struggled to escape. The bird-catcher who had laid
this snare was no human being, but a venomous spider, peculiar
to that country, as large as a pigeon's egg, and armed with
enormous claws. The hideous creature, instead of rushing on its
prey, had beaten a sudden retreat and taken refuge in the upper
branches of the tulip-tree, for a formidable enemy menaced
Here, then, was Nicholl, his gun on the ground, forgetful
of danger, trying if possible to save the victim from its
cobweb prison. At last it was accomplished, and the little
bird flew joyfully away and disappeared.
Nicholl lovingly watched its flight, when he heard these words
pronounced by a voice full of emotion:
"You are indeed a brave man."
He turned. Michel Ardan was before him, repeating in a
"And a kindhearted one!"
"Michel Ardan!" cried the captain. "Why are you here?"
"To press your hand, Nicholl, and to prevent you from either
killing Barbicane or being killed by him."
"Barbicane!" returned the captain. "I have been looking for him
for the last two hours in vain. Where is he hiding?"
"Nicholl!" said Michel Ardan, "this is not courteous! we ought
always to treat an adversary with respect; rest assureed if
Barbicane is still alive we shall find him all the more easily;
because if he has not, like you, been amusing himself with
freeing oppressed birds, he must be looking for you. When we
have found him, Michel Ardan tells you this, there will be no
duel between you."
"Between President Barbicane and myself," gravely replied
Nicholl, "there is a rivalry which the death of one of us——"
"Pooh, pooh!" said Ardan. "Brave fellows like you indeed! you
shall not fight!"
"I will fight, sir!"
"Captain," said J. T. Maston, with much feeling, "I am a friend
of the president's, his alter ego, his second self; if you
really must kill some one, shoot me! it will do just as well!"
"Sir," Nicholl replied, seizing his rifle convulsively, "these
"Our friend Maston is not joking," replied Ardan. "I fully
understand his idea of being killed himself in order to save
his friend. But neither he nor Barbicane will fall before the balls
of Captain Nicholl. Indeed I have so attractive a proposal to
make to the two rivals, that both will be eager to accept it."
"What is it?" asked Nicholl with manifest incredulity.
"Patience!" exclaimed Ardan. "I can only reveal it in the
presence of Barbicane."
"Let us go in search of him then!" cried the captain.
The three men started off at once; the captain having discharged
his rifle threw it over his shoulder, and advanced in silence.
Another half hour passed, and the pursuit was still fruitless.
Maston was oppressed by sinister forebodings. He looked fiercely
at Nicholl, asking himself whether the captain's vengeance had
already been satisfied, and the unfortunate Barbicane, shot, was
perhaps lying dead on some bloody track. The same thought seemed
to occur to Ardan; and both were casting inquiring glances on
Nicholl, when suddenly Maston paused.
The motionless figure of a man leaning against a gigantic
catalpa twenty feet off appeared, half-veiled by the foliage.
"It is he!" said Maston.
Barbicane never moved. Ardan looked at the captain, but he did
not wince. Ardan went forward crying:
No answer! Ardan rushed toward his friend; but in the act of
seizing his arms, he stopped short and uttered a cry of surprise.
Barbicane, pencil in hand, was tracing geometrical figures in a
memorandum book, while his unloaded rifle lay beside him on the ground.
Absorbed in his studies, Barbicane, in his turn forgetful of the
duel, had seen and heard nothing.
When Ardan took his hand, he looked up and stared at his visitor
"Ah, it is you!" he cried at last. "I have found it, my friend,
I have found it!"
"The plan for countering the effect of the shock at the
departure of the projectile!"
"Indeed?" said Michel Ardan, looking at the captain out of the
corner of his eye.
"Yes! water! simply water, which will act as a spring— ah!
Maston," cried Barbicane, "you here also?"
"Himself," replied Ardan; "and permit me to introduce to you at
the same time the worthy Captain Nicholl!"
"Nicholl!" cried Barbicane, who jumped up at once. "Pardon me,
captain, I had quite forgotten— I am ready!"
Michel Ardan interfered, without giving the two enemies time to
say anything more.
"Thank heaven!" said he. "It is a happy thing that brave men
like you two did not meet sooner! we should now have been
mourning for one or other of you. But, thanks to Providence,
which has interfered, there is now no further cause for alarm.
When one forgets one's anger in mechanics or in cobwebs, it is
a sign that the anger is not dangerous."
Michel Ardan then told the president how the captain had been
"I put it to you now," said he in conclusion, "are two such good
fellows as you are made on purpose to smash each other's skulls
There was in "the situation" somewhat of the ridiculous,
something quite unexpected; Michel Ardan saw this, and
determined to effect a reconciliation.
"My good friends," said he, with his most bewitching smile,
"this is nothing but a misunderstanding. Nothing more! well! to
prove that it is all over between you, accept frankly the
proposal I am going to make to you."
"Make it," said Nicholl.
"Our friend Barbicane believes that his projectile will go
straight to the moon?"
"Yes, certainly," replied the president.
"And our friend Nicholl is persuaded it will fall back upon the earth?"
"I am certain of it," cried the captain.
"Good!" said Ardan. "I cannot pretend to make you agree; but I
suggest this: Go with me, and so see whether we are stopped on
"What?" exclaimed J. T. Maston, stupefied.
The two rivals, on this sudden proposal, looked steadily at
each other. Barbicane waited for the captain's answer.
Nicholl watched for the decision of the president.
"Well?" said Michel. "There is now no fear of the shock!"
"Done!" cried Barbicane.
But quickly as he pronounced the word, he was not before Nicholl.
"Hurrah! bravo! hip! hip! hurrah!" cried Michel, giving a hand
to each of the late adversaries. "Now that it is all settled,
my friends, allow me to treat you after French fashion. Let us
be off to breakfast!"
THE NEW CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES
That same day all America heard of the affair of Captain Nicholl
and President Barbicane, as well as its singular denouement.
From that day forth, Michel Ardan had not one moment's rest.
Deputations from all corners of the Union harassed him without
cessation or intermission. He was compelled to receive them
all, whether he would or no. How many hands he shook, how many
people he was "hail-fellow-well-met" with, it is impossible
to guess! Such a triumphal result would have intoxicated any
other man; but he managed to keep himself in a state of delightful
Among the deputations of all kinds which assailed him, that of
"The Lunatics" were careful not to forget what they owed to the
future conqueror of the moon. One day, certain of these poor
people, so numerous in America, came to call upon him, and
requested permission to return with him to their native country.
"Singular hallucination!" said he to Barbicane, after having
dismissed the deputation with promises to convey numbers of
messages to friends in the moon. "Do you believe in the
influence of the moon upon distempers?"
"No more do I, despite some remarkable recorded facts of history.
For instance, during an epidemic in 1693, a large number of
persons died at the very moment of an eclipse. The celebrated
Bacon always fainted during an eclipse. Charles VI relapsed
six times into madness during the year 1399, sometimes during
the new, sometimes during the full moon. Gall observed that
insane persons underwent an accession of their disorder twice
in every month, at the epochs of new and full moon. In fact,
numerous observations made upon fevers, somnambulisms, and other
human maladies, seem to prove that the moon does exercise some
mysterious influence upon man."
"But the how and the wherefore?" asked Barbicane.
"Well, I can only give you the answer which Arago borrowed from
Plutarch, which is nineteen centuries old. `Perhaps the stories
are not true!'"
In the height of his triumph, Michel Ardan had to encounter all
the annoyances incidental to a man of celebrity. Managers of
entertainments wanted to exhibit him. Barnum offered him a
million dollars to make a tour of the United States in his show.
As for his photographs, they were sold of all size, and his
portrait taken in every imaginable posture. More than half a
million copies were disposed of in an incredibly short space of time.
But it was not only the men who paid him homage, but the women
as well. He might have married well a hundred times over, if he
had been willing to settle in life. The old maids, in
particular, of forty years and upward, and dry in proportion,
devoured his photographs day and night. They would have married
him by hundreds, even if he had imposed upon them the condition
of accompanying him into space. He had, however, no intention
of transplanting a race of Franco-Americans upon the surface of
He therefore declined all offers.
As soon as he could withdraw from these somewhat embarrassing
demonstrations, he went, accompanied by his friends, to pay a
visit to the Columbiad. He was highly gratified by his
inspection, and made the descent to the bottom of the tube of
this gigantic machine which was presently to launch him to the
regions of the moon. It is necessary here to mention a proposal
of J. T. Maston's. When the secretary of the Gun Club found
that Barbicane and Nicholl accepted the proposal of Michel
Ardan, he determined to join them, and make one of a smug party
of four. So one day he determined to be admitted as one of the
travelers. Barbicane, pained at having to refuse him, gave him
clearly to understand that the projectile could not possibly
contain so many passengers. Maston, in despair, went in search
of Michel Ardan, who counseled him to resign himself to the
situation, adding one or two arguments ad hominem.
"You see, old fellow," he said, "you must not take what I say in
bad part; but really, between ourselves, you are in too
incomplete a condition to appear in the moon!"
"Incomplete?" shrieked the valiant invalid.
"Yes, my dear fellow! imagine our meeting some of the
inhabitants up there! Would you like to give them such a
melancholy notion of what goes on down here? to teach them what
war is, to inform them that we employ our time chiefly in
devouring each other, in smashing arms and legs, and that too
on a globe which is capable of supporting a hundred billions
of inhabitants, and which actually does contain nearly two
hundred millions? Why, my worthy friend, we should have to
turn you out of doors!"
"But still, if you arrive there in pieces, you will be as
incomplete as I am."
"Unquestionably," replied Michel Ardan; "but we shall not."
In fact, a preparatory experiment, tried on the 18th of October,
had yielded the best results and caused the most well-grounded
hopes of success. Barbicane, desirous of obtaining some notion
of the effect of the shock at the moment of the projectile's
departure, had procured a 38-inch mortar from the arsenal
of Pensacola. He had this placed on the bank of Hillisborough
Roads, in order that the shell might fall back into the sea, and
the shock be thereby destroyed. His object was to ascertain the
extent of the shock of departure, and not that of the return.
A hollow projectile had been prepared for this curious experiment.
A thick padding fastened upon a kind of elastic network, made of
the best steel, lined the inside of the walls. It was a veritable
nest most carefully wadded.
"What a pity I can't find room in there," said J. T. Maston,
regretting that his height did not allow of his trying the adventure.
Within this shell were shut up a large cat, and a squirrel
belonging to J. T. Maston, and of which he was particularly fond.
They were desirous, however, of ascertaining how this little
animal, least of all others subject to giddiness, would endure
this experimental voyage.
The mortar was charged with 160 pounds of powder, and the shell
placed in the chamber. On being fired, the projectile rose with
great velocity, described a majestic parabola, attained a height
of about a thousand feet, and with a graceful curve descended in
the midst of the vessels that lay there at anchor.
Without a moment's loss of time a small boat put off in the
direction of its fall; some divers plunged into the water
and attached ropes to the handles of the shell, which was
quickly dragged on board. Five minutes did not elapse between
the moment of enclosing the animals and that of unscrewing the
coverlid of their prison.
Ardan, Barbicane, Maston, and Nicholl were present on board the
boat, and assisted at the operation with an interest which may
readily be comprehended. Hardly had the shell been opened when
the cat leaped out, slightly bruised, but full of life, and
exhibiting no signs whatever of having made an aerial expedition.
No trace, however, of the squirrel could be discovered. The truth
at last became apparent— the cat had eaten its fellow-traveler!
J. T. Maston grieved much for the loss of his poor squirrel, and
proposed to add its case to that of other martyrs to science.
After this experiment all hesitation, all fear disappeared.
Besides, Barbicane's plans would ensure greater perfection for
his projectile, and go far to annihilate altogether the effects
of the shock. Nothing now remained but to go!
Two days later Michel Ardan received a message from the
President of the United States, an honor of which he showed
himself especially sensible.
After the example of his illustrious fellow-countryman, the
Marquis de la Fayette, the government had decreed to him the
title of "Citizen of the United States of America."
On the completion of the Columbiad the public interest centered
in the projectile itself, the vehicle which was destined to
carry the three hardy adventurers into space.
The new plans had been sent to Breadwill and Co., of Albany,
with the request for their speedy execution. The projectile was
consequently cast on the 2nd of November, and immediately
forwarded by the Eastern Railway to Stones Hill, which it
reached without accident on the 10th of that month, where Michel
Ardan, Barbicane, and Nicholl were waiting impatiently for it.
The projectile had now to be filled to the depth of three feet
with a bed of water, intended to support a water-tight wooden
disc, which worked easily within the walls of the projectile.
It was upon this kind of raft that the travelers were to take
their place. This body of water was divided by horizontal
partitions, which the shock of the departure would have to break
in succession. Then each sheet of the water, from the lowest
to the highest, running off into escape tubes toward the top of
the projectile, constituted a kind of spring; and the wooden
disc, supplied with extremely powerful plugs, could not strike
the lowest plate except after breaking successively the
different partitions. Undoubtedly the travelers would still
have to encounter a violent recoil after the complete escapement
of the water; but the first shock would be almost entirely
destroyed by this powerful spring. The upper parts of the walls
were lined with a thick padding of leather, fastened upon springs
of the best steel, behind which the escape tubes were completely
concealed; thus all imaginable precautions had been taken for
averting the first shock; and if they did get crushed, they
must, as Michel Ardan said, be made of very bad materials.
The entrance into this metallic tower was by a narrow aperture
contrived in the wall of the cone. This was hermetically closed
by a plate of aluminum, fastened internally by powerful
screw-pressure. The travelers could therefore quit their prison
at pleasure, as soon as they should reach the moon.
Light and view were given by means of four thick lenticular
glass scuttles, two pierced in the circular wall itself, the
third in the bottom, the fourth in the top. These scuttles then
were protected against the shock of departure by plates let into
solid grooves, which could easily be opened outward by
unscrewing them from the inside. Reservoirs firmly fixed
contained water and the necessary provisions; and fire
and light were procurable by means of gas, contained in a
special reservoir under a pressure of several atmospheres.
They had only to turn a tap, and for six hours the gas would
light and warm this comfortable vehicle.
There now remained only the question of air; for allowing for
the consumption of air by Barbicane, his two companions, and two
dogs which he proposed taking with him, it was necessary to
renew the air of the projectile. Now air consists principally
of twenty-one parts of oxygen and seventy-nine of nitrogen.
The lungs absorb the oxygen, which is indispensable for the support
of life, and reject the nitrogen. The air expired loses nearly
five per cent. of the former and contains nearly an equal volume
of carbonic acid, produced by the combustion of the elements of
the blood. In an air-tight enclosure, then, after a certain
time, all the oxygen of the air will be replaced by the carbonic
acid— a gas fatal to life. There were two things to be done
then— first, to replace the absorbed oxygen; secondly, to
destroy the expired carbonic acid; both easy enough to do, by
means of chlorate of potassium and caustic potash. The former
is a salt which appears under the form of white crystals; when
raised to a temperature of 400 degrees it is transformed into
chlorure of potassium, and the oxygen which it contains is
entirely liberated. Now twenty-eight pounds of chlorate of
potassium produces seven pounds of oxygen, or 2,400 litres— the
quantity necessary for the travelers during twenty-four hours.
Caustic potash has a great affinity for carbonic acid; and it is
sufficient to shake it in order for it to seize upon the acid
and form bicarbonate of potassium. By these two means they
would be enabled to restore to the vitiated air its life-
It is necessary, however, to add that the experiments had
hitherto been made in anima vili. Whatever its scientific
accuracy was, they were at present ignorant how it would answer
with human beings. The honor of putting it to the proof was
energetically claimed by J. T. Maston.
"Since I am not to go," said the brave artillerist, "I may at
least live for a week in the projectile."
It would have been hard to refuse him; so they consented to
his wish. A sufficient quantity of chlorate of potassium and
of caustic potash was placed at his disposal, together with
provisions for eight days. And having shaken hands with his
friends, on the 12th of November, at six o'clock A.M., after
strictly informing them not to open his prison before the 20th,
at six o'clock P.M., he slid down the projectile, the plate of
which was at once hermetically sealed. What did he do with
himself during that week? They could get no information.
The thickness of the walls of the projectile prevented any
sound reaching from the inside to the outside. On the 20th
of November, at six P.M. exactly, the plate was opened.
The friends of J. T. Maston had been all along in a state of
much anxiety; but they were promptly reassured on hearing a
jolly voice shouting a boisterous hurrah.
Presently afterward the secretary of the Gun Club appeared at
the top of the cone in a triumphant attitude. He had grown fat!
THE TELESCOPE OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS
On the 20th of October in the preceding year, after the close of
the subscription, the president of the Gun Club had credited the
Observatory of Cambridge with the necessary sums for the
construction of a gigantic optical instrument. This instrument
was designed for the purpose of rendering visible on the surface
of the moon any object exceeding nine feet in diameter.
At the period when the Gun Club essayed their great experiment,
such instruments had reached a high degree of perfection,
and produced some magnificent results. Two telescopes in
particular, at this time, were possessed of remarkable power
and of gigantic dimensions. The first, constructed by Herschel,
was thirty-six feet in length, and had an object-glass of four
feet six inches; it possessed a magnifying power of 6,000.
The second was raised in Ireland, in Parsonstown Park, and belongs
to Lord Rosse. The length of this tube is forty-eight feet, and
the diameter of its object-glass six feet; it magnifies 6,400
times, and required an immense erection of brick work and
masonry for the purpose of working it, its weight being twelve
and a half tons.
Still, despite these colossal dimensions, the actual
enlargements scarcely exceeded 6,000 times in round numbers;
consequently, the moon was brought within no nearer an apparent
distance than thirty-nine miles; and objects of less than sixty
feet in diameter, unless they were of very considerable length,
were still imperceptible.
In the present case, dealing with a projectile nine feet in
diameter and fifteen feet long, it became necessary to bring the
moon within an apparent distance of five miles at most; and for
that purpose to establish a magnifying power of 48,000 times.
Such was the question proposed to the Observatory of Cambridge,
There was no lack of funds; the difficulty was purely one
After considerable discussion as to the best form and principle
of the proposed instrument the work was finally commenced.
According to the calculations of the Observatory of Cambridge,
the tube of the new reflector would require to be 280 feet in
length, and the object-glass sixteen feet in diameter.
Colossal as these dimensions may appear, they were diminutive
in comparison with the 10,000 foot telescope proposed by the
astronomer Hooke only a few years ago!
Regarding the choice of locality, that matter was
promptly determined. The object was to select some lofty
mountain, and there are not many of these in the United States.
In fact there are but two chains of moderate elevation, between
which runs the magnificent Mississippi, the "king of rivers"
as these Republican Yankees delight to call it.
Eastwards rise the Appalachians, the very highest point of
which, in New Hampshire, does not exceed the very moderate
altitude of 5,600 feet.
On the west, however, rise the Rocky Mountains, that immense
range which, commencing at the Straights of Magellan, follows
the western coast of Southern America under the name of the
Andes or the Cordilleras, until it crosses the Isthmus of
Panama, and runs up the whole of North America to the very
borders of the Polar Sea. The highest elevation of this range
still does not exceed 10,700 feet. With this elevation,
nevertheless, the Gun Club were compelled to be content,
inasmuch as they had determined that both telescope and
Columbiad should be erected within the limits of the Union.
All the necessary apparatus was consequently sent on to the
summit of Long's Peak, in the territory of Missouri.
Neither pen nor language can describe the difficulties of all
kinds which the American engineers had to surmount, of the
prodigies of daring and skill which they accomplished. They had
to raise enormous stones, massive pieces of wrought iron, heavy
corner-clamps and huge portions of cylinder, with an
object-glass weighing nearly 30,000 pounds, above the line of
perpetual snow for more than 10,000 feet in height, after
crossing desert prairies, impenetrable forests, fearful rapids,
far from all centers of population, and in the midst of savage
regions, in which every detail of life becomes an almost
insoluble problem. And yet, notwithstanding these innumerable
obstacles, American genius triumphed. In less than a year after
the commencement of the works, toward the close of September,
the gigantic reflector rose into the air to a height of 280 feet.
It was raised by means of an enormous iron crane; an ingenious
mechanism allowed it to be easily worked toward all the points
of the heavens, and to follow the stars from the one horizon to
the other during their journey through the heavens.
It had cost $400,000. The first time it was directed toward the
moon the observers evinced both curiosity and anxiety. What were
they about to discover in the field of this telescope which
magnified objects 48,000 times? Would they perceive peoples,
herds of lunar animals, towns, lakes, seas? No! there was
nothing which science had not already discovered! and on all the
points of its disc the volcanic nature of the moon became
determinable with the utmost precision.
But the telescope of the Rocky Mountains, before doing its duty
to the Gun Club, rendered immense services to astronomy. Thanks to
its penetrative power, the depths of the heavens were sounded to
the utmost extent; the apparent diameter of a great number of stars
was accurately measured; and Mr. Clark, of the Cambridge staff,
resolved the Crab nebula in Taurus, which the reflector of Lord
Rosse had never been able to decompose.
It was the 22nd of November; the departure was to take place in
ten days. One operation alone remained to be accomplished to
bring all to a happy termination; an operation delicate and
perilous, requiring infinite precautions, and against the
success of which Captain Nicholl had laid his third bet. It was,
in fact, nothing less than the loading of the Columbiad, and the
introduction into it of 400,000 pounds of gun-cotton. Nicholl had
thought, not perhaps without reason, that the handling of such
formidable quantities of pyroxyle would, in all probability,
involve a grave catastrophe; and at any rate, that this immense
mass of eminently inflammable matter would inevitably ignite when
submitted to the pressure of the projectile.
There were indeed dangers accruing as before from the
carelessness of the Americans, but Barbicane had set his heart
on success, and took all possible precautions. In the first
place, he was very careful as to the transportation of the
gun-cotton to Stones Hill. He had it conveyed in small
quantities, carefully packed in sealed cases. These were
brought by rail from Tampa Town to the camp, and from thence
were taken to the Columbiad by barefooted workmen, who deposited
them in their places by means of cranes placed at the orifice of
the cannon. No steam-engine was permitted to work, and every
fire was extinguished within two miles of the works.
Even in November they feared to work by day, lest the sun's rays
acting on the gun-cotton might lead to unhappy results. This led
to their working at night, by light produced in a vacuum by means
of Ruhmkorff's apparatus, which threw an artificial brightness
into the depths of the Columbiad. There the cartridges were
arranged with the utmost regularity, connected by a metallic thread,
destined to communicate to them all simultaneously the electric
spark, by which means this mass of gun-cotton was eventually
to be ignited.
By the 28th of November eight hundred cartridges had been
placed in the bottom of the Columbiad. So far the operation had
been successful! But what confusion, what anxieties, what struggles
were undergone by President Barbicane! In vain had he refused
admission to Stones Hill; every day the inquisitive neighbors
scaled the palisades, some even carrying their imprudence to the
point of smoking while surrounded by bales of gun-cotton.
Barbicane was in a perpetual state of alarm. J. T. Maston
seconded him to the best of his ability, by giving vigorous
chase to the intruders, and carefully picking up the still
lighted cigar ends which the Yankees threw about. A somewhat
difficult task! seeing that more than 300,000 persons were
gathered round the enclosure. Michel Ardan had volunteered to
superintend the transport of the cartridges to the mouth of the
Columbiad; but the president, having surprised him with an
enormous cigar in his mouth, while he was hunting out the rash
spectators to whom he himself offered so dangerous an example,
saw that he could not trust this fearless smoker, and was
therefore obliged to mount a special guard over him.
At last, Providence being propitious, this wonderful loading
came to a happy termination, Captain Nicholl's third bet being
thus lost. It remained now to introduce the projectile into the
Columbiad, and to place it on its soft bed of gun-cotton.
But before doing this, all those things necessary for the
journey had to be carefully arranged in the projectile vehicle.
These necessaries were numerous; and had Ardan been allowed to
follow his own wishes, there would have been no space remaining
for the travelers. It is impossible to conceive of half the
things this charming Frenchman wished to convey to the moon.
A veritable stock of useless trifles! But Barbicane interfered
and refused admission to anything not absolutely needed.
Several thermometers, barometers, and telescopes were packed in
the instrument case.
The travelers being desirous of examing the moon carefully
during their voyage, in order to facilitate their studies,
they took with them Boeer and Moeller's excellent Mappa
Selenographica, a masterpiece of patience and observation,
which they hoped would enable them to identify those physical
features in the moon, with which they were acquainted.
This map reproduced with scrupulous fidelity the smallest
details of the lunar surface which faces the earth; the
mountains, valleys, craters, peaks, and ridges were all
represented, with their exact dimensions, relative positions,
and names; from the mountains Doerfel and Leibnitz on the
eastern side of the disc, to the Mare frigoris of the North Pole.
They took also three rifles and three fowling-pieces, and a
large quantity of balls, shot, and powder.
"We cannot tell whom we shall have to deal with," said Michel Ardan.
"Men or beasts may possibly object to our visit. It is only wise
to take all precautions."
These defensive weapons were accompanied by pickaxes, crowbars,
saws, and other useful implements, not to mention clothing
adapted to every temperature, from that of polar regions to that
of the torrid zone.
Ardan wished to convey a number of animals of different sorts,
not indeed a pair of every known species, as he could not see
the necessity of acclimatizing serpents, tigers, alligators, or
any other noxious beasts in the moon. "Nevertheless," he said
to Barbicane, "some valuable and useful beasts, bullocks, cows,
horses, and donkeys, would bear the journey very well, and would
also be very useful to us."
"I dare say, my dear Ardan," replied the president, "but our
projectile-vehicle is no Noah's ark, from which it differs both in
dimensions and object. Let us confine ourselves to possibilities."
After a prolonged discussion, it was agreed that the travelers
should restrict themselves to a sporting-dog belonging to
Nicholl, and to a large Newfoundland. Several packets of seeds
were also included among the necessaries. Michel Ardan, indeed,
was anxious to add some sacks full of earth to sow them in; as
it was, he took a dozen shrubs carefully wrapped up in straw to
plant in the moon.
The important question of provisions still remained; it being
necessary to provide against the possibility of their finding
the moon absolutely barren. Barbicane managed so successfully,
that he supplied them with sufficient rations for a year.
These consisted of preserved meats and vegetables, reduced by
strong hydraulic pressure to the smallest possible dimensions.
They were also supplied with brandy, and took water enough for
two months, being confident, from astronomical observations,
that there was no lack of water on the moon's surface. As to
provisions, doubtless the inhabitants of the earth would find
nourishment somewhere in the moon. Ardan never questioned
this; indeed, had he done so, he would never have undertaken
"Besides," he said one day to his friends, "we shall not be
completely abandoned by our terrestrial friends; they will take
care not to forget us."
"No, indeed!" replied J. T. Maston.
"Nothing would be simpler," replied Ardan; "the Columbiad will
be always there. Well! whenever the moon is in a favorable
condition as to the zenith, if not to the perigee, that is to
say about once a year, could you not send us a shell packed
with provisions, which we might expect on some appointed day?"
"Hurrah! hurrah!" cried J. T. Matson; "what an ingenious fellow!
what a splendid idea! Indeed, my good friends, we shall not
"I shall reckon upon you! Then, you see, we shall receive news
regularly from the earth, and we shall indeed be stupid if we
hit upon no plan for communicating with our good friends here!"
These words inspired such confidence, that Michel Ardan carried
all the Gun Club with him in his enthusiasm. What he said
seemed so simple and so easy, so sure of success, that none
could be so sordidly attached to this earth as to hesitate to
follow the three travelers on their lunar expedition.
All being ready at last, it remained to place the projectile in
the Columbiad, an operation abundantly accompanied by dangers
The enormous shell was conveyed to the summit of Stones Hill.
There, powerful cranes raised it, and held it suspended over the
mouth of the cylinder.
It was a fearful moment! What if the chains should break under
its enormous weight? The sudden fall of such a body would
inevitably cause the gun-cotton to explode!
Fortunately this did not happen; and some hours later the
projectile-vehicle descended gently into the heart of the cannon
and rested on its couch of pyroxyle, a veritable bed of
explosive eider-down. Its pressure had no result, other than
the more effectual ramming down of the charge in the Columbiad.
"I have lost," said the captain, who forthwith paid President
Barbicane the sum of three thousand dollars.
Barbicane did not wish to accept the money from one of his
fellow-travelers, but gave way at last before the determination
of Nicholl, who wished before leaving the earth to fulfill all
"Now," said Michel Ardan, "I have only one thing more to wish
for you, my brave captain."
"What is that?" asked Nicholl.
"It is that you may lose your two other bets! Then we shall be
sure not to be stopped on our journey!"
The first of December had arrived! the fatal day! for, if the
projectile were not discharged that very night at 10h. 48m. 40s.
P.M., more than eighteen years must roll by before the moon
would again present herself under the same conditions of zenith
The weather was magnificent. Despite the approach of winter,
the sun shone brightly, and bathed in its radiant light that
earth which three of its denizens were about to abandon for a
How many persons lost their rest on the night which preceded
this long-expected day! All hearts beat with disquietude, save
only the heart of Michel Ardan. That imperturbable personage
came and went with his habitual business-like air, while nothing
whatever denoted that any unusual matter preoccupied his mind.
After dawn, an innumerable multitude covered the prairie which
extends, as far as the eye can reach, round Stones Hill. Every
quarter of an hour the railway brought fresh accessions of
sightseers; and, according to the statement of the Tampa Town
Observer, not less than five millions of spectators thronged
the soil of Florida.
For a whole month previously, the mass of these persons had
bivouacked round the enclosure, and laid the foundations for a
town which was afterward called "Ardan's Town." The whole plain
was covered with huts, cottages, and tents. Every nation under
the sun was represented there; and every language might be heard
spoken at the same time. It was a perfect Babel re-enacted.
All the various classes of American society were mingled
together in terms of absolute equality. Bankers, farmers,
sailors, cotton-planters, brokers, merchants, watermen,
magistrates, elbowed each other in the most free-and-easy way.
Louisiana Creoles fraternized with farmers from Indiana;
Kentucky and Tennessee gentlemen and haughty Virginians
conversed with trappers and the half-savages of the lakes and
butchers from Cincinnati. Broad-brimmed white hats and Panamas,
blue-cotton trousers, light-colored stockings, cambric frills,
were all here displayed; while upon shirt-fronts, wristbands,
and neckties, upon every finger, even upon the very ears, they
wore an assortment of rings, shirt-pins, brooches, and trinkets,
of which the value only equaled the execrable taste. Women, children,
and servants, in equally expensive dress, surrounded their husbands,
fathers, or masters, who resembled the patriarchs of tribes in the
midst of their immense households.
At meal-times all fell to work upon the dishes peculiar to the
Southern States, and consumed with an appetite that threatened
speedy exhaustion of the victualing powers of Florida,
fricasseed frogs, stuffed monkey, fish chowder, underdone
'possum, and raccoon steaks. And as for the liquors which
accompanied this indigestible repast! The shouts, the
vociferations that resounded through the bars and taverns
decorated with glasses, tankards, and bottles of marvelous
shape, mortars for pounding sugar, and bundles of straws!
"Mint-julep" roars one of the barmen; "Claret sangaree!"
shouts another; "Cocktail!" "Brandy-smash!" "Real mint-julep
in the new style!" All these cries intermingled produced a
bewildering and deafening hubbub.
But on this day, 1st of December, such sounds were rare. No one
thought of eating or drinking, and at four P.M. there were vast
numbers of spectators who had not even taken their customary
lunch! And, a still more significant fact, even the national
passion for play seemed quelled for the time under the general
excitement of the hour.
Up till nightfall, a dull, noiseless agitation, such as
precedes great catastrophes, ran through the anxious multitude.
An indescribable uneasiness pervaded all minds, an indefinable
sensation which oppressed the heart. Every one wished it was over.
However, about seven o'clock, the heavy silence was dissipated.
The moon rose above the horizon. Millions of hurrahs hailed
her appearance. She was punctual to the rendezvous, and shouts
of welcome greeted her on all sides, as her pale beams shone
gracefully in the clear heavens. At this moment the three
intrepid travelers appeared. This was the signal for renewed
cries of still greater intensity. Instantly the vast
assemblage, as with one accord, struck up the national hymn of
the United States, and "Yankee Doodle," sung by five million of
hearty throats, rose like a roaring tempest to the farthest
limits of the atmosphere. Then a profound silence reigned
throughout the crowd.
The Frenchman and the two Americans had by this time entered the
enclosure reserved in the center of the multitude. They were
accompanied by the members of the Gun Club, and by deputations
sent from all the European Observatories. Barbicane, cool and
collected, was giving his final directions. Nicholl, with
compressed lips, his arms crossed behind his back, walked with
a firm and measured step. Michel Ardan, always easy, dressed in
thorough traveler's costume, leathern gaiters on his legs, pouch
by his side, in loose velvet suit, cigar in mouth, was full of
inexhaustible gayety, laughing, joking, playing pranks with J.
T. Maston. In one word, he was the thorough "Frenchman" (and
worse, a "Parisian") to the last moment.
Ten o'clock struck! The moment had arrived for taking their
places in the projectile! The necessary operations for the
descent, and the subsequent removal of the cranes and
scaffolding that inclined over the mouth of the Columbiad,
required a certain period of time.
Barbicane had regulated his chronometer to the tenth part of a
second by that of Murchison the engineer, who was charged with
the duty of firing the gun by means of an electric spark.
Thus the travelers enclosed within the projectile were enabled
to follow with their eyes the impassive needle which marked the
precise moment of their departure.
The moment had arrived for saying "good-by!" The scene was a
touching one. Despite his feverish gayety, even Michel Ardan
was touched. J. T. Maston had found in his own dry eyes one
ancient tear, which he had doubtless reserved for the occasion.
He dropped it on the forehead of his dear president.
"Can I not go?" he said, "there is still time!"
"Impossible, old fellow!" replied Barbicane. A few moments
later, the three fellow-travelers had ensconced themselves in
the projectile, and screwed down the plate which covered the
entrance-aperture. The mouth of the Columbiad, now completely
disencumbered, was open entirely to the sky.
The moon advanced upward in a heaven of the purest clearness,
outshining in her passage the twinkling light of the stars.
She passed over the constellation of the Twins, and was now
nearing the halfway point between the horizon and the zenith.
A terrible silence weighed upon the entire scene! Not a breath of
wind upon the earth! not a sound of breathing from the countless
chests of the spectators! Their hearts seemed afraid to beat!
All eyes were fixed upon the yawning mouth of the Columbiad.
Murchison followed with his eye the hand of his chronometer.
It wanted scarce forty seconds to the moment of departure, but
each second seemed to last an age! At the twentieth there was
a general shudder, as it occurred to the minds of that vast
assemblage that the bold travelers shut up within the projectile
were also counting those terrible seconds. Some few cries here
and there escaped the crowd.
"Thirty-five!— thirty-six!— thirty-seven!— thirty-eight!—
thirty-nine!— forty! FIRE!!!"
Instantly Murchison pressed with his finger the key of the
electric battery, restored the current of the fluid, and
discharged the spark into the breech of the Columbiad.
An appalling unearthly report followed instantly, such as can be
compared to nothing whatever known, not even to the roar of
thunder, or the blast of volcanic explosions! No words can
convey the slightest idea of the terrific sound! An immense
spout of fire shot up from the bowels of the earth as from a crater.
The earth heaved up, and with great difficulty some few spectators
obtained a momentary glimpse of the projectile victoriously
cleaving the air in the midst of the fiery vapors!
At the moment when that pyramid of fire rose to a prodigious
height into the air, the glare of flame lit up the whole of
Florida; and for a moment day superseded night over a
considerable extent of the country. This immense canopy of fire
was perceived at a distance of one hundred miles out at sea, and
more than one ship's captain entered in his log the appearance
of this gigantic meteor.
The discharge of the Columbiad was accompanied by a
perfect earthquake. Florida was shaken to its very depths.
The gases of the powder, expanded by heat, forced back the
atmospheric strata with tremendous violence, and this
artificial hurricane rushed like a water-spout through the air.
Not a single spectator remained on his feet! Men, women
children, all lay prostrate like ears of corn under a tempest.
There ensued a terrible tumult; a large number of persons were
seriously injured. J. T. Maston, who, despite all dictates of
prudence, had kept in advance of the mass, was pitched back 120
feet, shooting like a projectile over the heads of his
fellow-citizens. Three hundred thousand persons remained deaf
for a time, and as though struck stupefied.
As soon as the first effects were over, the injured, the deaf,
and lastly, the crowd in general, woke up with frenzied cries.
"Hurrah for Ardan! Hurrah for Barbicane! Hurrah for Nicholl!"
rose to the skies. Thousands of persons, noses in air, armed
with telescopes and race-glasses, were questioning space,
forgetting all contusions and emotions in the one idea of
watching for the projectile. They looked in vain! It was no
longer to be seen, and they were obliged to wait for telegrams
from Long's Peak. The director of the Cambridge Observatory was
at his post on the Rocky Mountains; and to him, as a skillful
and persevering astronomer, all observations had been confided.
But an unforeseen phenomenon came in to subject the public
impatience to a severe trial.
The weather, hitherto so fine, suddenly changed; the sky became
heavy with clouds. It could not have been otherwise after the
terrible derangement of the atmospheric strata, and the dispersion
of the enormous quantity of vapor arising from the combustion of
200,000 pounds of pyroxyle!
On the morrow the horizon was covered with clouds— a thick and
impenetrable curtain between earth and sky, which unhappily
extended as far as the Rocky Mountains. It was a fatality!
But since man had chosen so to disturb the atmosphere, he was
bound to accept the consequences of his experiment.
Supposing, now, that the experiment had succeeded, the travelers
having started on the 1st of December, at 10h. 46m. 40s. P.M.,
were due on the 4th at 0h. P.M. at their destination. So that
up to that time it would have been very difficult after all to
have observed, under such conditions, a body so small as the shell.
Therefore they waited with what patience they might.
From the 4th to the 6th of December inclusive, the weather
remaining much the same in America, the great European
instruments of Herschel, Rosse, and Foucault, were constantly
directed toward the moon, for the weather was then magnificent;
but the comparative weakness of their glasses prevented any
trustworthy observations being made.
On the 7th the sky seemed to lighten. They were in hopes now,
but their hope was of but short duration, and at night again
thick clouds hid the starry vault from all eyes.
Matters were now becoming serious, when on the 9th the sun
reappeared for an instant, as if for the purpose of teasing
the Americans. It was received with hisses; and wounded, no
doubt, by such a reception, showed itself very sparing of its rays.
On the 10th, no change! J. T. Maston went nearly mad, and great
fears were entertained regarding the brain of this worthy
individual, which had hitherto been so well preserved within his
But on the 11th one of those inexplicable tempests peculiar to
those intertropical regions was let loose in the atmosphere.
A terrific east wind swept away the groups of clouds which had
been so long gathering, and at night the semi-disc of the orb of
night rode majestically amid the soft constellations of the sky.
A NEW STAR
That very night, the startling news so impatiently awaited,
burst like a thunderbolt over the United States of the Union,
and thence, darting across the ocean, ran through all the
telegraphic wires of the globe. The projectile had been
detected, thanks to the gigantic reflector of Long's Peak!
Here is the note received by the director of the Observatory
of Cambridge. It contains the scientific conclusion regarding
this great experiment of the Gun Club.
LONG'S PEAK, December 12.
To the Officers of the Observatory of Cambridge.
The projectile discharged by the Columbiad at Stones Hill has
been detected by Messrs. Belfast and J. T. Maston, 12th of
December, at 8:47 P.M., the moon having entered her last quarter.
This projectile has not arrived at its destination. It has
passed by the side; but sufficiently near to be retained by the
The rectilinear movement has thus become changed into a circular
motion of extreme velocity, and it is now pursuing an elliptical
orbit round the moon, of which it has become a true satellite.
The elements of this new star we have as yet been unable to
determine; we do not yet know the velocity of its passage.
The distance which separates it from the surface of the moon
may be estimated at about 2,833 miles.
However, two hypotheses come here into our consideration.
1. Either the attraction of the moon will end by drawing them
into itself, and the travelers will attain their destination; or,
2. The projectile, following an immutable law, will continue to
gravitate round the moon till the end of time.
At some future time, our observations will be able to determine
this point, but till then the experiment of the Gun Club can
have no other result than to have provided our solar system with
a new star.
To how many questions did this unexpected denouement give rise?
What mysterious results was the future reserving for the
investigation of science? At all events, the names of Nicholl,
Barbicane, and Michel Ardan were certain to be immortalized in
the annals of astronomy!
When the dispatch from Long's Peak had once become known, there
was but one universal feeling of surprise and alarm. Was it
possible to go to the aid of these bold travelers? No! for they
had placed themselves beyond the pale of humanity, by crossing
the limits imposed by the Creator on his earthly creatures.
They had air enough for two months; they had victuals enough
for twelve;— but after that? There was only one man who
would not admit that the situation was desperate— he alone had
confidence; and that was their devoted friend J. T. Maston.
Besides, he never let them get out of sight. His home was
henceforth the post at Long's Peak; his horizon, the mirror of
that immense reflector. As soon as the moon rose above the
horizon, he immediately caught her in the field of the
telescope; he never let her go for an instant out of his
sight, and followed her assiduously in her course through the
stellar spaces. He watched with untiring patience the passage
of the projectile across her silvery disc, and really the worthy
man remained in perpetual communication with his three friends,
whom he did not despair of seeing again some day.
"Those three men," said he, "have carried into space all the
resources of art, science, and industry. With that, one can do
anything; and you will see that, some day, they will come out
ROUND THE MOON
A SEQUEL TO
FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
ROUND THE MOON
THE FIRST PART OF THIS WORK, AND SERVING AS A PREFACE TO THE SECOND
During the year 186-, the whole world was greatly excited by a
scientific experiment unprecedented in the annals of science.
The members of the Gun Club, a circle of artillerymen formed at
Baltimore after the American war, conceived the idea of
putting themselves in communication with the moon!— yes, with
the moon— by sending to her a projectile. Their president,
Barbicane, the promoter of the enterprise, having consulted the
astronomers of the Cambridge Observatory upon the subject, took
all necessary means to ensure the success of this extraordinary
enterprise, which had been declared practicable by the majority
of competent judges. After setting on foot a public
subscription, which realized nearly L1,200,000, they began the
According to the advice forwarded from the members of the
Observatory, the gun destined to launch the projectile had to be
fixed in a country situated between the 0 and 28th degrees of
north or south latitude, in order to aim at the moon when at the
zenith; and its initiatory velocity was fixed at twelve thousand
yards to the second. Launched on the 1st of December, at 10hrs.
46m. 40s. P.M., it ought to reach the moon four days after its
departure, that is on the 5th of December, at midnight
precisely, at the moment of her attaining her perigee, that is
her nearest distance from the earth, which is exactly 86,410
leagues (French), or 238,833 miles mean distance (English).
The principal members of the Gun Club, President Barbicane,
Major Elphinstone, the secretary Joseph T. Maston, and other
learned men, held several meetings, at which the shape and
composition of the projectile were discussed, also the position
and nature of the gun, and the quality and quantity of powder
to be used. It was decided: First, that the projectile should
be a shell made of aluminum with a diameter of 108 inches and a
thickness of twelve inches to its walls; and should weigh
19,250 pounds. Second, that the gun should be a Columbiad
cast in iron, 900 feet long, and run perpendicularly into
the earth. Third, that the charge should contain 400,000 pounds
of gun-cotton, which, giving out six billions of litres of gas in
rear of the projectile, would easily carry it toward the orb of night.
These questions determined President Barbicane, assisted by
Murchison the engineer, to choose a spot situated in Florida, in
27@ 7' North latitude, and 77@ 3' West (Greenwich) longitude.
It was on this spot, after stupendous labor, that the Columbiad
was cast with full success. Things stood thus, when an incident
took place which increased the interest attached to this great
enterprise a hundredfold.
A Frenchman, an enthusiastic Parisian, as witty as he was bold,
asked to be enclosed in the projectile, in order that he might
reach the moon, and reconnoiter this terrestrial satellite.
The name of this intrepid adventurer was Michel Ardan. He landed
in America, was received with enthusiasm, held meetings, saw
himself carried in triumph, reconciled President Barbicane to
his mortal enemy, Captain Nicholl, and, as a token of
reconciliation, persuaded them both to start with him in
the projectile. The proposition being accepted, the shape
of the projectile was slightly altered. It was made of a
cylindro-conical form. This species of aerial car was lined with
strong springs and partitions to deaden the shock of departure.
It was provided with food for a year, water for some months,
and gas for some days. A self-acting apparatus supplied the
three travelers with air to breathe. At the same time, on one
of the highest points of the Rocky Mountains, the Gun Club had
a gigantic telescope erected, in order that they might be able
to follow the course of the projectile through space. All was
On the 30th of November, at the hour fixed upon, from the midst
of an extraordinary crowd of spectators, the departure took place,
and for the first time, three human beings quitted the terrestrial
globe, and launched into inter-planetary space with almost a
certainty of reaching their destination. These bold travelers,
Michel Ardan, President Barbicane, and Captain Nicholl, ought to
make the passage in ninety-seven hours, thirteen minutes, and
twenty seconds. Consequently, their arrival on the lunar disc
could not take place until the 5th of December at twelve at night,
at the exact moment when the moon should be full, and not on the
4th, as some badly informed journalists had announced.
But an unforeseen circumstance, viz., the detonation produced
by the Columbiad, had the immediate effect of troubling the
terrestrial atmosphere, by accumulating a large quantity of
vapor, a phenomenon which excited universal indignation, for the
moon was hidden from the eyes of the watchers for several nights.
The worthy Joseph T. Maston, the staunchest friend of the three
travelers, started for the Rocky Mountains, accompanied by the
Hon. J. Belfast, director of the Cambridge Observatory, and
reached the station of Long's Peak, where the telescope was
erected which brought the moon within an apparent distance of
two leagues. The honorable secretary of the Gun Club wished
himself to observe the vehicle of his daring friends.
The accumulation of the clouds in the atmosphere prevented all
observation on the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th of December.
Indeed it was thought that all observations would have to be put
off to the 3d of January in the following year; for the moon
entering its last quarter on the 11th, would then only present
an ever-decreasing portion of her disc, insufficient to allow
of their following the course of the projectile.
At length, to the general satisfaction, a heavy storm cleared
the atmosphere on the night of the 11th and 12th of December,
and the moon, with half-illuminated disc, was plainly to be seen
upon the black sky.
That very night a telegram was sent from the station of Long's
Peak by Joseph T. Maston and Belfast to the gentlemen of the
Cambridge Observatory, announcing that on the 11th of December
at 8h. 47m. P.M., the projectile launched by the Columbiad of
Stones Hill had been detected by Messrs. Belfast and Maston—
that it had deviated from its course from some unknown cause,
and had not reached its destination; but that it had passed near
enough to be retained by the lunar attraction; that its
rectilinear movement had been changed to a circular one, and
that following an elliptical orbit round the star of night it
had become its satellite. The telegram added that the elements
of this new star had not yet been calculated; and indeed three
observations made upon a star in three different positions are
necessary to determine these elements. Then it showed that the
distance separating the projectile from the lunar surface "might"
be reckoned at about 2,833 miles.
It ended with the double hypothesis: either the attraction of
the moon would draw it to herself, and the travelers thus attain
their end; or that the projectile, held in one immutable orbit,
would gravitate around the lunar disc to all eternity.
With such alternatives, what would be the fate of the travelers?
Certainly they had food for some time. But supposing they did
succeed in their rash enterprise, how would they return?
Could they ever return? Should they hear from them?
These questions, debated by the most learned pens of the day,
strongly engrossed the public attention.
It is advisable here to make a remark which ought to be well
considered by hasty observers. When a purely speculative
discovery is announced to the public, it cannot be done with too
much prudence. No one is obliged to discover either a planet,
a comet, or a satellite; and whoever makes a mistake in such a
case exposes himself justly to the derision of the mass.
Far better is it to wait; and that is what the impatient Joseph
T. Maston should have done before sending this telegram forth to
the world, which, according to his idea, told the whole result
of the enterprise. Indeed this telegram contained two sorts of
errors, as was proved eventually. First, errors of observation,
concerning the distance of the projectile from the surface of
the moon, for on the 11th of December it was impossible to see
it; and what Joseph T. Maston had seen, or thought he saw, could
not have been the projectile of the Columbiad. Second, errors of
theory on the fate in store for the said projectile; for in making
it a satellite of the moon, it was putting it in direct
contradiction of all mechanical laws.
One single hypothesis of the observers of Long's Peak could ever
be realized, that which foresaw the case of the travelers (if
still alive) uniting their efforts with the lunar attraction to
attain the surface of the disc.
Now these men, as clever as they were daring, had survived the
terrible shock consequent on their departure, and it is their
journey in the projectile car which is here related in its most
dramatic as well as in its most singular details. This recital
will destroy many illusions and surmises; but it will give a
true idea of the singular changes in store for such an
enterprise; it will bring out the scientific instincts of
Barbicane, the industrious resources of Nicholl, and the
audacious humor of Michel Ardan. Besides this, it will prove
that their worthy friend, Joseph T. Maston, was wasting his
time, while leaning over the gigantic telescope he watched the
course of the moon through the starry space.
TWENTY MINUTES PAST TEN TO FORTY-SEVEN MINUTES PAST TEN P. M.
As ten o'clock struck, Michel Ardan, Barbicane, and Nicholl,
took leave of the numerous friends they were leaving on the earth.
The two dogs, destined to propagate the canine race on the lunar
continents, were already shut up in the projectile.
The three travelers approached the orifice of the enormous
cast-iron tube, and a crane let them down to the conical top of
the projectile. There, an opening made for the purpose gave
them access to the aluminum car. The tackle belonging to the
crane being hauled from outside, the mouth of the Columbiad was
instantly disencumbered of its last supports.
Nicholl, once introduced with his companions inside the
projectile, began to close the opening by means of a strong
plate, held in position by powerful screws. Other plates,
closely fitted, covered the lenticular glasses, and the
travelers, hermetically enclosed in their metal prison, were
plunged in profound darkness.
"And now, my dear companions," said Michel Ardan, "let us
make ourselves at home; I am a domesticated man and strong
in housekeeping. We are bound to make the best of our new
lodgings, and make ourselves comfortable. And first let us
try and see a little. Gas was not invented for moles."
So saying, the thoughtless fellow lit a match by striking it on
the sole of his boot; and approached the burner fixed to the
receptacle, in which the carbonized hydrogen, stored at high
pressure, sufficed for the lighting and warming of the
projectile for a hundred and forty-four hours, or six days and
six nights. The gas caught fire, and thus lighted the
projectile looked like a comfortable room with thickly padded
walls, furnished with a circular divan, and a roof rounded in
the shape of a dome.
Michel Ardan examined everything, and declared himself satisfied
with his installation.
"It is a prison," said he, "but a traveling prison; and, with
the right of putting my nose to the window, I could well stand
a lease of a hundred years. You smile, Barbicane. Have you any
arriere-pensee? Do you say to yourself, `This prison may be
our tomb?' Tomb, perhaps; still I would not change it for
Mahomet's, which floats in space but never advances an inch!"
While Michel Ardan was speaking, Barbicane and Nicholl were
making their last preparations.
Nicholl's chronometer marked twenty minutes past ten P.M. when
the three travelers were finally enclosed in their projectile.
This chronometer was set within the tenth of a second by that of
Murchison the engineer. Barbicane consulted it.
"My friends," said he, "it is twenty minutes past ten. At forty-
seven minutes past ten Murchison will launch the electric spark
on the wire which communicates with the charge of the Columbiad.
At that precise moment we shall leave our spheroid. Thus we
still have twenty-seven minutes to remain on the earth."
"Twenty-six minutes thirteen seconds," replied the methodical Nicholl.
"Well!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, in a good-humored tone, "much
may be done in twenty-six minutes. The gravest questions of
morals and politics may be discussed, and even solved.
Twenty-six minutes well employed are worth more than twenty-six
years in which nothing is done. Some seconds of a Pascal or a
Newton are more precious than the whole existence of a crowd of
"And you conclude, then, you everlasting talker?" asked Barbicane.
"I conclude that we have twenty-six minutes left," replied Ardan.
"Twenty-four only," said Nicholl.
"Well, twenty-four, if you like, my noble captain," said Ardan;
"twenty-four minutes in which to investigate——"
"Michel," said Barbicane, "during the passage we shall have
plenty of time to investigate the most difficult questions.
For the present we must occupy ourselves with our departure."
"Are we not ready?"
"Doubtless; but there are still some precautions to be taken,
to deaden as much as possible the first shock."
"Have we not the water-cushions placed between the partition-
breaks, whose elasticity will sufficiently protect us?"
"I hope so, Michel," replied Barbicane gently, "but I am not sure."
"Ah, the joker!" exclaimed Michel Ardan. "He hopes!—He is not
sure!— and he waits for the moment when we are encased to make
this deplorable admission! I beg to be allowed to get out!"
"And how?" asked Barbicane.
"Humph!" said Michel Ardan, "it is not easy; we are in the
train, and the guard's whistle will sound before twenty-four
minutes are over."
"Twenty," said Nicholl.
For some moments the three travelers looked at each other.
Then they began to examine the objects imprisoned with them.
"Everything is in its place," said Barbicane. "We have now to
decide how we can best place ourselves to resist the shock.
Position cannot be an indifferent matter; and we must, as much
as possible, prevent the rush of blood to the head."
"Just so," said Nicholl.
"Then," replied Michel Ardan, ready to suit the action to the
word, "let us put our heads down and our feet in the air, like
the clowns in the grand circus."
"No," said Barbicane, "let us stretch ourselves on our sides; we
shall resist the shock better that way. Remember that, when the
projectile starts, it matters little whether we are in it or
before it; it amounts to much the same thing."
"If it is only `much the same thing,' I may cheer up," said
"Do you approve of my idea, Nicholl?" asked Barbicane.
"Entirely," replied the captain. "We've still thirteen minutes
and a half."
"That Nicholl is not a man," exclaimed Michel; "he is a
chronometer with seconds, an escape, and eight holes."
But his companions were not listening; they were taking up their
last positions with the most perfect coolness. They were like
two methodical travelers in a car, seeking to place themselves
as comfortably as possible.
We might well ask ourselves of what materials are the hearts of
these Americans made, to whom the approach of the most frightful
danger added no pulsation.
Three thick and solidly-made couches had been placed in
the projectile. Nicholl and Barbicane placed them in the
center of the disc forming the floor. There the three
travelers were to stretch themselves some moments before
During this time, Ardan, not being able to keep still, turned in
his narrow prison like a wild beast in a cage, chatting with his
friends, speaking to the dogs Diana and Satellite, to whom, as
may be seen, he had given significant names.
"Ah, Diana! Ah, Satellite!" he exclaimed, teasing them; "so you
are going to show the moon-dogs the good habits of the dogs of
the earth! That will do honor to the canine race! If ever we
do come down again, I will bring a cross type of `moon-dogs,'
which will make a stir!"
"If there are dogs in the moon," said Barbicane.
"There are," said Michel Ardan, "just as there are horses, cows,
donkeys, and chickens. I bet that we shall find chickens."
"A hundred dollars we shall find none!" said Nicholl.
"Done, my captain!" replied Ardan, clasping Nicholl's hand.
"But, by the bye, you have already lost three bets with our
president, as the necessary funds for the enterprise have been
found, as the operation of casting has been successful, and
lastly, as the Columbiad has been loaded without accident, six
"Yes," replied Nicholl. "Thirty-seven minutes six seconds past ten."
"It is understood, captain. Well, before another quarter of an
hour you will have to count nine thousand dollars to the
president; four thousand because the Columbiad will not burst,
and five thousand because the projectile will rise more than six
miles in the air."
"I have the dollars," replied Nicholl, slapping the pocket of
this coat. "I only ask to be allowed to pay."
"Come, Nicholl. I see that you are a man of method, which
I could never be; but indeed you have made a series of bets
of very little advantage to yourself, allow me to tell you."
"And why?" asked Nicholl.
"Because, if you gain the first, the Columbiad will have burst,
and the projectile with it; and Barbicane will no longer be
there to reimburse your dollars."
"My stake is deposited at the bank in Baltimore," replied
Barbicane simply; "and if Nicholl is not there, it will go to
"Ah, you practical men!" exclaimed Michel Ardan; "I admire you
the more for not being able to understand you."
"Forty-two minutes past ten!" said Nicholl.
"Only five minutes more!" answered Barbicane.
"Yes, five little minutes!" replied Michel Ardan; "and we are
enclosed in a projectile, at the bottom of a gun 900 feet long!
And under this projectile are rammed 400,000 pounds of gun-cotton,
which is equal to 1,600,000 pounds of ordinary powder! And friend
Murchison, with his chronometer in hand, his eye fixed on the
needle, his finger on the electric apparatus, is counting the
seconds preparatory to launching us into interplanetary space."
"Enough, Michel, enough!" said Barbicane, in a serious voice;
"let us prepare. A few instants alone separate us from an
eventful moment. One clasp of the hand, my friends."
"Yes," exclaimed Michel Ardan, more moved than he wished to
appear; and the three bold companions were united in a last embrace.
"God preserve us!" said the religious Barbicane.
Michel Ardan and Nicholl stretched themselves on the couches
placed in the center of the disc.
"Forty-seven minutes past ten!" murmured the captain.
"Twenty seconds more!" Barbicane quickly put out the gas and
lay down by his companions, and the profound silence was only
broken by the ticking of the chronometer marking the seconds.
Suddenly a dreadful shock was felt, and the projectile, under
the force of six billions of litres of gas, developed by the
combustion of pyroxyle, mounted into space.
THE FIRST HALF-HOUR
What had happened? What effect had this frightful shock produced?
Had the ingenuity of the constructors of the projectile obtained
any happy result? Had the shock been deadened, thanks to the
springs, the four plugs, the water-cushions, and the partition-breaks?
Had they been able to subdue the frightful pressure of the initiatory
speed of more than 11,000 yards, which was enough to traverse Paris
or New York in a second? This was evidently the question suggested
to the thousand spectators of this moving scene. They forgot the
aim of the journey, and thought only of the travelers. And if
one of them— Joseph T. Maston for example— could have cast one
glimpse into the projectile, what would he have seen?
Nothing then. The darkness was profound. But its cylindro-
conical partitions had resisted wonderfully. Not a rent or a
dent anywhere! The wonderful projectile was not even heated
under the intense deflagration of the powder, nor liquefied,
as they seemed to fear, in a shower of aluminum.
The interior showed but little disorder; indeed, only a few
objects had been violently thrown toward the roof; but the most
important seemed not to have suffered from the shock at all;
their fixtures were intact.
On the movable disc, sunk down to the bottom by the smashing of
the partition-breaks and the escape of the water, three bodies
lay apparently lifeless. Barbicane, Nicholl, and Michel Ardan—
did they still breathe? or was the projectile nothing now but a
metal coffin, bearing three corpses into space?
Some minutes after the departure of the projectile, one of
the bodies moved, shook its arms, lifted its head, and finally
succeeded in getting on its knees. It was Michel Ardan. He felt
himself all over, gave a sonorous "Hem!" and then said:
"Michel Ardan is whole. How about the others?"
The courageous Frenchman tried to rise, but could not stand.
His head swam, from the rush of blood; he was blind; he was a
"Bur-r!" said he. "It produces the same effect as two bottles
of Corton, though perhaps less agreeable to swallow."
Then, passing his hand several times across his forehead and
rubbing his temples, he called in a firm voice:
He waited anxiously. No answer; not even a sigh to show that
the hearts of his companions were still beating. He called again.
The same silence.
"The devil!" he exclaimed. "They look as if they had fallen
from a fifth story on their heads. Bah!" he added, with that
imperturbable confidence which nothing could check, "if a
Frenchman can get on his knees, two Americans ought to be able
to get on their feet. But first let us light up."
Ardan felt the tide of life return by degrees. His blood became
calm, and returned to its accustomed circulation. Another effort
restored his equilibrium. He succeeded in rising, drew a match
from his pocket, and approaching the burner lighted it.
The receiver had not suffered at all. The gas had not escaped.
Besides, the smell would have betrayed it; and in that case
Michel Ardan could not have carried a lighted match with
impunity through the space filled with hydrogen. The gas mixing
with the air would have produced a detonating mixture, and the
explosion would have finished what the shock had perhaps begun.
When the burner was lit, Ardan leaned over the bodies of his
companions: they were lying one on the other, an inert mass,
Nicholl above, Barbicane underneath.
Ardan lifted the captain, propped him up against the divan, and
began to rub vigorously. This means, used with judgment,
restored Nicholl, who opened his eyes, and instantly recovering
his presence of mind, seized Ardan's hand and looked around him.
"And Barbicane?" said he.
"Each in turn," replied Michel Ardan. "I began with you,
Nicholl, because you were on the top. Now let us look
to Barbicane." Saying which, Ardan and Nicholl raised the
president of the Gun Club and laid him on the divan. He seemed
to have suffered more than either of his companions; he was
bleeding, but Nicholl was reassured by finding that the
hemorrhage came from a slight wound on the shoulder, a mere
graze, which he bound up carefully.
Still, Barbicane was a long time coming to himself, which
frightened his friends, who did not spare friction.
"He breathes though," said Nicholl, putting his ear to the chest
of the wounded man.
"Yes," replied Ardan, "he breathes like a man who has some
notion of that daily operation. Rub, Nicholl; let us rub harder."
And the two improvised practitioners worked so hard and so well
that Barbicane recovered his senses. He opened his eyes, sat up,
took his two friends by the hands, and his first words were—
"Nicholl, are we moving?"
Nicholl and Ardan looked at each other; they had not yet
troubled themselves about the projectile; their first thought
had been for the traveler, not for the car.
"Well, are we really moving?" repeated Michel Ardan.
"Or quietly resting on the soil of Florida?" asked Nicholl.
"Or at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico?" added Michel Ardan.
"What an idea!" exclaimed the president.
And this double hypothesis suggested by his companions had the
effect of recalling him to his senses. In any case they could
not decide on the position of the projectile. Its apparent
immovability, and the want of communication with the outside,
prevented them from solving the question. Perhaps the projectile
was unwinding its course through space. Perhaps after a short
rise it had fallen upon the earth, or even in the Gulf of Mexico—
a fall which the narrowness of the peninsula of Florida would
render not impossible.
The case was serious, the problem interesting, and one that must
be solved as soon as possible. Thus, highly excited, Barbicane's
moral energy triumphed over physical weakness, and he rose to
his feet. He listened. Outside was perfect silence; but the
thick padding was enough to intercept all sounds coming from
the earth. But one circumstance struck Barbicane, viz., that
the temperature inside the projectile was singularly high.
The president drew a thermometer from its case and consulted it.
The instrument showed 81@ Fahr.
"Yes," he exclaimed, "yes, we are moving! This stifling heat,
penetrating through the partitions of the projectile, is
produced by its friction on the atmospheric strata. It will
soon diminish, because we are already floating in space, and
after having nearly stifled, we shall have to suffer intense cold.
"What!" said Michel Ardan. "According to your showing, Barbicane,
we are already beyond the limits of the terrestrial atmosphere?"
"Without a doubt, Michel. Listen to me. It is fifty-five
minutes past ten; we have been gone about eight minutes; and if
our initiatory speed has not been checked by the friction, six
seconds would be enough for us to pass through the forty miles
of atmosphere which surrounds the globe."
"Just so," replied Nicholl; "but in what proportion do you
estimate the diminution of speed by friction?"
"In the proportion of one-third, Nicholl. This diminution is
considerable, but according to my calculations it is nothing less.
If, then, we had an initiatory speed of 12,000 yards, on leaving
the atmosphere this speed would be reduced to 9,165 yards. In any
case we have already passed through this interval, and——"
"And then," said Michel Ardan, "friend Nicholl has lost his two
bets: four thousand dollars because the Columbiad did not burst;
five thousand dollars because the projectile has risen more than
six miles. Now, Nicholl, pay up."
"Let us prove it first," said the captain, "and we will
pay afterward. It is quite possible that Barbicane's reasoning
is correct, and that I have lost my nine thousand dollars. But a
new hypothesis presents itself to my mind, and it annuls the wager."
"What is that?" asked Barbicane quickly.
"The hypothesis that, for some reason or other, fire was never
set to the powder, and we have not started at all."
"My goodness, captain," exclaimed Michel Ardan, "that hypothesis
is not worthy of my brain! It cannot be a serious one. For have
we not been half annihilated by the shock? Did I not recall you
to life? Is not the president's shoulder still bleeding from the
blow it has received?"
"Granted," replied Nicholl; "but one question."
"Did you hear the detonation, which certainly ought to be loud?"
"No," replied Ardan, much surprised; "certainly I did not hear
"And you, Barbicane?"
"Nor I, either."
"Very well," said Nicholl.
"Well now," murmured the president "why did we not hear the detonation?"
The three friends looked at each other with a disconcerted air.
It was quite an inexplicable phenomenon. The projectile had
started, and consequently there must have been a detonation.
"Let us first find out where we are," said Barbicane, "and let
down this panel."
This very simple operation was soon accomplished.
The nuts which held the bolts to the outer plates of the
right-hand scuttle gave way under the pressure of the
English wrench. These bolts were pushed outside, and the
buffers covered with India-rubber stopped up the holes which let
them through. Immediately the outer plate fell back upon its
hinges like a porthole, and the lenticular glass which closed
the scuttle appeared. A similar one was let into the thick
partition on the opposite side of the projectile, another in the
top of the dome, and finally a fourth in the middle of the base.
They could, therefore, make observations in four different
directions; the firmament by the side and most direct windows,
the earth or the moon by the upper and under openings in
Barbicane and his two companions immediately rushed to the
uncovered window. But it was lit by no ray of light.
Profound darkness surrounded them, which, however, did not
prevent the president from exclaiming:
"No, my friends, we have not fallen back upon the earth; no, nor
are we submerged in the Gulf of Mexico. Yes! we are mounting
into space. See those stars shining in the night, and that
impenetrable darkness heaped up between the earth and us!"
"Hurrah! hurrah!" exclaimed Michel Ardan and Nicholl in one voice.
Indeed, this thick darkness proved that the projectile had left
the earth, for the soil, brilliantly lit by the moon-beams would
have been visible to the travelers, if they had been lying on
its surface. This darkness also showed that the projectile had
passed the atmospheric strata, for the diffused light spread in
the air would have been reflected on the metal walls, which
reflection was wanting. This light would have lit the window,
and the window was dark. Doubt was no longer possible; the
travelers had left the earth.
"I have lost," said Nicholl.
"I congratulate you," replied Ardan.
"Here are the nine thousand dollars," said the captain, drawing
a roll of paper dollars from his pocket.
"Will you have a receipt for it?" asked Barbicane, taking the sum.
"If you do not mind," answered Nicholl; "it is more business-like."
And coolly and seriously, as if he had been at his strong-box,
the president drew forth his notebook, tore out a blank leaf,
wrote a proper receipt in pencil, dated and signed it with the
usual flourish,  and gave it to the captain, who carefully placed
it in his pocketbook. Michel Ardan, taking off his hat, bowed to
his two companions without speaking. So much formality under such
circumstances left him speechless. He had never before seen
anything so "American."
 This is a purely French habit.
This affair settled, Barbicane and Nicholl had returned to the
window, and were watching the constellations. The stars looked
like bright points on the black sky. But from that side they
could not see the orb of night, which, traveling from east to
west, would rise by degrees toward the zenith. Its absence drew
the following remark from Ardan:
"And the moon; will she perchance fail at our rendezvous?"
"Do not alarm yourself," said Barbicane; "our future globe is at
its post, but we cannot see her from this side; let us open the other."
"As Barbicane was about leaving the window to open the opposite
scuttle, his attention was attracted by the approach of a
brilliant object. It was an enormous disc, whose colossal
dimension could not be estimated. Its face, which was turned to
the earth, was very bright. One might have thought it a small
moon reflecting the light of the large one. She advanced with
great speed, and seemed to describe an orbit round the earth,
which would intersect the passage of the projectile. This body
revolved upon its axis, and exhibited the phenomena of all
celestial bodies abandoned in space.
"Ah!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, "What is that? another projectile?"
Barbicane did not answer. The appearance of this enormous body
surprised and troubled him. A collision was possible, and might
be attended with deplorable results; either the projectile would
deviate from its path, or a shock, breaking its impetus, might
precipitate it to earth; or, lastly, it might be irresistibly
drawn away by the powerful asteroid. The president caught at a
glance the consequences of these three hypotheses, either of
which would, one way or the other, bring their experiment to an
unsuccessful and fatal termination. His companions stood
silently looking into space. The object grew rapidly as it
approached them, and by an optical illusion the projectile
seemed to be throwing itself before it.
"By Jove!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, "we shall run into one another!"
Instinctively the travelers drew back. Their dread was great,
but it did not last many seconds. The asteroid passed several
hundred yards from the projectile and disappeared, not so much
from the rapidity of its course, as that its face being opposite
the moon, it was suddenly merged into the perfect darkness of space.
"A happy journey to you," exclaimed Michel Ardan, with a sigh
of relief. "Surely infinity of space is large enough for a poor
little projectile to walk through without fear. Now, what is
this portentous globe which nearly struck us?"
"I know," replied Barbicane.
"Oh, indeed! you know everything."
"It is," said Barbicane, "a simple meteorite, but an enormous one,
which the attraction of the earth has retained as a satellite."
"Is it possible!" exclaimed Michel Ardan; "the earth then has
two moons like Neptune?"
"Yes, my friends, two moons, though it passes generally for
having only one; but this second moon is so small, and its
speed so great, that the inhabitants of the earth cannot see it.
It was by noticing disturbances that a French astronomer, M. Petit,
was able to determine the existence of this second satellite and
calculate its elements. According to his observations, this
meteorite will accomplish its revolution around the earth in
three hours and twenty minutes, which implies a wonderful rate
"Do all astronomers admit the existence of this satellite?"
"No," replied Barbicane; "but if, like us, they had met it, they
could no longer doubt it. Indeed, I think that this meteorite,
which, had it struck the projectile, would have much embarrassed
us, will give us the means of deciding what our position in
"How?" said Ardan.
"Because its distance is known, and when we met it, we were
exactly four thousand six hundred and fifty miles from the
surface of the terrestrial globe."
"More than two thousand French leagues," exclaimed Michel Ardan.
"That beats the express trains of the pitiful globe called the earth."
"I should think so," replied Nicholl, consulting his
chronometer; "it is eleven o'clock, and it is only thirteen
minutes since we left the American continent."
"Only thirteen minutes?" said Barbicane.
"Yes," said Nicholl; "and if our initiatory speed of twelve
thousand yards has been kept up, we shall have made about twenty
thousand miles in the hour."
"That is all very well, my friends," said the president, "but
the insoluble question still remains. Why did we not hear the
detonation of the Columbiad?"
For want of an answer the conversation dropped, and Barbicane
began thoughtfully to let down the shutter of the second side.
He succeeded; and through the uncovered glass the moon filled
the projectile with a brilliant light. Nicholl, as an
economical man, put out the gas, now useless, and whose
brilliancy prevented any observation of the inter-planetary space.
The lunar disc shone with wonderful purity. Her rays, no longer
filtered through the vapory atmosphere of the terrestrial globe,
shone through the glass, filling the air in the interior of the
projectile with silvery reflections. The black curtain of the
firmament in reality heightened the moon's brilliancy, which in
this void of ether unfavorable to diffusion did not eclipse the
neighboring stars. The heavens, thus seen, presented quite a
new aspect, and one which the human eye could never dream of.
One may conceive the interest with which these bold men watched
the orb of night, the great aim of their journey.
In its motion the earth's satellite was insensibly nearing the
zenith, the mathematical point which it ought to attain
ninety-six hours later. Her mountains, her plains, every
projection was as clearly discernible to their eyes as if they
were observing it from some spot upon the earth; but its light
was developed through space with wonderful intensity. The disc
shone like a platinum mirror. Of the earth flying from under
their feet, the travelers had lost all recollection.
It was captain Nicholl who first recalled their attention to the
"Yes," said Michel Ardan, "do not let us be ungrateful to it.
Since we are leaving our country, let our last looks be directed
to it. I wish to see the earth once more before it is quite
hidden from my eyes."
To satisfy his companions, Barbicane began to uncover the window
at the bottom of the projectile, which would allow them to
observe the earth direct. The disc, which the force of the
projection had beaten down to the base, was removed, not
without difficulty. Its fragments, placed carefully against a wall,
might serve again upon occasion. Then a circular gap appeared,
nineteen inches in diameter, hollowed out of the lower part of
the projectile. A glass cover, six inches thick and strengthened
with upper fastenings, closed it tightly. Beneath was fixed an
aluminum plate, held in place by bolts. The screws being undone,
and the bolts let go, the plate fell down, and visible
communication was established between the interior and the exterior.
Michel Ardan knelt by the glass. It was cloudy, seemingly opaque.
"Well!" he exclaimed, "and the earth?"
"The earth?" said Barbicane. "There it is."
"What! that little thread; that silver crescent?"
"Doubtless, Michel. In four days, when the moon will be full,
at the very time we shall reach it, the earth will be new, and
will only appear to us as a slender crescent which will soon
disappear, and for some days will be enveloped in utter darkness."
"That the earth?" repeated Michel Ardan, looking with all his
eyes at the thin slip of his native planet.
The explanation given by President Barbicane was correct.
The earth, with respect to the projectile, was entering its
last phase. It was in its octant, and showed a crescent finely
traced on the dark background of the sky. Its light, rendered
bluish by the thick strata of the atmosphere was less intense
than that of the crescent moon, but it was of considerable
dimensions, and looked like an enormous arch stretched across
the firmament. Some parts brilliantly lighted, especially on
its concave part, showed the presence of high mountains, often
disappearing behind thick spots, which are never seen on the
lunar disc. They were rings of clouds placed concentrically
round the terrestrial globe.
While the travelers were trying to pierce the profound darkness,
a brilliant cluster of shooting stars burst upon their eyes.
Hundreds of meteorites, ignited by the friction of the
atmosphere, irradiated the shadow of the luminous train, and
lined the cloudy parts of the disc with their fire. At this
period the earth was in its perihelion, and the month of
December is so propitious to these shooting stars, that
astronomers have counted as many as twenty-four thousand in
an hour. But Michel Ardan, disdaining scientific reasonings,
preferred thinking that the earth was thus saluting the
departure of her three children with her most brilliant fireworks.
Indeed this was all they saw of the globe lost in the solar
world, rising and setting to the great planets like a simple
morning or evening star! This globe, where they had left all
their affections, was nothing more than a fugitive crescent!
Long did the three friends look without speaking, though united
in heart, while the projectile sped onward with an
ever-decreasing speed. Then an irresistible drowsiness crept
over their brain. Was it weariness of body and mind? No doubt;
for after the over-excitement of those last hours passed upon
earth, reaction was inevitable.
"Well," said Nicholl, "since we must sleep, let us sleep."
And stretching themselves on their couches, they were all three
soon in a profound slumber.
But they had not forgotten themselves more than a quarter of an
hour, when Barbicane sat up suddenly, and rousing his companions
with a loud voice, exclaimed——
"I have found it!"
"What have you found?" asked Michel Ardan, jumping from his bed.
"The reason why we did not hear the detonation of the Columbiad."
"And it is——?" said Nicholl.
"Because our projectile traveled faster than the sound!"
THEIR PLACE OF SHELTER
This curious but certainly correct explanation once given, the
three friends returned to their slumbers. Could they have found
a calmer or more peaceful spot to sleep in? On the earth,
houses, towns, cottages, and country feel every shock given to
the exterior of the globe. On sea, the vessels rocked by the
waves are still in motion; in the air, the balloon oscillates
incessantly on the fluid strata of divers densities.
This projectile alone, floating in perfect space, in the midst
of perfect silence, offered perfect repose.
Thus the sleep of our adventurous travelers might have been
indefinitely prolonged, if an unexpected noise had not awakened
them at about seven o'clock in the morning of the 2nd of
December, eight hours after their departure.
This noise was a very natural barking.
"The dogs! it is the dogs!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, rising at once.
"They are hungry," said Nicholl.
"By Jove!" replied Michel, "we have forgotten them."
"Where are they?" asked Barbicane.
They looked and found one of the animals crouched under the divan.
Terrified and shaken by the initiatory shock, it had remained
in the corner till its voice returned with the pangs of hunger.
It was the amiable Diana, still very confused, who crept out of
her retreat, though not without much persuasion, Michel Ardan
encouraging her with most gracious words.
"Come, Diana," said he: "come, my girl! thou whose destiny will
be marked in the cynegetic annals; thou whom the pagans would
have given as companion to the god Anubis, and Christians as
friend to St. Roch; thou who art rushing into interplanetary
space, and wilt perhaps be the Eve of all Selenite dogs! come,
Diana, come here."
Diana, flattered or not, advanced by degrees, uttering
"Good," said Barbicane: "I see Eve, but where is Adam?"
"Adam?" replied Michel; "Adam cannot be far off; he is there
somewhere; we must call him. Satellite! here, Satellite!"
But Satellite did not appear. Diana would not leave off howling.
They found, however, that she was not bruised, and they gave her
a pie, which silenced her complaints. As to Satellite, he seemed
quite lost. They had to hunt a long time before finding him in
one of the upper compartments of the projectile, whither some
unaccountable shock must have violently hurled him. The poor
beast, much hurt, was in a piteous state.
"The devil!" said Michel.
They brought the unfortunate dog down with great care. Its skull
had been broken against the roof, and it seemed unlikely that he
could recover from such a shock. Meanwhile, he was stretched
comfortably on a cushion. Once there, he heaved a sigh.
"We will take care of you," said Michel; "we are responsible for
your existence. I would rather lose an arm than a paw of my
Saying which, he offered some water to the wounded dog, who
swallowed it with avidity.
This attention paid, the travelers watched the earth and the
moon attentively. The earth was now only discernible by a
cloudy disc ending in a crescent, rather more contracted than
that of the previous evening; but its expanse was still
enormous, compared with that of the moon, which was approaching
nearer and nearer to a perfect circle.
"By Jove!" said Michel Ardan, "I am really sorry that we did not
start when the earth was full, that is to say, when our globe
was in opposition to the sun."
"Why?" said Nicholl.
"Because we should have seen our continents and seas in a new
light— the first resplendent under the solar rays, the latter
cloudy as represented on some maps of the world. I should like
to have seen those poles of the earth on which the eye of man
has never yet rested.
"I dare say," replied Barbicane; "but if the earth had been
full, the moon would have been new; that is to say,
invisible, because of the rays of the sun. It is better
for us to see the destination we wish to reach, than the point
"You are right, Barbicane," replied Captain Nicholl; "and,
besides, when we have reached the moon, we shall have time
during the long lunar nights to consider at our leisure the
globe on which our likenesses swarm."
"Our likenesses!" exclaimed Michel Ardan; "They are no more our
likenesses than the Selenites are! We inhabit a new world,
peopled by ourselves— the projectile! I am Barbicane's
likeness, and Barbicane is Nicholl's. Beyond us, around us,
human nature is at an end, and we are the only population of
this microcosm until we become pure Selenites."
"In about eighty-eight hours," replied the captain.
"Which means to say?" asked Michel Ardan.
"That it is half-past eight," replied Nicholl.
"Very well," retorted Michel; "then it is impossible for me to
find even the shadow of a reason why we should not go to breakfast."
Indeed the inhabitants of the new star could not live without
eating, and their stomachs were suffering from the imperious
laws of hunger. Michel Ardan, as a Frenchman, was declared
chief cook, an important function, which raised no rival.
The gas gave sufficient heat for the culinary apparatus, and
the provision box furnished the elements of this first feast.
The breakfast began with three bowls of excellent soup, thanks to
the liquefaction in hot water of those precious cakes of Liebig,
prepared from the best parts of the ruminants of the Pampas.
To the soup succeeded some beefsteaks, compressed by an hydraulic
press, as tender and succulent as if brought straight from the
kitchen of an English eating-house. Michel, who was imaginative,
maintained that they were even "red."
Preserved vegetables ("fresher than nature," said the amiable
Michel) succeeded the dish of meat; and was followed by some
cups of tea with bread and butter, after the American fashion.
The beverage was declared exquisite, and was due to the
infusion of the choicest leaves, of which the emperor of Russia
had given some chests for the benefit of the travelers.
And lastly, to crown the repast, Ardan had brought out a fine
bottle of Nuits, which was found "by chance" in the
provision-box. The three friends drank to the union of the
earth and her satellite.
And, as if he had not already done enough for the generous wine
which he had distilled on the slopes of Burgundy, the sun chose
to be part of the party. At this moment the projectile emerged
from the conical shadow cast by the terrestrial globe, and the
rays of the radiant orb struck the lower disc of the projectile
direct occasioned by the angle which the moon's orbit makes with
that of the earth.
"The sun!" exclaimed Michel Ardan.
"No doubt," replied Barbicane; "I expected it."
"But," said Michel, "the conical shadow which the earth leaves
in space extends beyond the moon?"
"Far beyond it, if the atmospheric refraction is not taken into
consideration," said Barbicane. "But when the moon is enveloped
in this shadow, it is because the centers of the three stars,
the sun, the earth, and the moon, are all in one and the same
straight line. Then the nodes coincide with the phases of
the moon, and there is an eclipse. If we had started when there
was an eclipse of the moon, all our passage would have been in
the shadow, which would have been a pity."
"Because, though we are floating in space, our projectile,
bathed in the solar rays, will receive light and heat.
It economizes the gas, which is in every respect a good economy."
Indeed, under these rays which no atmosphere can temper, either
in temperature or brilliancy, the projectile grew warm and
bright, as if it had passed suddenly from winter to summer.
The moon above, the sun beneath, were inundating it with their fire.
"It is pleasant here," said Nicholl.
"I should think so," said Michel Ardan. "With a little earth
spread on our aluminum planet we should have green peas in
twenty-four hours. I have but one fear, which is that the
walls of the projectile might melt."
"Calm yourself, my worthy friend," replied Barbicane; "the
projectile withstood a very much higher temperature than this as
it slid through the strata of the atmosphere. I should not be
surprised if it did not look like a meteor on fire to the eyes
of the spectators in Florida."
"But then J. T. Maston will think we are roasted!"
"What astonishes me," said Barbicane, "is that we have not been.
That was a danger we had not provided for."
"I feared it," said Nicholl simply.
"And you never mentioned it, my sublime captain," exclaimed
Michel Ardan, clasping his friend's hand.
Barbicane now began to settle himself in the projectile as if he
was never to leave it. One must remember that this aerial car
had a base with a superficies of fifty-four square feet.
Its height to the roof was twelve feet. Carefully laid out in
the inside, and little encumbered by instruments and traveling
utensils, which each had their particular place, it left the
three travelers a certain freedom of movement. The thick window
inserted in the bottom could bear any amount of weight, and
Barbicane and his companions walked upon it as if it were solid
plank; but the sun striking it directly with its rays lit the
interior of the projectile from beneath, thus producing singular
effects of light.
They began by investigating the state of their store of water
and provisions, neither of which had suffered, thanks to the
care taken to deaden the shock. Their provisions were abundant,
and plentiful enough to last the three travelers for more than
a year. Barbicane wished to be cautious, in case the projectile
should land on a part of the moon which was utterly barren.
As to water and the reserve of brandy, which consisted of fifty
gallons, there was only enough for two months; but according to
the last observations of astronomers, the moon had a low, dense,
and thick atmosphere, at least in the deep valleys, and there
springs and streams could not fail. Thus, during their passage,
and for the first year of their settlement on the lunar
continent, these adventurous explorers would suffer neither
hunger nor thirst.
Now about the air in the projectile. There, too, they were secure.
Reiset and Regnaut's apparatus, intended for the production of
oxygen, was supplied with chlorate of potassium for two months.
They necessarily consumed a certain quantity of gas, for they
were obliged to keep the producing substance at a temperature
of above 400@. But there again they were all safe. The apparatus
only wanted a little care. But it was not enough to renew the
oxygen; they must absorb the carbonic acid produced by expiration.
During the last twelve hours the atmosphere of the projectile had
become charged with this deleterious gas. Nicholl discovered
the state of the air by observing Diana panting painfully.
The carbonic acid, by a phenomenon similar to that produced in
the famous Grotto del Cane, had collected at the bottom of the
projectile owing to its weight. Poor Diana, with her head low,
would suffer before her masters from the presence of this gas.
But Captain Nicholl hastened to remedy this state of things,
by placing on the floor several receivers containing caustic
potash, which he shook about for a time, and this substance,
greedy of carbonic acid, soon completely absorbed it, thus
purifying the air.
An inventory of instruments was then begun. The thermometers
and barometers had resisted, all but one minimum thermometer,
the glass of which was broken. An excellent aneroid was drawn
from the wadded box which contained it and hung on the wall.
Of course it was only affected by and marked the pressure of the
air inside the projectile, but it also showed the quantity of
moisture which it contained. At that moment its needle
oscillated between 25.24 and 25.08.
It was fine weather.
Barbicane had also brought several compasses, which he found intact.
One must understand that under present conditions their needles
were acting wildly, that is without any constant direction.
Indeed, at the distance they were from the earth, the magnetic
pole could have no perceptible action upon the apparatus; but
the box placed on the lunar disc might perhaps exhibit some
strange phenomena. In any case it would be interesting to see
whether the earth's satellite submitted like herself to its
A hypsometer to measure the height of the lunar mountains, a
sextant to take the height of the sun, glasses which would be
useful as they neared the moon, all these instruments were
carefully looked over, and pronounced good in spite of the
As to the pickaxes and different tools which were Nicholl's
especial choice; as to the sacks of different kinds of grain and
shrubs which Michel Ardan hoped to transplant into Selenite
ground, they were stowed away in the upper part of the projectile.
There was a sort of granary there, loaded with things which the
extravagant Frenchman had heaped up. What they were no one knew,
and the good-tempered fellow did not explain. Now and then he
climbed up by cramp-irons riveted to the walls, but kept the
inspection to himself. He arranged and rearranged, he plunged
his hand rapidly into certain mysterious boxes, singing in one
of the falsest of voices an old French refrain to enliven
Barbicane observed with some interest that his guns and other
arms had not been damaged. These were important, because,
heavily loaded, they were to help lessen the fall of the
projectile, when drawn by the lunar attraction (after having
passed the point of neutral attraction) on to the moon's
surface; a fall which ought to be six times less rapid than it
would have been on the earth's surface, thanks to the difference
of bulk. The inspection ended with general satisfaction, when
each returned to watch space through the side windows and the
lower glass coverlid.
There was the same view. The whole extent of the celestial
sphere swarmed with stars and constellations of wonderful
purity, enough to drive an astronomer out of his mind! On one
side the sun, like the mouth of a lighted oven, a dazzling disc
without a halo, standing out on the dark background of the sky!
On the other, the moon returning its fire by reflection, and
apparently motionless in the midst of the starry world. Then, a
large spot seemingly nailed to the firmament, bordered by a
silvery cord; it was the earth! Here and there nebulous masses
like large flakes of starry snow; and from the zenith to the nadir,
an immense ring formed by an impalpable dust of stars, the "Milky
Way," in the midst of which the sun ranks only as a star of the
fourth magnitude. The observers could not take their eyes from
this novel spectacle, of which no description could give an
adequate idea. What reflections it suggested! What emotions
hitherto unknown awoke in their souls! Barbicane wished to begin
the relation of his journey while under its first impressions,
and hour after hour took notes of all facts happening in the
beginning of the enterprise. He wrote quietly, with his large
square writing, in a business-like style.
During this time Nicholl, the calculator, looked over the
minutes of their passage, and worked out figures with
unparalleled dexterity. Michel Ardan chatted first with
Barbicane, who did not answer him, and then with Nicholl, who
did not hear him, with Diana, who understood none of his
theories, and lastly with himself, questioning and answering,
going and coming, busy with a thousand details; at one time bent
over the lower glass, at another roosting in the heights of the
projectile, and always singing. In this microcosm he
represented French loquacity and excitability, and we beg you to
believe that they were well represented. The day, or rather
(for the expression is not correct) the lapse of twelve hours,
which forms a day upon the earth, closed with a plentiful supper
carefully prepared. No accident of any nature had yet happened
to shake the travelers' confidence; so, full of hope, already
sure of success, they slept peacefully, while the projectile
under an uniformly decreasing speed was crossing the sky.
A LITTLE ALGEBRA
The night passed without incident. The word "night," however,
is scarcely applicable.
The position of the projectile with regard to the sun did
not change. Astronomically, it was daylight on the lower part,
and night on the upper; so when during this narrative these
words are used, they represent the lapse of time between rising
and setting of the sun upon the earth.
The travelers' sleep was rendered more peaceful by the
projectile's excessive speed, for it seemed absolutely motionless.
Not a motion betrayed its onward course through space. The rate
of progress, however rapid it might be, cannot produce any
sensible effect on the human frame when it takes place in a
vacuum, or when the mass of air circulates with the body which
is carried with it. What inhabitant of the earth perceives its
speed, which, however, is at the rate of 68,000 miles per hour?
Motion under such conditions is "felt" no more than repose; and
when a body is in repose it will remain so as long as no strange
force displaces it; if moving, it will not stop unless an
obstacle comes in its way. This indifference to motion or
repose is called inertia.
Barbicane and his companions might have believed themselves
perfectly stationary, being shut up in the projectile; indeed,
the effect would have been the same if they had been on the
outside of it. Had it not been for the moon, which was
increasing above them, they might have sworn that they were
floating in complete stagnation.
That morning, the 3rd of December, the travelers were awakened by
a joyous but unexpected noise; it was the crowing of a cock
which sounded through the car. Michel Ardan, who was the first
on his feet, climbed to the top of the projectile, and shutting
a box, the lid of which was partly open, said in a low voice,
"Will you hold your tongue? That creature will spoil my design!"
But Nicholl and Barbicane were awake.
"A cock!" said Nicholl.
"Why no, my friends," Michel answered quickly; "it was I who
wished to awake you by this rural sound." So saying, he gave
vent to a splendid cock-a-doodledoo, which would have done honor
to the proudest of poultry-yards.
The two Americans could not help laughing.
"Fine talent that," said Nicholl, looking suspiciously at his companion.
"Yes," said Michel; "a joke in my country. It is very Gallic;
they play the cock so in the best society."
Then turning the conversation:
"Barbicane, do you know what I have been thinking of all night?"
"No," answered the president.
"Of our Cambridge friends. You have already remarked that I am
an ignoramus in mathematical subjects; and it is impossible for
me to find out how the savants of the observatory were able to
calculate what initiatory speed the projectile ought to have on
leaving the Columbiad in order to attain the moon."
"You mean to say," replied Barbicane, "to attain that neutral
point where the terrestrial and lunar attractions are equal;
for, starting from that point, situated about nine-tenths of the
distance traveled over, the projectile would simply fall upon
the moon, on account of its weight."
"So be it," said Michel; "but, once more; how could they
calculate the initiatory speed?"
"Nothing can be easier," replied Barbicane.
"And you knew how to make that calculation?" asked Michel Ardan.
"Perfectly. Nicholl and I would have made it, if the
observatory had not saved us the trouble."
"Very well, old Barbicane," replied Michel; "they might have cut
off my head, beginning at my feet, before they could have made
me solve that problem."
"Because you do not know algebra," answered Barbicane quietly.
"Ah, there you are, you eaters of x^1; you think you have said
all when you have said `Algebra.'"
"Michel," said Barbicane, "can you use a forge without a hammer,
or a plow without a plowshare?"
"Well, algebra is a tool, like the plow or the hammer, and a
good tool to those who know how to use it."
"And can you use that tool in my presence?"
"If it will interest you."
"And show me how they calculated the initiatory speed of our car?"
"Yes, my worthy friend; taking into consideration all the
elements of the problem, the distance from the center of the
earth to the center of the moon, of the radius of the earth, of
its bulk, and of the bulk of the moon, I can tell exactly what
ought to be the initiatory speed of the projectile, and that by
a simple formula."
"Let us see."
"You shall see it; only I shall not give you the real course
drawn by the projectile between the moon and the earth in
considering their motion round the sun. No, I shall consider
these two orbs as perfectly motionless, which will answer all
"Because it will be trying to solve the problem called `the
problem of the three bodies,' for which the integral calculus is
not yet far enough advanced."
"Then," said Michel Ardan, in his sly tone, "mathematics have
not said their last word?"
"Certainly not," replied Barbicane.
"Well, perhaps the Selenites have carried the integral calculus
farther than you have; and, by the bye, what is this
"It is a calculation the converse of the differential," replied
"Much obliged; it is all very clear, no doubt."
"And now," continued Barbicane, "a slip of paper and a bit of
pencil, and before a half-hour is over I will have found the
Half an hour had not elapsed before Barbicane, raising his head,
showed Michel Ardan a page covered with algebraical signs, in
which the general formula for the solution was contained.
"Well, and does Nicholl understand what that means?"
"Of course, Michel," replied the captain. "All these signs,
which seem cabalistic to you, form the plainest, the clearest,
and the most logical language to those who know how to read it."
"And you pretend, Nicholl," asked Michel, "that by means of
these hieroglyphics, more incomprehensible than the Egyptian
Ibis, you can find what initiatory speed it was necessary to
give the projectile?"
"Incontestably," replied Nicholl; "and even by this same formula
I can always tell you its speed at any point of its transit."
"On your word?"
"On my word."
"Then you are as cunning as our president."
"No, Michel; the difficult part is what Barbicane has done; that
is, to get an equation which shall satisfy all the conditions of
the problem. The remainder is only a question of arithmetic,
requiring merely the knowledge of the four rules."
"That is something!" replied Michel Ardan, who for his life
could not do addition right, and who defined the rule as a
Chinese puzzle, which allowed one to obtain all sorts of totals.
"The expression v zero, which you see in that equation, is the
speed which the projectile will have on leaving the atmosphere."
"Just so," said Nicholl; "it is from that point that we must
calculate the velocity, since we know already that the velocity
at departure was exactly one and a half times more than on
leaving the atmosphere."
"I understand no more," said Michel.
"It is a very simple calculation," said Barbicane.
"Not as simple as I am," retorted Michel.
"That means, that when our projectile reached the limits of the
terrestrial atmosphere it had already lost one-third of its
"As much as that?"
"Yes, my friend; merely by friction against the atmospheric strata.
You understand that the faster it goes the more resistance it meets
with from the air."
"That I admit," answered Michel; "and I understand it,
although your x's and zero's, and algebraic formula, are
rattling in my head like nails in a bag."
"First effects of algebra," replied Barbicane; "and now, to
finish, we are going to prove the given number of these
different expressions, that is, work out their value."
"Finish me!" replied Michel.
Barbicane took the paper, and began to make his calculations
with great rapidity. Nicholl looked over and greedily read the
work as it proceeded.
"That's it! that's it!" at last he cried.
"Is it clear?" asked Barbicane.
"It is written in letters of fire," said Nicholl.
"Wonderful fellows!" muttered Ardan.
"Do you understand it at last?" asked Barbicane.
"Do I understand it?" cried Ardan; "my head is splitting with it."
"And now," said Nicholl, "to find out the speed of the
projectile when it leaves the atmosphere, we have only to
The captain, as a practical man equal to all difficulties, began
to write with frightful rapidity. Divisions and multiplications
grew under his fingers; the figures were like hail on the white page.
Barbicane watched him, while Michel Ardan nursed a growing headache
with both hands.
"Very well?" asked Barbicane, after some minutes' silence.
"Well!" replied Nicholl; every calculation made, v zero, that
is to say, the speed necessary for the projectile on leaving the
atmosphere, to enable it to reach the equal point of attraction,
ought to be——"
"Yes?" said Barbicane.
"Twelve thousand yards."
"What!" exclaimed Barbicane, starting; "you say——"
"Twelve thousand yards."
"The devil!" cried the president, making a gesture of despair.
"What is the matter?" asked Michel Ardan, much surprised.
"What is the matter! why, if at this moment our speed had
already diminished one-third by friction, the initiatory speed
ought to have been——"
"Seventeen thousand yards."
"And the Cambridge Observatory declared that twelve thousand
yards was enough at starting; and our projectile, which only
started with that speed——"
"Well?" asked Nicholl.
"Well, it will not be enough."
"We shall not be able to reach the neutral point."
"We shall not even get halfway."
"In the name of the projectile!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, jumping
as if it was already on the point of striking the terrestrial globe.
"And we shall fall back upon the earth!"
THE COLD OF SPACE
This revelation came like a thunderbolt. Who could have
expected such an error in calculation? Barbicane would not
believe it. Nicholl revised his figures: they were exact.
As to the formula which had determined them, they could not
suspect its truth; it was evident that an initiatory velocity of
seventeen thousand yards in the first second was necessary to
enable them to reach the neutral point.
The three friends looked at each other silently. There was no
thought of breakfast. Barbicane, with clenched teeth, knitted
brows, and hands clasped convulsively, was watching through
the window. Nicholl had crossed his arms, and was examining
his calculations. Michel Ardan was muttering:
"That is just like these scientific men: they never do anything else.
I would give twenty pistoles if we could fall upon the Cambridge
Observatory and crush it, together with the whole lot of dabblers
in figures which it contains."
Suddenly a thought struck the captain, which he at once
communicated to Barbicane.
"Ah!" said he; "it is seven o'clock in the morning; we have
already been gone thirty-two hours; more than half our passage
is over, and we are not falling that I am aware of."
Barbicane did not answer, but after a rapid glance at the
captain, took a pair of compasses wherewith to measure the
angular distance of the terrestrial globe; then from the lower
window he took an exact observation, and noticed that the
projectile was apparently stationary. Then rising and wiping
his forehead, on which large drops of perspiration were
standing, he put some figures on paper. Nicholl understood that
the president was deducting from the terrestrial diameter the
projectile's distance from the earth. He watched him anxiously.
"No," exclaimed Barbicane, after some moments, "no, we are not
falling! no, we are already more than 50,000 leagues from the earth.
We have passed the point at which the projectile would have stopped
if its speed had only been 12,000 yards at starting. We are still
"That is evident," replied Nicholl; "and we must conclude that
our initial speed, under the power of the 400,000 pounds of
gun-cotton, must have exceeded the required 12,000 yards.
Now I can understand how, after thirteen minutes only, we met the
second satellite, which gravitates round the earth at more than
2,000 leagues' distance."
"And this explanation is the more probable," added Barbicane,
"Because, in throwing off the water enclosed between its
partition-breaks, the projectile found itself lightened of a
"Just so," said Nicholl.
"Ah, my brave Nicholl, we are saved!"
"Very well then," said Michel Ardan quietly; "as we are safe,
let us have breakfast."
Nicholl was not mistaken. The initial speed had been, very
fortunately, much above that estimated by the Cambridge
Observatory; but the Cambridge Observatory had nevertheless made
The travelers, recovered from this false alarm, breakfasted merrily.
If they ate a good deal, they talked more. Their confidence was
greater after than before "the incident of the algebra."
"Why should we not succeed?" said Michel Ardan; "why should we
not arrive safely? We are launched; we have no obstacle before
us, no stones in the way; the road is open, more so than that of
a ship battling with the sea; more open than that of a balloon
battling with the wind; and if a ship can reach its destination,
a balloon go where it pleases, why cannot our projectile attain
its end and aim?"
"It will attain it," said Barbicane.
"If only to do honor to the Americans," added Michel Ardan, "the
only people who could bring such an enterprise to a happy termination,
and the only one which could produce a President Barbicane. Ah, now
we are no longer uneasy, I begin to think, What will become of us?
We shall get right royally weary."
Barbicane and Nicholl made a gesture of denial.
"But I have provided for the contingency, my friends," replied
Michel; "you have only to speak, and I have chess, draughts,
cards, and dominoes at your disposal; nothing is wanting but a
"What!" exclaimed Barbicane; "you brought away such trifles?"
"Certainly," replied Michel, "and not only to distract
ourselves, but also with the laudable intention of endowing the
Selenite smoking divans with them."
"My friend," said Barbicane, "if the moon is inhabited, its
inhabitants must have appeared some thousands of years before
those of the earth, for we cannot doubt that their star is much
older than ours. If then these Selenites have existed their
hundreds of thousands of years, and if their brain is of the same
organization of the human brain, they have already invented all
that we have invented, and even what we may invent in future ages.
They have nothing to learn from us, and we have everything to
learn from them."
"What!" said Michel; "you believe that they have artists like
Phidias, Michael Angelo, or Raphael?"
"Poets like Homer, Virgil, Milton, Lamartine, and Hugo?"
"I am sure of it."
"Philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant?"
"I have no doubt of it."
"Scientific men like Archimedes, Euclid, Pascal, Newton?"
"I could swear it."
"Comic writers like Arnal, and photographers like— like Nadar?"
"Then, friend Barbicane, if they are as strong as we are, and
even stronger— these Selenites— why have they not tried to
communicate with the earth? why have they not launched a lunar
projectile to our terrestrial regions?"
"Who told you that they have never done so?" said Barbicane seriously.
"Indeed," added Nicholl, "it would be easier for them than for
us, for two reasons; first, because the attraction on the moon's
surface is six times less than on that of the earth, which would
allow a projectile to rise more easily; secondly, because it
would be enough to send such a projectile only at 8,000 leagues
instead of 80,000, which would require the force of projection
to be ten times less strong."
"Then," continued Michel, "I repeat it, why have they not done it?"
"And I repeat," said Barbicane; "who told you that they have not
"Thousands of years before man appeared on earth."
"And the projectile— where is the projectile? I demand to see
"My friend," replied Barbicane, "the sea covers five-sixths of
our globe. From that we may draw five good reasons for
supposing that the lunar projectile, if ever launched, is now at
the bottom of the Atlantic or the Pacific, unless it sped into
some crevasse at that period when the crust of the earth was not
"Old Barbicane," said Michel, "you have an answer for
everything, and I bow before your wisdom. But there is one
hypothesis that would suit me better than all the others, which
is, the Selenites, being older than we, are wiser, and have not
At this moment Diana joined in the conversation by a sonorous barking.
She was asking for her breakfast.
"Ah!" said Michel Ardan, "in our discussion we have forgotten
Diana and Satellite."
Immediately a good-sized pie was given to the dog, which
devoured it hungrily.
"Do you see, Barbicane," said Michel, "we should have made a
second Noah's ark of this projectile, and borne with us to the
moon a couple of every kind of domestic animal."
"I dare say; but room would have failed us."
"Oh!" said Michel, "we might have squeezed a little."
"The fact is," replied Nicholl, "that cows, bulls, and horses,
and all ruminants, would have been very useful on the lunar
continent, but unfortunately the car could neither have been
made a stable nor a shed."
"Well, we might have at least brought a donkey, only a little
donkey; that courageous beast which old Silenus loved to mount.
I love those old donkeys; they are the least favored animals in
creation; they are not only beaten while alive, but even after
they are dead."
"How do you make that out?" asked Barbicane. "Why," said
Michel, "they make their skins into drums."
Barbicane and Nicholl could not help laughing at this ridiculous remark.
But a cry from their merry companion stopped them. The latter was
leaning over the spot where Satellite lay. He rose, saying:
"My good Satellite is no longer ill."
"Ah!" said Nicholl.
"No," answered Michel, "he is dead! There," added he, in a
piteous tone, "that is embarrassing. I much fear, my poor
Diana, that you will leave no progeny in the lunar regions!"
Indeed the unfortunate Satellite had not survived its wound.
It was quite dead. Michel Ardan looked at his friends with a
"One question presents itself," said Barbicane. "We cannot keep
the dead body of this dog with us for the next forty-eight hours."
"No! certainly not," replied Nicholl; "but our scuttles are
fixed on hinges; they can be let down. We will open one, and
throw the body out into space."
The president thought for some moments, and then said:
"Yes, we must do so, but at the same time taking very great precautions."
"Why?" asked Michel.
"For two reasons which you will understand," answered Barbicane.
"The first relates to the air shut up in the projectile, and of
which we must lose as little as possible."
"But we manufacture the air?"
"Only in part. We make only the oxygen, my worthy Michel; and
with regard to that, we must watch that the apparatus does not
furnish the oxygen in too great a quantity; for an excess would
bring us very serious physiological troubles. But if we make
the oxygen, we do not make the azote, that medium which the
lungs do not absorb, and which ought to remain intact; and that
azote will escape rapidly through the open scuttles."
"Oh! the time for throwing out poor Satellite?" said Michel.
"Agreed; but we must act quickly."
"And the second reason?" asked Michel.
"The second reason is that we must not let the outer cold, which
is excessive, penetrate the projectile or we shall be frozen to death."
"But the sun?"
"The sun warms our projectile, which absorbs its rays; but it
does not warm the vacuum in which we are floating at this moment.
Where there is no air, there is no more heat than diffused light;
and the same with darkness; it is cold where the sun's rays do not
strike direct. This temperature is only the temperature produced
by the radiation of the stars; that is to say, what the
terrestrial globe would undergo if the sun disappeared one day."
"Which is not to be feared," replied Nicholl.
"Who knows?" said Michel Ardan. "But, in admitting that the sun
does not go out, might it not happen that the earth might move
away from it?"
"There!" said Barbicane, "there is Michel with his ideas."
"And," continued Michel, "do we not know that in 1861 the earth
passed through the tail of a comet? Or let us suppose a comet
whose power of attraction is greater than that of the sun.
The terrestrial orbit will bend toward the wandering star, and
the earth, becoming its satellite, will be drawn such a distance
that the rays of the sun will have no action on its surface."
"That might happen, indeed," replied Barbicane, "but the
consequences of such a displacement need not be so formidable as
"And why not?"
"Because the heat and cold would be equalized on our globe.
It has been calculated that, had our earth been carried along in
its course by the comet of 1861, at its perihelion, that is, its
nearest approach to the sun, it would have undergone a heat
28,000 times greater than that of summer. But this heat, which
is sufficient to evaporate the waters, would have formed a thick
ring of cloud, which would have modified that excessive
temperature; hence the compensation between the cold of the
aphelion and the heat of the perihelion."
"At how many degrees," asked Nicholl, "is the temperature of the
planetary spaces estimated?"
"Formerly," replied Barbicane, "it was greatly exagerated; but
now, after the calculations of Fourier, of the French Academy of
Science, it is not supposed to exceed 60@ Centigrade below zero."
"Pooh!" said Michel, "that's nothing!"
"It is very much," replied Barbicane; "the temperature which was
observed in the polar regions, at Melville Island and Fort
Reliance, that is 76@ Fahrenheit below zero."
"If I mistake not," said Nicholl, "M. Pouillet, another savant,
estimates the temperature of space at 250@ Fahrenheit below zero.
We shall, however, be able to verify these calculations for ourselves."
"Not at present; because the solar rays, beating directly
upon our thermometer, would give, on the contrary, a very high
temperature. But, when we arrive in the moon, during its
fifteen days of night at either face, we shall have leisure to
make the experiment, for our satellite lies in a vacuum."
"What do you mean by a vacuum?" asked Michel. "Is it perfectly such?"
"It is absolutely void of air."
"And is the air replaced by nothing whatever?"
"By the ether only," replied Barbicane.
"And pray what is the ether?"
"The ether, my friend, is an agglomeration of imponderable
atoms, which, relatively to their dimensions, are as far removed
from each other as the celestial bodies are in space. It is
these atoms which, by their vibratory motion, produce both light
and heat in the universe."
They now proceeded to the burial of Satellite. They had merely
to drop him into space, in the same way that sailors drop a body
into the sea; but, as President Barbicane suggested, they must
act quickly, so as to lose as little as possible of that air
whose elasticity would rapidly have spread it into space.
The bolts of the right scuttle, the opening of which measured
about twelve inches across, were carefully drawn, while Michel,
quite grieved, prepared to launch his dog into space. The glass,
raised by a powerful lever, which enabled it to overcome the
pressure of the inside air on the walls of the projectile,
turned rapidly on its hinges, and Satellite was thrown out.
Scarcely a particle of air could have escaped, and the operation
was so successful that later on Barbicane did not fear to
dispose of the rubbish which encumbered the car.
QUESTION AND ANSWER
On the 4th of December, when the travelers awoke after
fifty-four hours' journey, the chronometer marked five o'clock
of the terrestrial morning. In time it was just over five
hours and forty minutes, half of that assigned to their sojourn
in the projectile; but they had already accomplished nearly
seven-tenths of the way. This peculiarity was due to their
regularly decreasing speed.
Now when they observed the earth through the lower window,
it looked like nothing more than a dark spot, drowned in the
solar rays. No more crescent, no more cloudy light! The next
day, at midnight, the earth would be new, at the very moment
when the moon would be full. Above, the orb of night was nearing
the line followed by the projectile, so as to meet it at the
given hour. All around the black vault was studded with brilliant
points, which seemed to move slowly; but, at the great distance
they were from them, their relative size did not seem to change.
The sun and stars appeared exactly as they do to us upon earth.
As to the moon, she was considerably larger; but the travelers'
glasses, not very powerful, did not allow them as yet to make
any useful observations upon her surface, or reconnoiter her
topographically or geologically.
Thus the time passed in never-ending conversations all about
the moon. Each one brought forward his own contingent of
particular facts; Barbicane and Nicholl always serious, Michel
Ardan always enthusiastic. The projectile, its situation,
its direction, incidents which might happen, the precautions
necessitated by their fall on to the moon, were inexhaustible
matters of conjecture.
As they were breakfasting, a question of Michel's, relating to
the projectile, provoked rather a curious answer from Barbicane,
which is worth repeating. Michel, supposing it to be roughly
stopped, while still under its formidable initial speed, wished
to know what the consequences of the stoppage would have been.
"But," said Barbicane, "I do not see how it could have been stopped."
"But let us suppose so," said Michel.
"It is an impossible supposition," said the practical Barbicane;
"unless that impulsive force had failed; but even then its speed
would diminish by degrees, and it would not have stopped suddenly."
"Admit that it had struck a body in space."
"Why that enormous meteor which we met."
"Then," said Nicholl, "the projectile would have been broken
into a thousand pieces, and we with it."
"More than that," replied Barbicane; "we should have been burned
"Burned?" exclaimed Michel, "by Jove! I am sorry it did not
happen, `just to see.'"
"And you would have seen," replied Barbicane. "It is known now
that heat is only a modification of motion. When water is
warmed— that is to say, when heat is added to it—its particles
are set in motion."
"Well," said michel, "that is an ingenious theory!"
"And a true one, my worthy friend; for it explains every
phenomenon of caloric. Heat is but the motion of atoms, a
simple oscillation of the particles of a body. When they apply
the brake to a train, the train comes to a stop; but what
becomes of the motion which it had previously possessed? It is
transformed into heat, and the brake becomes hot. Why do they
grease the axles of the wheels? To prevent their heating,
because this heat would be generated by the motion which is thus
lost by transformation."
"Yes, I understand," replied Michel, "perfectly. For example,
when I have run a long time, when I am swimming, when I am
perspiring in large drops, why am I obliged to stop?
Simply because my motion is changed into heat."
Barbicane could not help smiling at Michel's reply; then,
returning to his theory, said:
"Thus, in case of a shock, it would have been with our
projectile as with a ball which falls in a burning state after
having struck the metal plate; it is its motion which is turned
into heat. Consequently I affirm that, if our projectile had
struck the meteor, its speed thus suddenly checked would have
raised a heat great enough to turn it into vapor instantaneously."
"Then," asked Nicholl, "what would happen if the earth's motion
were to stop suddenly?"
"Her temperature would be raised to such a pitch," said
Barbicane, "that she would be at once reduced to vapor."
"Well," said Michel, "that is a way of ending the earth which
will greatly simplify things."
"And if the earth fell upon the sun?" asked Nicholl.
"According to calculation," replied Barbicane, "the fall would
develop a heat equal to that produced by 16,000 globes of coal,
each equal in bulk to our terrestrial globe."
"Good additional heat for the sun," replied Michel Ardan, "of
which the inhabitants of Uranus or Neptune would doubtless not
complain; they must be perished with cold on their planets."
"Thus, my friends," said Barbicane, "all motion suddenly stopped
produces heat. And this theory allows us to infer that the heat
of the solar disc is fed by a hail of meteors falling
incessantly on its surface. They have even calculated——"
"Oh, dear!" murmured Michel, "the figures are coming."
"They have even calculated," continued the imperturbable Barbicane,
"that the shock of each meteor on the sun ought to produce a heat
equal to that of 4,000 masses of coal of an equal bulk."
"And what is the solar heat?" asked Michel.
"It is equal to that produced by the combustion of a stratum of
coal surrounding the sun to a depth of forty-seven miles."
"And that heat——"
"Would be able to boil two billions nine hundred millions of
cubic myriameters  of water."
 The myriameter is equal to rather more than 10,936
cubic yards English.
"And it does not roast us!" exclaimed Michel.
"No," replied Barbicane, "because the terrestrial atmosphere
absorbs four-tenths of the solar heat; besides, the quantity of
heat intercepted by the earth is but a billionth part of the
"I see that all is for the best," said Michel, "and that this
atmosphere is a useful invention; for it not only allows us to
breathe, but it prevents us from roasting."
"Yes!" said Nicholl, "unfortunately, it will not be the same in
"Bah!" said Michel, always hopeful. "If there are inhabitants,
they must breathe. If there are no longer any, they must have
left enough oxygen for three people, if only at the bottom of
ravines, where its own weight will cause it to accumulate, and
we will not climb the mountains; that is all." And Michel,
rising, went to look at the lunar disc, which shone with
"By Jove!" said he, "it must be hot up there!"
"Without considering," replied Nicholl, "that the day lasts 360 hours!"
"And to compensate that," said Barbicane, "the nights have the
same length; and as heat is restored by radiation, their
temperature can only be that of the planetary space."
"A pretty country, that!" exclaimed Michel. "Never mind!
I wish I was there! Ah! my dear comrades, it will be rather
curious to have the earth for our moon, to see it rise on the
horizon, to recognize the shape of its continents, and to say
to oneself, `There is America, there is Europe;' then to follow
it when it is about to lose itself in the sun's rays! By the
bye, Barbicane, have the Selenites eclipses?"
"Yes, eclipses of the sun," replied Barbicane, "when the centers
of the three orbs are on a line, the earth being in the middle.
But they are only partial, during which the earth, cast like a
screen upon the solar disc, allows the greater portion to be seen."
"And why," asked Nicholl, "is there no total eclipse? Does not
the cone of the shadow cast by the earth extend beyond the moon?"
"Yes, if we do not take into consideration the refraction
produced by the terrestrial atmosphere. No, if we take that
refraction into consideration. Thus let <lower case delta> be
the horizontal parallel, and p the apparent semidiameter——"
"Oh!" said Michel. "Do speak plainly, you man of algebra!"
"Very well, replied Barbicane; "in popular language the mean
distance from the moon to the earth being sixty terrestrial
radii, the length of the cone of the shadow, on account of
refraction, is reduced to less than forty-two radii.
The result is that when there are eclipses, the moon finds
itself beyond the cone of pure shadow, and that the sun sends
her its rays, not only from its edges, but also from its center."
"Then," said Michel, in a merry tone, "why are there eclipses,
when there ought not to be any?"
"Simply because the solar rays are weakened by this refraction,
and the atmosphere through which they pass extinguished the
greater part of them!"
"That reason satisfies me," replied Michel. "Besides we shall
see when we get there. Now, tell me, Barbicane, do you believe
that the moon is an old comet?"
"There's an idea!"
"Yes," replied Michel, with an amiable swagger, "I have a few
ideas of that sort."
"But that idea does not spring from Michel," answered Nicholl.
"Well, then, I am a plagiarist."
"No doubt about it. According to the ancients, the Arcadians
pretend that their ancestors inhabited the earth before the moon
became her satellite. Starting from this fact, some scientific
men have seen in the moon a comet whose orbit will one day bring
it so near to the earth that it will be held there by its attraction."
"Is there any truth in this hypothesis?" asked Michel.
"None whatever," said Barbicane, "and the proof is, that the
moon has preserved no trace of the gaseous envelope which always
"But," continued Nicholl, "Before becoming the earth's satellite,
could not the moon, when in her perihelion, pass so near the sun
as by evaporation to get rid of all those gaseous substances?"
"It is possible, friend Nicholl, but not probable."
"Because— Faith I do not know."
"Ah!" exclaimed Michel, "what hundred of volumes we might make
of all that we do not know!"
"Ah! indeed. What time is it?" asked Barbicane.
"Three o'clock," answered Nicholl.
"How time goes," said Michel, "in the conversation of scientific
men such as we are! Certainly, I feel I know too much! I feel
that I am becoming a well!"
Saying which, Michel hoisted himself to the roof of the projectile,
"to observe the moon better," he pretended. During this time his
companions were watching through the lower glass. Nothing new to note!
When Michel Ardan came down, he went to the side scuttle; and
suddenly they heard an exclamation of surprise!
"What is it?" asked Barbicane.
The president approached the window, and saw a sort of flattened
sack floating some yards from the projectile. This object
seemed as motionless as the projectile, and was consequently
animated with the same ascending movement.
"What is that machine?" continued Michel Ardan. "Is it one of
the bodies which our projectile keeps within its attraction, and
which will accompany it to the moon?"
"What astonishes me," said Nicholl, "is that the specific weight
of the body, which is certainly less than that of the
projectile, allows it to keep so perfectly on a level with it."
"Nicholl," replied Barbicane, after a moment's reflection, "I do
not know what the object it, but I do know why it maintains our level."
"Because we are floating in space, my dear captain, and in space
bodies fall or move (which is the same thing) with equal speed
whatever be their weight or form; it is the air, which by its
resistance creates these differences in weight. When you create
a vacuum in a tube, the objects you send through it, grains of
dust or grains of lead, fall with the same rapidity. Here in
space is the same cause and the same effect."
"Just so," said Nicholl, "and everything we throw out of the
projectile will accompany it until it reaches the moon."
"Ah! fools that we are!" exclaimed Michel.
"Why that expletive?" asked Barbicane.
"Because we might have filled the projectile with useful objects,
books, instruments, tools, etc. We could have thrown them all
out, and all would have followed in our train. But happy thought!
Why cannot we walk outside like the meteor? Why cannot we launch
into space through the scuttle? What enjoyment it would be to
feel oneself thus suspended in ether, more favored than the birds
who must use their wings to keep themselves up!"
"Granted," said Barbicane, "but how to breathe?"
"Hang the air, to fail so inopportunely!"
"But if it did not fail, Michel, your density being less than
that of the projectile, you would soon be left behind."
"Then we must remain in our car?"
"Ah!" exclaimed Michel, in a load voice.
"What is the matter," asked Nicholl.
"I know, I guess, what this pretended meteor is! It is no
asteroid which is accompanying us! It is not a piece of a planet."
"What is it then?" asked Barbicane.
"It is our unfortunate dog! It is Diana's husband!"
Indeed, this deformed, unrecognizable object, reduced to
nothing, was the body of Satellite, flattened like a bagpipe
without wind, and ever mounting, mounting!
A MOMENT OF INTOXICATION
Thus a phenomenon, curious but explicable, was happening under
these strange conditions.
Every object thrown from the projectile would follow the same
course and never stop until it did. There was a subject for
conversation which the whole evening could not exhaust.
Besides, the excitement of the three travelers increased as they
drew near the end of their journey. They expected unforseen
incidents, and new phenomena; and nothing would have astonished
them in the frame of mind they then were in. Their overexcited
imagination went faster than the projectile, whose speed was
evidently diminishing, though insensibly to themselves. But the
moon grew larger to their eyes, and they fancied if they
stretched out their hands they could seize it.
The next day, the 5th of November, at five in the morning,
all three were on foot. That day was to be the last of their
journey, if all calculations were true. That very night, at
twelve o'clock, in eighteen hours, exactly at the full moon,
they would reach its brilliant disc. The next midnight would
see that journey ended, the most extraordinary of ancient or
modern times. Thus from the first of the morning, through the
scuttles silvered by its rays, they saluted the orb of night
with a confident and joyous hurrah.
The moon was advancing majestically along the starry firmament.
A few more degrees, and she would reach the exact point where
her meeting with the projectile was to take place.
According to his own observations, Barbicane reckoned that they
would land on her northern hemisphere, where stretch immense plains,
and where mountains are rare. A favorable circumstance if, as
they thought, the lunar atmosphere was stored only in its depths.
"Besides," observed Michel Ardan, "a plain is easier to
disembark upon than a mountain. A Selenite, deposited in Europe
on the summit of Mont Blanc, or in Asia on the top of the
Himalayas, would not be quite in the right place."
"And," added Captain Nicholl, "on a flat ground, the projectile
will remain motionless when it has once touched; whereas on a
declivity it would roll like an avalanche, and not being
squirrels we should not come out safe and sound. So it is all
for the best."
Indeed, the success of the audacious attempt no longer
appeared doubtful. But Barbicane was preoccupied with one
thought; but not wishing to make his companions uneasy, he
kept silence on this subject.
The direction the projectile was taking toward the moon's
northern hemisphere, showed that her course had been
slightly altered. The discharge, mathematically calculated,
would carry the projectile to the very center of the lunar disc.
If it did not land there, there must have been some deviation.
What had caused it? Barbicane could neither imagine nor
determine the importance of the deviation, for there were no
points to go by.
He hoped, however, that it would have no other result than that
of bringing them nearer the upper border of the moon, a region
more suitable for landing.
Without imparting his uneasiness to his companions, Barbicane
contented himself with constantly observing the moon, in order
to see whether the course of the projectile would not be
altered; for the situation would have been terrible if it failed
in its aim, and being carried beyond the disc should be launched
into interplanetary space. At that moment, the moon, instead of
appearing flat like a disc, showed its convexity. If the sun's
rays had struck it obliquely, the shadow thrown would have brought
out the high mountains, which would have been clearly detached.
The eye might have gazed into the crater's gaping abysses,
and followed the capricious fissures which wound through the
immense plains. But all relief was as yet leveled in
intense brilliancy. They could scarcely distinguish those
large spots which give the moon the appearance of a human face.
"Face, indeed!" said Michel Ardan; "but I am sorry for the
amiable sister of Apollo. A very pitted face!"
But the travelers, now so near the end, were incessantly
observing this new world. They imagined themselves walking
through its unknown countries, climbing its highest peaks,
descending into its lowest depths. Here and there they fancied
they saw vast seas, scarcely kept together under so rarefied an
atmosphere, and water-courses emptying the mountain tributaries.
Leaning over the abyss, they hoped to catch some sounds from
that orb forever mute in the solitude of space. That last day
They took down the most trifling details. A vague uneasiness
took possession of them as they neared the end. This uneasiness
would have been doubled had they felt how their speed had decreased.
It would have seemed to them quite insufficient to carry them to
the end. It was because the projectile then "weighed" almost nothing.
Its weight was ever decreasing, and would be entirely annihilated on
that line where the lunar and terrestrial attractions would
neutralize each other.
But in spite of his preoccupation, Michel Ardan did not forget
to prepare the morning repast with his accustomed punctuality.
They ate with a good appetite. Nothing was so excellent as the
soup liquefied by the heat of the gas; nothing better than the
preserved meat. Some glasses of good French wine crowned the
repast, causing Michel Ardan to remark that the lunar vines,
warmed by that ardent sun, ought to distill even more generous
wines; that is, if they existed. In any case, the far-seeing
Frenchman had taken care not to forget in his collection some
precious cuttings of the Medoc and Cote d'Or, upon which he
founded his hopes.
Reiset and Regnaut's apparatus worked with great regularity.
Not an atom of carbonic acid resisted the potash; and as to
the oxygen, Captain Nicholl said "it was of the first quality."
The little watery vapor enclosed in the projectile mixing with
the air tempered the dryness; and many apartments in London,
Paris, or New York, and many theaters, were certainly not in
such a healthy condition.
But that it might act with regularity, the apparatus must be
kept in perfect order; so each morning Michel visited the escape
regulators, tried the taps, and regulated the heat of the gas by
the pyrometer. Everything had gone well up to that time, and
the travelers, imitating the worthy Joseph T. Maston, began to
acquire a degree of embonpoint which would have rendered them
unrecognizable if their imprisonment had been prolonged to
some months. In a word, they behaved like chickens in a coop;
they were getting fat.
In looking through the scuttle Barbicane saw the specter of the
dog, and other divers objects which had been thrown from the
projectile, obstinately following them. Diana howled
lugubriously on seeing the remains of Satellite, which seemed as
motionless as if they reposed on solid earth.
"Do you know, my friends," said Michel Ardan, "that if one of us
had succumbed to the shock consequent on departure, we should
have had a great deal of trouble to bury him? What am I saying?
to etherize him, as here ether takes the place of earth.
You see the accusing body would have followed us into space like
"That would have been sad," said Nicholl.
"Ah!" continued Michel, "what I regret is not being able to take a
walk outside. What voluptuousness to float amid this radiant ether,
to bathe oneself in it, to wrap oneself in the sun's pure rays.
If Barbicane had only thought of furnishing us with a diving
apparatus and an air-pump, I could have ventured out and assumed
fanciful attitudes of feigned monsters on the top of the projectile."
"Well, old Michel," replied Barbicane, "you would not have made
a feigned monster long, for in spite of your diver's dress, swollen
by the expansion of air within you, you would have burst like a
shell, or rather like a balloon which has risen too high. So do
not regret it, and do not forget this— as long as we float in
space, all sentimental walks beyond the projectile are forbidden."
Michel Ardan allowed himself to be convinced to a certain extent.
He admitted that the thing was difficult but not impossible,
a word which he never uttered.
The conversation passed from this subject to another, not failing
him for an instant. It seemed to the three friends as though,
under present conditions, ideas shot up in their brains as leaves
shoot at the first warmth of spring. They felt bewildered. In the
middle of the questions and answers which crossed each other,
Nicholl put one question which did not find an immediate solution.
"Ah, indeed!" said he; "it is all very well to go to the moon,
but how to get back again?"
His two interlocutors looked surprised. One would have thought
that this possibility now occurred to them for the first time.
"What do you mean by that, Nicholl?" asked Barbicane gravely.
"To ask for means to leave a country," added Michel, "When we
have not yet arrived there, seems to me rather inopportune."
"I do not say that, wishing to draw back," replied Nicholl;
"but I repeat my question, and I ask, `How shall we return?'"
"I know nothing about it," answered Barbicane.
"And I," said Michel, "if I had known how to return, I would
never have started."
"There's an answer!" cried Nicholl.
"I quite approve of Michel's words," said Barbicane; "and add,
that the question has no real interest. Later, when we think it
is advisable to return, we will take counsel together. If the
Columbiad is not there, the projectile will be."
"That is a step certainly. A ball without a gun!"
"The gun," replied Barbicane, "can be manufactured. The powder
can be made. Neither metals, saltpeter, nor coal can fail in
the depths of the moon, and we need only go 8,000 leagues in
order to fall upon the terrestrial globe by virtue of the mere
laws of weight."
"Enough," said Michel with animation. "Let it be no longer a
question of returning: we have already entertained it too long.
As to communicating with our former earthly colleagues, that
will not be difficult."
"By means of meteors launched by lunar volcanoes."
"Well thought of, Michel," said Barbicane in a convinced tone
of voice. "Laplace has calculated that a force five times greater
than that of our gun would suffice to send a meteor from the
moon to the earth, and there is not one volcano which has not a
greater power of propulsion than that."
"Hurrah!" exclaimed Michel; "these meteors are handy postmen,
and cost nothing. And how we shall be able to laugh at the
post-office administration! But now I think of it——"
"What do you think of?"
"A capital idea. Why did we not fasten a thread to our
projectile, and we could have exchanged telegrams with the earth?"
"The deuce!" answered Nicholl. "Do you consider the weight of
a thread 250,000 miles long nothing?"
"As nothing. They could have trebled the Columbiad's charge;
they could have quadrupled or quintupled it!" exclaimed Michel,
with whom the verb took a higher intonation each time.
"There is but one little objection to make to your proposition,"
replied Barbicane, "which is that, during the rotary motion of
the globe, our thread would have wound itself round it like a
chain on a capstan, and that it would inevitably have brought us
to the ground."
"By the thirty-nine stars of the Union!" said Michel, "I have
nothing but impracticable ideas to-day; ideas worthy of J.
T. Maston. But I have a notion that, if we do not return to
earth, J. T. Maston will be able to come to us."
"Yes, he'll come," replied Barbicane; "he is a worthy and a
courageous comrade. Besides, what is easier? Is not the
Columbiad still buried in the soil of Florida? Is cotton and
nitric acid wanted wherewith to manufacture the pyroxyle?
Will not the moon pass the zenith of Florida? In eighteen
years' time will she not occupy exactly the same place as to-day?"
"Yes," continued Michel, "yes, Maston will come, and with him
our friends Elphinstone, Blomsberry, all the members of the Gun
Club, and they will be well received. And by and by they will
run trains of projectiles between the earth and the moon!
Hurrah for J. T. Maston!"
It is probable that, if the Hon. J. T. Maston did not hear the
hurrahs uttered in his honor, his ears at least tingled. What was
he doing then? Doubtless, posted in the Rocky Mountains, at the
station of Long's Peak, he was trying to find the invisible
projectile gravitating in space. If he was thinking of his dear
companions, we must allow that they were not far behind him; and
that, under the influence of a strange excitement, they were
devoting to him their best thoughts.
But whence this excitement, which was evidently growing upon the
tenants of the projectile? Their sobriety could not be doubted.
This strange irritation of the brain, must it be attributed to
the peculiar circumstances under which they found themselves, to
their proximity to the orb of night, from which only a few hours
separated them, to some secret influence of the moon acting upon
their nervous system? Their faces were as rosy as if they had
been exposed to the roaring flames of an oven; their voices
resounded in loud accents; their words escaped like a champagne
cork driven out by carbonic acid; their gestures became annoying,
they wanted so much room to perform them; and, strange to say,
they none of them noticed this great tension of the mind.
"Now," said Nicholl, in a short tone, "now that I do not know
whether we shall ever return from the moon, I want to know what
we are going to do there?"
"What we are going to do there?" replied Barbicane, stamping
with his foot as if he was in a fencing saloon; "I do not know."
"You do not know!" exclaimed Michel, with a bellow which
provoked a sonorous echo in the projectile.
"No, I have not even thought about it," retorted Barbicane, in
the same loud tone.
"Well, I know," replied Michel.
"Speak, then," cried Nicholl, who could no longer contain the
growling of his voice.
"I shall speak if it suits me," exclaimed Michel, seizing his
companions' arms with violence.
"It must suit you," said Barbicane, with an eye on fire and a
threatening hand. "It was you who drew us into this frightful
journey, and we want to know what for."
"Yes," said the captain, "now that I do not know where I am
going, I want to know why I am going."
"Why?" exclaimed Michel, jumping a yard high, "why? To take
possession of the moon in the name of the United States; to add
a fortieth State to the Union; to colonize the lunar regions;
to cultivate them, to people them, to transport thither all the
prodigies of art, of science, and industry; to civilize the
Selenites, unless they are more civilized than we are; and to
constitute them a republic, if they are not already one!"
"And if there are no Selenites?" retorted Nicholl, who, under the
influence of this unaccountable intoxication, was very contradictory.
"Who said that there were no Selenites?" exclaimed Michel in a
"I do," howled Nicholl.
"Captain," said Michel, "do not repreat that insolence, or I
will knock your teeth down your throat!"
The two adversaries were going to fall upon each other, and the
incoherent discussion threatened to merge into a fight, when
Barbicane intervened with one bound.
"Stop, miserable men," said he, separating his two companions;
"if there are no Selenites, we will do without them."
"Yes," exclaimed Michel, who was not particular; "yes, we will
do without them. We have only to make Selenites. Down with
"The empire of the moon belongs to us," said Nicholl.
"Let us three constitute the republic."
"I will be the congress," cried Michel.
"And I the senate," retorted Nicholl.
"And Barbicane, the president," howled Michel.
"Not a president elected by the nation," replied Barbicane.
"Very well, a president elected by the congress," cried Michel;
"and as I am the congress, you are unanimously elected!"
"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! for President Barbicane," exclaimed Nicholl.
"Hip! hip! hip!" vociferated Michel Ardan.
Then the president and the senate struck up in a tremendous
voice the popular song "Yankee Doodle," while from the congress
resounded the masculine tones of the "Marseillaise."
Then they struck up a frantic dance, with maniacal gestures,
idiotic stampings, and somersaults like those of the boneless
clowns in the circus. Diana, joining in the dance, and howling
in her turn, jumped to the top of the projectile. An unaccountable
flapping of wings was then heard amid most fantastic cock-crows,
while five or six hens fluttered like bats against the walls.
Then the three traveling companions, acted upon by some
unaccountable influence above that of intoxication, inflamed by
the air which had set their respiratory apparatus on fire, fell
motionless to the bottom of the projectile.
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
verified it about four in the morning.
The change consisted in this, that the base of the projectile
had turned toward the moon's surface, and was so held by a
perpendicular passing through its axis. The attraction, that is
to say the weight, had brought about this alteration. The heaviest
part of the projectile inclined toward the invisible disc as if it
would fall upon it.
Was it falling? Were the travelers attaining that much desired end?
No. And the observation of a sign-point, quite inexplicable in
itself, showed Barbicane that his projectile was not nearing the
moon, and that it had shifted by following an almost concentric curve.
This point of mark was a luminous brightness, which Nicholl
sighted suddenly, on the limit of the horizon formed by the
black disc. This point could not be confounded with a star.
It was a reddish incandescence which increased by degrees, a
decided proof that the projectile was shifting toward it and
not falling normally on the surface of the moon.
"A volcano! it is a volcano in action!" cried Nicholl; "a
disemboweling of the interior fires of the moon! That world is
not quite extinguished."
"Yes, an eruption," replied Barbicane, who was carefully
studying the phenomenon through his night glass. "What should
it be, if not a volcano?"
"But, then," said Michel Ardan, "in order to maintain that
combustion, there must be air. So the atmosphere does surround
that part of the moon."
"Perhaps so," replied Barbicane, "but not necessarily.
The volcano, by the decomposition of certain substances, can
provide its own oxygen, and thus throw flames into space. It seems
to me that the deflagration, by the intense brilliancy of the
substances in combustion, is produced in pure oxygen. We must
not be in a hurry to proclaim the existence of a lunar atmosphere."
The fiery mountain must have been situated about the 45@ south
latitude on the invisible part of the disc; but, to Barbicane's
great displeasure, the curve which the projectile was describing
was taking it far from the point indicated by the eruption.
Thus he could not determine its nature exactly. Half an hour
after being sighted, this luminous point had disappeared behind
the dark horizon; but the verification of this phenomenon was
of considerable consequence in their selenographic studies.
It proved that all heat had not yet disappeared from the bowels
of this globe; and where heat exists, who can affirm that the
vegetable kingdom, nay, even the animal kingdom itself, has not
up to this time resisted all destructive influences? The existence
of this volcano in eruption, unmistakably seen by these earthly
savants, would doubtless give rise to many theories favorable
to the grave question of the habitability of the moon.
Barbicane allowed himself to be carried away by these reflections.
He forgot himself in a deep reverie in which the mysterious
destiny of the lunar world was uppermost. He was seeking to
combine together the facts observed up to that time, when a new
incident recalled him briskly to reality. This incident was more
than a cosmical phenomenon; it was a threatened danger, the
consequence of which might be disastrous in the extreme.
Suddenly, in the midst of the ether, in the profound darkness, an
enormous mass appeared. It was like a moon, but an incandescent
moon whose brilliancy was all the more intolerable as it cut
sharply on the frightful darkness of space. This mass, of a
circular form, threw a light which filled the projectile.
The forms of Barbicane, Nicholl, and Michel Ardan, bathed in
its white sheets, assumed that livid spectral appearance which
physicians produce with the fictitious light of alcohol
impregnated with salt.
"By Jove!" cried Michel Ardan, "we are hideous. What is that
"A meteor," replied Barbicane.
"A meteor burning in space?"
This shooting globe suddenly appearing in shadow at a distance
of at most 200 miles, ought, according to Barbicane, to have a
diameter of 2,000 yards. It advanced at a speed of about one
mile and a half per second. It cut the projectile's path and
must reach it in some minutes. As it approached it grew to
Imagine, if possible, the situation of the travelers! It is
impossible to describe it. In spite of their courage, their
sang-froid, their carelessness of danger, they were mute,
motionless with stiffened limbs, a prey to frightful terror.
Their projectile, the course of which they could not alter, was
rushing straight on this ignited mass, more intense than the
open mouth of an oven. It seemed as though they were being
precipitated toward an abyss of fire.
Barbicane had seized the hands of his two companions, and all
three looked through their half-open eyelids upon that asteroid
heated to a white heat. If thought was not destroyed within
them, if their brains still worked amid all this awe, they must
have given themselves up for lost.
Two minutes after the sudden appearance of the meteor (to them
two centuries of anguish) the projectile seemed almost about to
strike it, when the globe of fire burst like a bomb, but without
making any noise in that void where sound, which is but the
agitation of the layers of air, could not be generated.
Nicholl uttered a cry, and he and his companions rushed to
the scuttle. What a sight! What pen can describe it?
What palette is rich enough in colors to reproduce so magnificent
It was like the opening of a crater, like the scattering of an
immense conflagration. Thousands of luminous fragments lit up
and irradiated space with their fires. Every size, every color,
was there intermingled. There were rays of yellow and pale
yellow, red, green, gray— a crown of fireworks of all colors.
Of the enormous and much-dreaded globe there remained nothing
but these fragments carried in all directions, now become
asteroids in their turn, some flaming like a sword, some
surrounded by a whitish cloud, and others leaving behind them
trains of brilliant cosmical dust.
These incandescent blocks crossed and struck each other,
scattering still smaller fragments, some of which struck
the projectile. Its left scuttle was even cracked by a
violent shock. It seemed to be floating amid a hail of
howitzer shells, the smallest of which might destroy
The light which saturated the ether was so wonderfully intense,
that Michel, drawing Barbicane and Nicholl to his window,
exclaimed, "The invisible moon, visible at last!"
And through a luminous emanation, which lasted some seconds, the
whole three caught a glimpse of that mysterious disc which the eye
of man now saw for the first time. What could they distinguish
at a distance which they could not estimate? Some lengthened
bands along the disc, real clouds formed in the midst of a very
confined atmosphere, from which emerged not only all the mountains,
but also projections of less importance; its circles, its yawning
craters, as capriciously placed as on the visible surface.
Then immense spaces, no longer arid plains, but real seas, oceans,
widely distributed, reflecting on their liquid surface all the
dazzling magic of the fires of space; and, lastly, on the surface
of the continents, large dark masses, looking like immense forests
under the rapid illumination of a brilliance.
Was it an illusion, a mistake, an optical illusion? Could they
give a scientific assent to an observation so superficially obtained?
Dared they pronounce upon the question of its habitability after
so slight a glimpse of the invisible disc?
But the lightnings in space subsided by degrees; its accidental
brilliancy died away; the asteroids dispersed in different
directions and were extinguished in the distance.
The ether returned to its accustomed darkness; the stars, eclipsed
for a moment, again twinkled in the firmament, and the disc, so
hastily discerned, was again buried in impenetrable night.
THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE
The projectile had just escaped a terrible danger, and a very
unforseen one. Who would have thought of such an encounter
with meteors? These erring bodies might create serious perils
for the travelers. They were to them so many sandbanks upon
that sea of ether which, less fortunate than sailors, they could
not escape. But did these adventurers complain of space? No, not
since nature had given them the splendid sight of a cosmical
meteor bursting from expansion, since this inimitable firework,
which no Ruggieri could imitate, had lit up for some seconds the
invisible glory of the moon. In that flash, continents, seas,
and forests had become visible to them. Did an atmosphere,
then, bring to this unknown face its life-giving atoms?
Questions still insoluble, and forever closed against
It was then half-past three in the afternoon. The projectile
was following its curvilinear direction round the moon. Had its
course again been altered by the meteor? It was to be feared so.
But the projectile must describe a curve unalterably determined
by the laws of mechanical reasoning. Barbicane was inclined to
believe that this curve would be rather a parabola than a hyperbola.
But admitting the parabola, the projectile must quickly have
passed through the cone of shadow projected into space opposite
the sun. This cone, indeed, is very narrow, the angular diameter
of the moon being so little when compared with the diameter of
the orb of day; and up to this time the projectile had been
floating in this deep shadow. Whatever had been its speed
(and it could not have been insignificant), its period of
occultation continued. That was evident, but perhaps that would
not have been the case in a supposedly rigidly parabolical
trajectory— a new problem which tormented Barbicane's brain,
imprisoned as he was in a circle of unknowns which he could
Neither of the travelers thought of taking an instant's repose.
Each one watched for an unexpected fact, which might throw some
new light on their uranographic studies. About five o'clock,
Michel Ardan distributed, under the name of dinner, some pieces
of bread and cold meat, which were quickly swallowed without
either of them abandoning their scuttle, the glass of which was
incessantly encrusted by the condensation of vapor.
About forty-five minutes past five in the evening, Nicholl,
armed with his glass, sighted toward the southern border of the
moon, and in the direction followed by the projectile, some
bright points cut upon the dark shield of the sky. They looked
like a succession of sharp points lengthened into a tremulous line.
They were very bright. Such appeared the terminal line of the
moon when in one of her octants.
They could not be mistaken. It was no longer a simple meteor.
This luminous ridge had neither color nor motion. Nor was it a
volcano in eruption. And Barbicane did not hesitate to
pronounce upon it.
"The sun!" he exclaimed.
"What! the sun?" answered Nicholl and Michel Ardan.
"Yes, my friends, it is the radiant orb itself lighting up the
summit of the mountains situated on the southern borders of
the moon. We are evidently nearing the south pole."
"After having passed the north pole," replied Michel. "We have
made the circuit of our satellite, then?"
"Yes, my good Michel."
"Then, no more hyperbolas, no more parabolas, no more open
curves to fear?"
"No, but a closed curve."
"Which is called——"
"An ellipse. Instead of losing itself in interplanetary space,
it is probable that the projectile will describe an elliptical
orbit around the moon."
"And that it will become her satellite."
"Moon of the moon!" cried Michel Ardan.
"Only, I would have you observe, my worthy friend," replied
Barbicane, "that we are none the less lost for that."
"Yes, in another manner, and much more pleasantly," answered the
careless Frenchman with his most amiable smile.
At six in the evening the projectile passed the south pole at
less than forty miles off, a distance equal to that already
reached at the north pole. The elliptical curve was being
rigidly carried out.
At this moment the travelers once more entered the blessed rays
of the sun. They saw once more those stars which move slowly
from east to west. The radiant orb was saluted by a triple hurrah.
With its light it also sent heat, which soon pierced the metal walls.
The glass resumed its accustomed appearance. The layers of ice
melted as if by enchantment; and immediately, for economy's sake,
the gas was put out, the air apparatus alone consuming its
"Ah!" said Nicholl, "these rays of heat are good. With what
impatience must the Selenites wait the reappearance of the orb
"Yes," replied Michel Ardan, "imbibing as it were the brilliant
ether, light and heat, all life is contained in them."
At this moment the bottom of the projectile deviated somewhat
from the lunar surface, in order to follow the slightly
lengthened elliptical orbit. From this point, had the earth
been at the full, Barbicane and his companions could have
seen it, but immersed in the sun's irradiation she was
quite invisible. Another spectacle attracted their attention,
that of the southern part of the moon, brought by the glasses
to within 450 yards. They did not again leave the scuttles,
and noted every detail of this fantastical continent.
Mounts Doerful and Leibnitz formed two separate groups very near
the south pole. The first group extended from the pole to the
eighty-fourth parallel, on the eastern part of the orb; the
second occupied the eastern border, extending from the 65@ of
latitude to the pole.
On their capriciously formed ridge appeared dazzling sheets, as
mentioned by Pere Secchi. With more certainty than the
illustrious Roman astronomer, Barbicane was enabled to recognize
"They are snow," he exclaimed.
"Snow?" repeated Nicholl.
"Yes, Nicholl, snow; the surface of which is deeply frozen.
See how they reflect the luminous rays. Cooled lava would never
give out such intense reflection. There must then be water,
there must be air on the moon. As little as you please, but the
fact can no longer be contested." No, it could not be. And if
ever Barbicane should see the earth again, his notes will bear
witness to this great fact in his selenographic observations.
These mountains of Doerful and Leibnitz rose in the midst of
plains of a medium extent, which were bounded by an indefinite
succession of circles and annular ramparts. These two chains
are the only ones met with in this region of circles.
Comparatively but slightly marked, they throw up here and there
some sharp points, the highest summit of which attains an
altitude of 24,600 feet.
But the projectile was high above all this landscape, and the
projections disappeared in the intense brilliancy of the disc.
And to the eyes of the travelers there reappeared that original
aspect of the lunar landscapes, raw in tone, without gradation
of colors, and without degrees of shadow, roughly black and
white, from the want of diffusion of light.
But the sight of this desolate world did not fail to captivate
them by its very strangeness. They were moving over this region
as if they had been borne on the breath of some storm, watching
heights defile under their feet, piercing the cavities with their
eyes, going down into the rifts, climbing the ramparts, sounding
these mysterious holes, and leveling all cracks. But no trace
of vegetation, no appearance of cities; nothing but stratification,
beds of lava, overflowings polished like immense mirrors,
reflecting the sun's rays with overpowering brilliancy.
Nothing belonging to a living world— everything to a dead
world, where avalanches, rolling from the summits of the mountains,
would disperse noiselessly at the bottom of the abyss, retaining
the motion, but wanting the sound. In any case it was the image
of death, without its being possible even to say that life had ever
Michel Ardan, however, thought he recognized a heap of ruins,
to which he drew Barbicane's attention. It was about the 80th
parallel, in 30@ longitude. This heap of stones, rather
regularly placed, represented a vast fortress, overlooking a
long rift, which in former days had served as a bed to the
rivers of prehistorical times. Not far from that, rose to a
height of 17,400 feet the annular mountain of Short, equal to
the Asiatic Caucasus. Michel Ardan, with his accustomed ardor,
maintained "the evidences" of his fortress. Beneath it he
discerned the dismantled ramparts of a town; here the still
intact arch of a portico, there two or three columns lying under
their base; farther on, a succession of arches which must have
supported the conduit of an aqueduct; in another part the sunken
pillars of a gigantic bridge, run into the thickest parts of
the rift. He distinguished all this, but with so much imagination
in his glance, and through glasses so fantastical, that we must
mistrust his observation. But who could affirm, who would dare
to say, that the amiable fellow did not really see that which
his two companions would not see?
Moments were too precious to be sacrificed in idle discussion.
The selenite city, whether imaginary or not, had already
disappeared afar off. The distance of the projectile from the
lunar disc was on the increase, and the details of the soil were
being lost in a confused jumble. The reliefs, the circles,
the craters, and the plains alone remained, and still showed
their boundary lines distinctly. At this moment, to the left,
lay extended one of the finest circles of lunar orography,
one of the curiosities of this continent. It was Newton,
which Barbicane recognized without trouble, by referring to
the Mappa Selenographica.
Newton is situated in exactly 77@ south latitude, and 16@
east longitude. It forms an annular crater, the ramparts of
which, rising to a height of 21,300 feet, seemed to be impassable.
Barbicane made his companions observe that the height of this
mountain above the surrounding plain was far from equaling the
depth of its crater. This enormous hole was beyond all
measurement, and formed a gloomy abyss, the bottom of which the
sun's rays could never reach. There, according to Humboldt,
reigns utter darkness, which the light of the sun and the earth
cannot break. Mythologists could well have made it the mouth of hell.
"Newton," said Barbicane, "is the most perfect type of these
annular mountains, of which the earth possesses no sample.
They prove that the moon's formation, by means of cooling, is
due to violent causes; for while, under the pressure of internal
fires the reliefs rise to considerable height, the depths withdraw
far below the lunar level."
"I do not dispute the fact," replied Michel Ardan.
Some minutes after passing Newton, the projectile directly
overlooked the annular mountains of Moret. It skirted at some
distance the summits of Blancanus, and at about half-past seven
in the evening reached the circle of Clavius.
This circle, one of the most remarkable of the disc, is situated
in 58@ south latitude, and 15@ east longitude. Its height is
estimated at 22,950 feet. The travelers, at a distance of
twenty-four miles (reduced to four by their glasses) could
admire this vast crater in its entirety.
"Terrestrial volcanoes," said Barbicane, "are but mole-hills
compared with those of the moon. Measuring the old craters
formed by the first eruptions of Vesuvius and Etna, we find them
little more than three miles in breadth. In France the circle
of Cantal measures six miles across; at Ceyland the circle of
the island is forty miles, which is considered the largest on
the globe. What are these diameters against that of Clavius,
which we overlook at this moment?"
"What is its breadth?" asked Nicholl.
"It is 150 miles," replied Barbicane. "This circle is certainly
the most important on the moon, but many others measure 150,
100, or 75 miles."
"Ah! my friends," exclaimed Michel, "can you picture to
yourselves what this now peaceful orb of night must have been
when its craters, filled with thunderings, vomited at the same
time smoke and tongues of flame. What a wonderful spectacle
then, and now what decay! This moon is nothing more than a thin
carcase of fireworks, whose squibs, rockets, serpents, and suns,
after a superb brilliancy, have left but sadly broken cases.
Who can say the cause, the reason, the motive force of
Barbicane was not listening to Michel Ardan; he was
contemplating these ramparts of Clavius, formed by large
mountains spread over several miles. At the bottom of the
immense cavity burrowed hundreds of small extinguished craters,
riddling the soil like a colander, and overlooked by a peak
15,000 feet high.
Around the plain appeared desolate. Nothing so arid as these
reliefs, nothing so sad as these ruins of mountains, and (if we
may so express ourselves) these fragments of peaks and mountains
which strewed the soil. The satellite seemed to have burst at
The projectile was still advancing, and this movement did
not subside. Circles, craters, and uprooted mountains succeeded
each other incessantly. No more plains; no more seas. A never
ending Switzerland and Norway. And lastly, in the canter of
this region of crevasses, the most splendid mountain on the
lunar disc, the dazzling Tycho, in which posterity will ever
preserve the name of the illustrious Danish astronomer.
In observing the full moon in a cloudless sky no one has failed
to remark this brilliant point of the southern hemisphere.
Michel Ardan used every metaphor that his imagination could
supply to designate it by. To him this Tycho was a focus of
light, a center of irradiation, a crater vomiting rays. It was
the tire of a brilliant wheel, an asteria enclosing the disc
with its silver tentacles, an enormous eye filled with flames,
a glory carved for Pluto's head, a star launched by the
Creator's hand, and crushed against the face of the moon!
Tycho forms such a concentration of light that the inhabitants
of the earth can see it without glasses, though at a distance
of 240,000 miles! Imagine, then, its intensity to the eye of
observers placed at a distance of only fifty miles! Seen through
this pure ether, its brilliancy was so intolerable that Barbicane
and his friends were obliged to blacken their glasses with the gas
smoke before they could bear the splendor. Then silent, scarcely
uttering an interjection of admiration, they gazed, they contemplated.
All their feelings, all their impressions, were concentrated in that
look, as under any violent emotion all life is concentrated at the heart.
Tycho belongs to the system of radiating mountains, like
Aristarchus and Copernicus; but it is of all the most complete
and decided, showing unquestionably the frightful volcanic
action to which the formation of the moon is due. Tycho is
situated in 43@ south latitude, and 12@ east longitude. Its center
is occupied by a crater fifty miles broad. It assumes a slightly
elliptical form, and is surrounded by an enclosure of annular
ramparts, which on the east and west overlook the outer plain from
a height of 15,000 feet. It is a group of Mont Blancs, placed
round one common center and crowned by radiating beams.
What this incomparable mountain really is, with all the
projections converging toward it, and the interior excrescences
of its crater, photography itself could never represent.
Indeed, it is during the full moon that Tycho is seen in all
its splendor. Then all shadows disappear, the foreshortening
of perspective disappears, and all proofs become white— a
disagreeable fact: for this strange region would have been
marvelous if reproduced with photographic exactness. It is
but a group of hollows, craters, circles, a network of crests;
then, as far as the eye could see, a whole volcanic network
cast upon this encrusted soil. One can then understand that
the bubbles of this central eruption have kept their first form.
Crystallized by cooling, they have stereotyped that aspect
which the moon formerly presented when under the Plutonian forces.
The distance which separated the travelers from the annular
summits of Tycho was not so great but that they could catch
the principal details. Even on the causeway forming the
fortifications of Tycho, the mountains hanging on to the
interior and exterior sloping flanks rose in stories like
gigantic terraces. They appeared to be higher by 300 or 400
feet to the west than to the east. No system of terrestrial
encampment could equal these natural fortifications. A town
built at the bottom of this circular cavity would have been
Inaccessible and wonderfully extended over this soil covered
with picturesque projections! Indeed, nature had not left the
bottom of this crater flat and empty. It possessed its own
peculiar orography, a mountainous system, making it a world
in itself. The travelers could distinguish clearly cones,
central hills, remarkable positions of the soil, naturally
placed to receive the chefs-d'oeuvre of Selenite architecture.
There was marked out the place for a temple, here the ground of a
forum, on this spot the plan of a palace, in another the plateau
for a citadel; the whole overlooked by a central mountain of
1,500 feet. A vast circle, in which ancient Rome could have
been held in its entirety ten times over.
"Ah!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, enthusiastic at the sight; "what
a grand town might be constructed within that ring of mountains!
A quiet city, a peaceful refuge, beyond all human misery. How calm
and isolated those misanthropes, those haters of humanity might
live there, and all who have a distaste for social life!"
"All! It would be too small for them," replied Barbicane simply.
But the projectile had passed the enceinte of Tycho, and
Barbicane and his two companions watched with scrupulous
attention the brilliant rays which the celebrated mountain shed
so curiously over the horizon.
What was this radiant glory? What geological phenomenon had
designed these ardent beams? This question occupied Barbicane's mind.
Under his eyes ran in all directions luminous furrows, raised at
the edges and concave in the center, some twelve miles, others
thirty miles broad. These brilliant trains extended in some
places to within 600 miles of Tycho, and seemed to cover,
particularly toward the east, the northeast and the north, the
half of the southern hemisphere. One of these jets extended as
far as the circle of Neander, situated on the 40th meridian.
Another, by a slight curve, furrowed the "Sea of Nectar," breaking
against the chain of Pyrenees, after a circuit of 800 miles.
Others, toward the west, covered the "Sea of Clouds" and
the "Sea of Humors" with a luminous network. What was the
origin of these sparkling rays, which shone on the plains as
well as on the reliefs, at whatever height they might be?
All started from a common center, the crater of Tycho.
They sprang from him. Herschel attributed their brilliancy to
currents of lava congealed by the cold; an opinion, however,
which has not been generally adopted. Other astronomers have
seen in these inexplicable rays a kind of moraines, rows of
erratic blocks, which had been thrown up at the period of
"And why not?" asked Nicholl of Barbicane, who was relating and
rejecting these different opinions.
"Because the regularity of these luminous lines, and the
violence necessary to carry volcanic matter to such distances,
"Eh! by Jove!" replied Michel Ardan, "it seems easy enough to me
to explain the origin of these rays."
"Indeed?" said Barbicane.
"Indeed," continued Michel. "It is enough to say that it is a
vast star, similar to that produced by a ball or a stone thrown
at a square of glass!"
"Well!" replied Barbicane, smiling. "And what hand would be
powerful enough to throw a ball to give such a shock as that?"
"The hand is not necessary," answered Nicholl, not at all
confounded; "and as to the stone, let us suppose it to be a comet."
"Ah! those much-abused comets!" exclaimed Barbicane. "My brave
Michel, your explanation is not bad; but your comet is useless.
The shock which produced that rent must have some from the
inside of the star. A violent contraction of the lunar crust,
while cooling, might suffice to imprint this gigantic star."
"A contraction! something like a lunar stomach-ache." said
"Besides," added Barbicane, "this opinion is that of an English
savant, Nasmyth, and it seems to me to sufficiently explain the
radiation of these mountains."
"That Nasmyth was no fool!" replied Michel.
Long did the travelers, whom such a sight could never weary,
admire the splendors of Tycho. Their projectile, saturated with
luminous gleams in the double irradiation of sun and moon, must
have appeared like an incandescent globe. They had passed
suddenly from excessive cold to intense heat. Nature was thus
preparing them to become Selenites. Become Selenites! That idea
brought up once more the question of the habitability of the moon.
After what they had seen, could the travelers solve it? Would they
decide for or against it? Michel Ardan persuaded his two friends
to form an opinion, and asked them directly if they thought that
men and animals were represented in the lunar world.
"I think that we can answer," said Barbicane; "but according to
my idea the question ought not to be put in that form. I ask it
to be put differently."
"Put it your own way," replied Michel.
"Here it is," continued Barbicane. "The problem is a double one,
and requires a double solution. Is the moon habitable? Has the
moon ever been inhabitable?"
"Good!" replied Nicholl. "First let us see whether the moon
"To tell the truth, I know nothing about it," answered Michel.
"And I answer in the negative," continued Barbicane. "In her
actual state, with her surrounding atmosphere certainly very
much reduced, her seas for the most part dried up, her
insufficient supply of water restricted, vegetation, sudden
alternations of cold and heat, her days and nights of 354
hours— the moon does not seem habitable to me, nor does she
seem propitious to animal development, nor sufficient for the
wants of existence as we understand it."
"Agreed," replied Nicholl. "But is not the moon habitable for
creatures differently organized from ourselves?"
"That question is more difficult to answer, but I will try; and
I ask Nicholl if motion appears to him to be a necessary
result of life, whatever be its organization?"
"Without a doubt!" answered Nicholl.
"Then, my worthy companion, I would answer that we have observed
the lunar continent at a distance of 500 yards at most, and that
nothing seemed to us to move on the moon's surface. The presence
of any kind of life would have been betrayed by its attendant marks,
such as divers buildings, and even by ruins. And what have
we seen? Everywhere and always the geological works of nature,
never the work of man. If, then, there exist representatives
of the animal kingdom on the moon, they must have fled to those
unfathomable cavities which the eye cannot reach; which I cannot
admit, for they must have left traces of their passage on those
plains which the atmosphere must cover, however slightly raised
it may be. These traces are nowhere visible. There remains but
one hypothesis, that of a living race to which motion, which is
life, is foreign."
"One might as well say, living creatures which do not live,"
"Just so," said Barbicane, "which for us has no meaning."
"Then we may form our opinion?" said Michel.
"Yes," replied Nicholl.
"Very well," continued Michel Ardan, "the Scientific Commission
assembled in the projectile of the Gun Club, after having
founded their argument on facts recently observed, decide
unanimously upon the question of the habitability of the moon—
`No! the moon is not habitable.'"
This decision was consigned by President Barbicane to his
notebook, where the process of the sitting of the 6th of
December may be seen.
"Now," said Nicholl, "let us attack the second question, an
indispensable complement of the first. I ask the honorable
commission, if the moon is not habitable, has she ever been
inhabited, Citizen Barbicane?"
"My friends," replied Barbicane, "I did not undertake this
journey in order to form an opinion on the past habitability of
our satellite; but I will add that our personal observations
only confirm me in this opinion. I believe, indeed I affirm,
that the moon has been inhabited by a human race organized like
our own; that she has produced animals anatomically formed like
the terrestrial animals: but I add that these races, human and
animal, have had their day, and are now forever extinct!"
"Then," asked Michel, "the moon must be older than the earth?"
"No!" said Barbicane decidedly, "but a world which has grown old
quicker, and whose formation and deformation have been more rapid.
Relatively, the organizing force of matter has been much more
violent in the interior of the moon than in the interior of the
terrestrial globe. The actual state of this cracked, twisted,
and burst disc abundantly proves this. The moon and the earth
were nothing but gaseous masses originally. These gases have
passed into a liquid state under different influences, and the
solid masses have been formed later. But most certainly our
sphere was still gaseous or liquid, when the moon was solidified
by cooling, and had become habitable."
"I believe it," said Nicholl.
"Then," continued Barbicane, "an atmosphere surrounded it, the
waters contained within this gaseous envelope could not evaporate.
Under the influence of air, water, light, solar heat, and central
heat, vegetation took possession of the continents prepared to
receive it, and certainly life showed itself about this period,
for nature does not expend herself in vain; and a world so
wonderfully formed for habitation must necessarily be inhabited."
"But," said Nicholl, "many phenomena inherent in our satellite
might cramp the expansion of the animal and vegetable kingdom.
For example, its days and nights of 354 hours?"
"At the terrestrial poles they last six months," said Michel.
"An argument of little value, since the poles are not inhabited."
"Let us observe, my friends," continued Barbicane, "that if in
the actual state of the moon its long nights and long days
created differences of temperature insupportable to
organization, it was not so at the historical period of time.
The atmosphere enveloped the disc with a fluid mantle; vapor
deposited itself in the shape of clouds; this natural screen
tempered the ardor of the solar rays, and retained the
nocturnal radiation. Light, like heat, can diffuse itself in
the air; hence an equality between the influences which no longer
exists, now that atmosphere has almost entirely disappeared.
And now I am going to astonish you."
"Astonish us?" said Michel Ardan.
"I firmly believe that at the period when the moon was inhabited,
the nights and days did not last 354 hours!"
"And why?" asked Nicholl quickly.
"Because most probably then the rotary motion of the moon upon
her axis was not equal to her revolution, an equality which
presents each part of her disc during fifteen days to the action
of the solar rays."
"Granted," replied Nicholl, "but why should not these two
motions have been equal, as they are really so?"
"Because that equality has only been determined by
terrestrial attraction. And who can say that this attraction
was powerful enough to alter the motion of the moon at that
period when the earth was still fluid?"
"Just so," replied Nicholl; "and who can say that the moon has
always been a satellite of the earth?"
"And who can say," exclaimed Michel Ardan, "that the moon did
not exist before the earth?"
Their imaginations carried them away into an indefinite field
of hypothesis. Barbicane sought to restrain them.
"Those speculations are too high," said he; "problems
utterly insoluble. Do not let us enter upon them. Let us only
admit the insufficiency of the primordial attraction; and then
by the inequality of the two motions of rotation and revolution,
the days and nights could have succeeded each other on the moon
as they succeed each other on the earth. Besides, even without
these conditions, life was possible."
"And so," asked Michel Ardan, "humanity has disappeared from
"Yes," replied Barbicane, "after having doubtless remained
persistently for millions of centuries; by degrees the
atmosphere becoming rarefied, the disc became uninhabitable, as
the terrestrial globe will one day become by cooling."
"Certainly," replied Barbicane; "as the internal fires became
extinguished, and the incandescent matter concentrated itself,
the lunar crust cooled. By degrees the consequences of these
phenomena showed themselves in the disappearance of organized
beings, and by the disappearance of vegetation. Soon the
atmosphere was rarefied, probably withdrawn by terrestrial
attraction; then aerial departure of respirable air, and
disappearance of water by means of evaporation. At this period
the moon becoming uninhabitable, was no longer inhabited.
It was a dead world, such as we see it to-day."
"And you say that the same fate is in store for the earth?"
"When the cooling of its crust shall have made it uninhabitable."
"And have they calculated the time which our unfortunate sphere
will take to cool?"
"And you know these calculations?"
"But speak, then, my clumsy savant," exclaimed Michel Ardan,
"for you make me boil with impatience!"
"Very well, my good Michel," replied Barbicane quietly; "we know
what diminution of temperature the earth undergoes in the lapse
of a century. And according to certain calculations, this mean
temperature will after a period of 400,000 years, be brought
down to zero!"
"Four hundred thousand years!" exclaimed Michel. "Ah! I
breathe again. Really I was frightened to hear you; I imagined
that we had not more than 50,000 years to live."
Barbicane and Nicholl could not help laughing at their
companion's uneasiness. Then Nicholl, who wished to end the
discussion, put the second question, which had just been
"Has the moon been inhabited?" he asked.
The answer was unanimously in the affirmative. But during this
discussion, fruitful in somewhat hazardous theories, the
projectile was rapidly leaving the moon: the lineaments faded
away from the travelers' eyes, mountains were confused in the
distance; and of all the wonderful, strange, and fantastical
form of the earth's satellite, there soon remained nothing but
the imperishable remembrance.
A STRUGGLE AGAINST THE IMPOSSIBLE
For a long time Barbicane and his companions looked silently and
sadly upon that world which they had only seen from a distance,
as Moses saw the land of Canaan, and which they were leaving
without a possibility of ever returning to it. The projectile's
position with regard to the moon had altered, and the base was
now turned to the earth.
This change, which Barbicane verified, did not fail to surprise them.
If the projectile was to gravitate round the satellite in an
elliptical orbit, why was not its heaviest part turned toward it,
as the moon turns hers to the earth? That was a difficult point.
In watching the course of the projectile they could see that on
leaving the moon it followed a course analogous to that traced
in approaching her. It was describing a very long ellipse,
which would most likely extend to the point of equal attraction,
where the influences of the earth and its satellite are neutralized.
Such was the conclusion which Barbicane very justly drew from
facts already observed, a conviction which his two friends
shared with him.
"And when arrived at this dead point, what will become of us?"
asked Michel Ardan.
"We don't know," replied Barbicane.
"But one can draw some hypotheses, I suppose?"
"Two," answered Barbicane; "either the projectile's speed will
be insufficient, and it will remain forever immovable on this
line of double attraction——"
"I prefer the other hypothesis, whatever it may be," interrupted Michel.
"Or," continued Barbicane, "its speed will be sufficient, and it
will continue its elliptical course, to gravitate forever around
the orb of night."
"A revolution not at all consoling," said Michel, "to pass to
the state of humble servants to a moon whom we are accustomed to
look upon as our own handmaid. So that is the fate in store for us?"
Neither Barbicane nor Nicholl answered.
"You do not answer," continued Michel impatiently.
"There is nothing to answer," said Nicholl.
"Is there nothing to try?"
"No," answered Barbicane. "Do you pretend to fight against
"Why not? Do one Frenchman and two Americans shrink from such
"But what would you do?"
"Subdue this motion which is bearing us away."
"Yes," continued Michel, getting animated, "or else alter it,
and employ it to the accomplishment of our own ends."
"That is your affair. If artillerymen are not masters of their
projectile they are not artillerymen. If the projectile is to
command the gunner, we had better ram the gunner into the gun.
My faith! fine savants! who do not know what is to become of us
after inducing me——"
"Inducing you!" cried Barbicane and Nicholl. "Inducing you!
What do you mean by that?"
"No recrimination," said Michel. "I do not complain, the trip
has pleased me, and the projectile agrees with me; but let us do
all that is humanly possible to do the fall somewhere, even if
only on the moon."
"We ask no better, my worthy Michel," replied Barbicane, "but
means fail us."
"We cannot alter the motion of the projectile?"
"Nor diminish its speed?"
"Not even by lightening it, as they lighten an overloaded vessel?"
"What would you throw out?" said Nicholl. "We have no ballast
on board; and indeed it seems to me that if lightened it would
go much quicker."
"Neither slower nor quicker," said Barbicane, wishing to make
his two friends agree; "for we float is space, and must no
longer consider specific weight."
"Very well," cried Michel Ardan in a decided voice; "then their
remains but one thing to do."
"What is it?" asked Nicholl.
"Breakfast," answered the cool, audacious Frenchman, who always
brought up this solution at the most difficult juncture.
In any case, if this operation had no influence on the
projectile's course, it could at least be tried without
inconvenience, and even with success from a stomachic point
of view. Certainly Michel had none but good ideas.
They breakfasted then at two in the morning; the hour mattered little.
Michel served his usual repast, crowned by a glorious bottle drawn
from his private cellar. If ideas did not crowd on their brains,
we must despair of the Chambertin of 1853. The repast finished,
observation began again. Around the projectile, at an invariable
distance, were the objects which had been thrown out. Evidently, in
its translatory motion round the moon, it had not passed through
any atmosphere, for the specific weight of these different objects
would have checked their relative speed.
On the side of the terrestrial sphere nothing was to be seen.
The earth was but a day old, having been new the night before at
twelve; and two days must elapse before its crescent, freed from
the solar rays, would serve as a clock to the Selenites, as in
its rotary movement each of its points after twenty-four hours
repasses the same lunar meridian.
On the moon's side the sight was different; the orb shone in all
her splendor amid innumerable constellations, whose purity could
not be troubled by her rays. On the disc, the plains were
already returning to the dark tint which is seen from the earth.
The other part of the nimbus remained brilliant, and in the midst
of this general brilliancy Tycho shone prominently like a sun.
Barbicane had no means of estimating the projectile's speed, but
reasoning showed that it must uniformly decrease, according to
the laws of mechanical reasoning. Having admitted that the
projectile was describing an orbit around the moon, this orbit
must necessarily be elliptical; science proves that it must be so.
No motive body circulating round an attracting body fails in
this law. Every orbit described in space is elliptical. And why
should the projectile of the Gun Club escape this natural arrangement?
In elliptical orbits, the attracting body always occupies one of
the foci; so that at one moment the satellite is nearer, and at
another farther from the orb around which it gravitates. When the
earth is nearest the sun she is in her perihelion; and in her
aphelion at the farthest point. Speaking of the moon, she is
nearest to the earth in her perigee, and farthest from it in
her apogee. To use analogous expressions, with which the
astronomers' language is enriched, if the projectile remains
as a satellite of the moon, we must say that it is in its
"aposelene" at its farthest point, and in its "periselene" at
its nearest. In the latter case, the projectile would attain
its maximum of speed; and in the former its minimum. It was
evidently moving toward its aposelenitical point; and Barbicane
had reason to think that its speed would decrease up to this
point, and then increase by degrees as it neared the moon.
This speed would even become nil, if this point joined that of
equal attraction. Barbicane studied the consequences of these
different situations, and thinking what inference he could draw
from them, when he was roughly disturbed by a cry from Michel Ardan.
"By Jove!" he exclaimed, "I must admit we are down-right simpletons!"
"I do not say we are not," replied Barbicane; "but why?"
"Because we have a very simple means of checking this speed
which is bearing us from the moon, and we do not use it!"
"And what is the means?"
"To use the recoil contained in our rockets."
"Done!" said Nicholl.
"We have not used this force yet," said Barbicane, "it is true,
but we will do so."
"When?" asked Michel.
"When the time comes. Observe, my friends, that in the position
occupied by the projectile, an oblique position with regard to
the lunar disc, our rockets, in slightly altering its direction,
might turn it from the moon instead of drawing it nearer?"
"Just so," replied Michel.
"Let us wait, then. By some inexplicable influence, the
projectile is turning its base toward the earth. It is probable
that at the point of equal attraction, its conical cap will be
directed rigidly toward the moon; at that moment we may hope
that its speed will be nil; then will be the moment to act,
and with the influence of our rockets we may perhaps
provoke a fall directly on the surface of the lunar disc."
"Bravo!" said Michel. "What we did not do, what we could not do
on our first passage at the dead point, because the projectile
was then endowed with too great a speed."
"Very well reasoned," said Nicholl.
"Let us wait patiently," continued Barbicane. "Putting every
chance on our side, and after having so much despaired, I may
say I think we shall gain our end."
This conclusion was a signal for Michel Ardan's hips and hurrahs.
And none of the audacious boobies remembered the question that
they themselves had solved in the negative. No! the moon is not
inhabited; no! the moon is probably not habitable. And yet they
were going to try everything to reach her.
One single question remained to be solved. At what precise
moment the projectile would reach the point of equal attraction,
on which the travelers must play their last card. In order to
calculate this to within a few seconds, Barbicane had only to
refer to his notes, and to reckon the different heights taken on
the lunar parallels. Thus the time necessary to travel over the
distance between the dead point and the south pole would be equal
to the distance separating the north pole from the dead point.
The hours representing the time traveled over were carefully
noted, and the calculation was easy. Barbicane found that this
point would be reached at one in the morning on the night of the
7th-8th of December. So that, if nothing interfered with its
course, it would reach the given point in twenty-two hours.
The rockets had primarily been placed to check the fall of the
projectile upon the moon, and now they were going to employ them
for a directly contrary purpose. In any case they were ready,
and they had only to wait for the moment to set fire to them.
"Since there is nothing else to be done," said Nicholl, "I make
"What is it?" asked Barbicane.
"I propose to go to sleep."
"What a motion!" exclaimed Michel Ardan.
"It is forty hours since we closed our eyes," said Nicholl.
"Some hours of sleep will restore our strength."
"Never," interrupted Michel.
"Well," continued Nicholl, "every one to his taste; I shall go
to sleep." And stretching himself on the divan, he soon snored
like a forty-eight pounder.
"That Nicholl has a good deal of sense," said Barbicane;
"presently I shall follow his example." Some moments after his
continued bass supported the captain's baritone.
"Certainly," said Michel Ardan, finding himself alone, "these
practical people have sometimes most opportune ideas."
And with his long legs stretched out, and his great arms folded
under his head, Michel slept in his turn.
But this sleep could be neither peaceful nor lasting, the minds
of these three men were too much occupied, and some hours after,
about seven in the morning, all three were on foot at the same instant.
The projectile was still leaving the moon, and turning its
conical part more and more toward her.
An explicable phenomenon, but one which happily served
Seventeen hours more, and the moment for action would have arrived.
The day seemed long. However bold the travelers might be, they
were greatly impressed by the approach of that moment which
would decide all— either precipitate their fall on to the moon,
or forever chain them in an immutable orbit. They counted the
hours as they passed too slow for their wish; Barbicane and
Nicholl were obstinately plunged in their calculations, Michel
going and coming between the narrow walls, and watching that
impassive moon with a longing eye.
At times recollections of the earth crossed their minds. They saw
once more their friends of the Gun Club, and the dearest of all,
J. T. Maston. At that moment, the honorable secretary must be
filling his post on the Rocky Mountains. If he could see the
projectile through the glass of his gigantic telescope, what
would he think? After seeing it disappear behind the moon's
south pole, he would see them reappear by the north pole!
They must therefore be a satellite of a satellite! Had J. T.
Maston given this unexpected news to the world? Was this the
denouement of this great enterprise?
But the day passed without incident. The terrestrial
midnight arrived. The 8th of December was beginning.
One hour more, and the point of equal attraction would
be reached. What speed would then animate the projectile?
They could not estimate it. But no error could vitiate
Barbicane's calculations. At one in the morning this speed
ought to be and would be nil.
Besides, another phenomenon would mark the projectile's
stopping-point on the neutral line. At that spot the two
attractions, lunar and terrestrial, would be annulled.
Objects would "weigh" no more. This singular fact, which had
surprised Barbicane and his companions so much in going, would
be repeated on their return under the very same conditions.
At this precise moment they must act.
Already the projectile's conical top was sensibly turned toward
the lunar disc, presented in such a way as to utilize the whole
of the recoil produced by the pressure of the rocket apparatus.
The chances were in favor of the travelers. If its speed was
utterly annulled on this dead point, a decided movement toward
the moon would suffice, however slight, to determine its fall.
"Five minutes to one," said Nicholl.
"All is ready," replied Michel Ardan, directing a lighted match
to the flame of the gas.
"Wait!" said Barbicane, holding his chronometer in his hand.
At that moment weight had no effect. The travelers felt in
themselves the entire disappearance of it. They were very near
the neutral point, if they did not touch it.
"One o'clock," said Barbicane.
Michel Ardan applied the lighted match to a train in
communication with the rockets. No detonation was heard in
the inside, for there was no air. But, through the scuttles,
Barbicane saw a prolonged smoke, the flames of which were
The projectile sustained a certain shock, which was sensibly
felt in the interior.
The three friends looked and listened without speaking, and
scarcely breathing. One might have heard the beating of their
hearts amid this perfect silence.
"Are we falling?" asked Michel Ardan, at length.
"No," said Nicholl, "since the bottom of the projectile is not
turning to the lunar disc!"
At this moment, Barbicane, quitting his scuttle, turned to his
two companions. He was frightfully pale, his forehead wrinkled,
and his lips contracted.
"We are falling!" said he.
"Ah!" cried Michel Ardan, "on to the moon?"
"On to the earth!"
"The devil!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, adding philosophically,
"well, when we came into this projectile we were very doubtful
as to the ease with which we should get out of it!"
And now this fearful fall had begun. The speed retained had
borne the projectile beyond the dead point. The explosion of
the rockets could not divert its course. This speed in going
had carried it over the neutral line, and in returning had done
the same thing. The laws of physics condemned it to pass
through every point which it had already gone through. It was
a terrible fall, from a height of 160,000 miles, and no springs
to break it. According to the laws of gunnery, the projectile
must strike the earth with a speed equal to that with which it
left the mouth of the Columbiad, a speed of 16,000 yards in the
But to give some figures of comparison, it has been reckoned
that an object thrown from the top of the towers of Notre Dame,
the height of which is only 200 feet, will arrive on the
pavement at a speed of 240 miles per hour. Here the projectile
must strike the earth with a speed of 115,200 miles per hour.
"We are lost!" said Michel coolly.
"Very well! if we die," answered Barbicane, with a sort of
religious enthusiasm, "the results of our travels will be
magnificently spread. It is His own secret that God will
tell us! In the other life the soul will want to know nothing,
either of machines or engines! It will be identified with
"In fact," interrupted Michel Ardan, "the whole of the other
world may well console us for the loss of that inferior orb
called the moon!"
Barbicane crossed his arms on his breast, with a motion of
sublime resignation, saying at the same time:
"The will of heaven be done!"
THE SOUNDINGS OF THE SUSQUEHANNA
Well, lieutenant, and our soundings?"
"I think, sir, that the operation is nearing its completion,"
replied Lieutenant Bronsfield. "But who would have thought of
finding such a depth so near in shore, and only 200 miles from
the American coast?"
"Certainly, Bronsfield, there is a great depression," said
Captain Blomsberry. "In this spot there is a submarine valley
worn by Humboldt's current, which skirts the coast of America as
far as the Straits of Magellan."
"These great depths," continued the lieutenant, "are not
favorable for laying telegraphic cables. A level bottom, like
that supporting the American cable between Valentia and
Newfoundland, is much better."
"I agree with you, Bronsfield. With your permission,
lieutenant, where are we now?"
"Sir, at this moment we have 3,508 fathoms of line out, and the
ball which draws the sounding lead has not yet touched the
bottom; for if so, it would have come up of itself."
"Brook's apparatus is very ingenious," said Captain Blomsberry;
"it gives us very exact soundings."
"Touch!" cried at this moment one of the men at the forewheel,
who was superintending the operation.
The captain and the lieutenant mounted the quarterdeck.
"What depth have we?" asked the captain.
"Three thousand six hundred and twenty-seven fathoms," replied
the lieutenant, entering it in his notebook.
"Well, Bronsfield," said the captain, "I will take down
the result. Now haul in the sounding line. It will be the
work of some hours. In that time the engineer can light the
furnaces, and we shall be ready to start as soon as you
have finished. It is ten o'clock, and with your permission,
lieutenant, I will turn in."
"Do so, sir; do so!" replied the lieutenant obligingly.
The captain of the Susquehanna, as brave a man as need be, and
the humble servant of his officers, returned to his cabin, took
a brandy-grog, which earned for the steward no end of praise,
and turned in, not without having complimented his servant upon
his making beds, and slept a peaceful sleep.
It was then ten at night. The eleventh day of the month of
December was drawing to a close in a magnificent night.
The Susquehanna, a corvette of 500 horse-power, of the United
States navy, was occupied in taking soundings in the Pacific
Ocean about 200 miles off the American coast, following that
long peninsula which stretches down the coast of Mexico.
The wind had dropped by degrees. There was no disturbance in
the air. The pennant hung motionless from the maintop-gallant-
Captain Jonathan Blomsberry (cousin-german of Colonel
Blomsberry, one of the most ardent supporters of the Gun Club,
who had married an aunt of the captain and daughter of an
honorable Kentucky merchant)— Captain Blomsberry could not have
wished for finer weather in which to bring to a close his
delicate operations of sounding. His corvette had not even felt
the great tempest, which by sweeping away the groups of clouds
on the Rocky Mountains, had allowed them to observe the course
of the famous projectile.
Everything went well, and with all the fervor of a Presbyterian,
he did not forget to thank heaven for it. The series of
soundings taken by the Susquehanna, had for its aim the finding
of a favorable spot for the laying of a submarine cable to
connect the Hawaiian Islands with the coast of America.
It was a great undertaking, due to the instigation of a
powerful company. Its managing director, the intelligent Cyrus
Field, purposed even covering all the islands of Oceanica with
a vast electrical network, an immense enterprise, and one worthy
of American genius.
To the corvette Susquehanna had been confided the first
operations of sounding. It was on the night of the 11th-12th of
December, she was in exactly 27@ 7' north latitude, and 41@ 37'
west longitude, on the meridian of Washington.
The moon, then in her last quarter, was beginning to rise above
After the departure of Captain Blomsberry, the lieutenant and
some officers were standing together on the poop. On the
appearance of the moon, their thoughts turned to that orb which
the eyes of a whole hemisphere were contemplating. The best
naval glasses could not have discovered the projectile wandering
around its hemisphere, and yet all were pointed toward that
brilliant disc which millions of eyes were looking at at the
"They have been gone ten days," said Lieutenant Bronsfield
at last. "What has become of them?"
"They have arrived, lieutenant," exclaimed a young midshipman,
"and they are doing what all travelers do when they arrive in a
new country, taking a walk!"
"Oh! I am sure of that, if you tell me so, my young friend,"
said Lieutenant Bronsfield, smiling.
"But," continued another officer, "their arrival cannot
be doubted. The projectile was to reach the moon when full
on the 5th at midnight. We are now at the 11th of December, which
makes six days. And in six times twenty-four hours, without
darkness, one would have time to settle comfortably. I fancy I
see my brave countrymen encamped at the bottom of some valley,
on the borders of a Selenite stream, near a projectile half-buried
by its fall amid volcanic rubbish, Captain Nicholl beginning his
leveling operations, President Barbicane writing out his notes,
and Michel Ardan embalming the lunar solitudes with the perfume
"Yes! it must be so, it is so!" exclaimed the young midshipman,
worked up to a pitch of enthusiasm by this ideal description of
his superior officer.
"I should like to believe it," replied the lieutenant, who was
quite unmoved. "Unfortunately direct news from the lunar world
is still wanting."
"Beg pardon, lieutenant," said the midshipman, "but cannot
President Barbicane write?"
A burst of laughter greeted this answer.
"No letters!" continued the young man quickly. "The postal
administration has something to see to there."
"Might it not be the telegraphic service that is at fault?"
asked one of the officers ironically.
"Not necessarily," replied the midshipman, not at all confused.
"But it is very easy to set up a graphic communication with
"By means of the telescope at Long's Peak. You know it brings
the moon to within four miles of the Rocky Mountains, and that
it shows objects on its surface of only nine feet in diameter.
Very well; let our industrious friends construct a giant
alphabet; let them write words three fathoms long, and sentences
three miles long, and then they can send us news of themselves."
The young midshipman, who had a certain amount of imagination,
was loudly applauded; Lieutenant Bronsfield allowing that the
idea was possible, but observing that if by these means they
could receive news from the lunar world they could not send any
from the terrestrial, unless the Selenites had instruments fit
for taking distant observations at their disposal.
"Evidently," said one of the officers; "but what has become of
the travelers? what they have done, what they have seen, that
above all must interest us. Besides, if the experiment has
succeeded (which I do not doubt), they will try it again.
The Columbiad is still sunk in the soil of Florida. It is now
only a question of powder and shot; and every time the moon is
at her zenith a cargo of visitors may be sent to her."
"It is clear," replied Lieutenant Bronsfield, "that J. T. Maston
will one day join his friends."
"If he will have me," cried the midshipman, "I am ready!"
"Oh! volunteers will not be wanting," answered Bronsfield; "and
if it were allowed, half of the earth's inhabitants would
emigrate to the moon!"
This conversation between the officers of the Susquehanna was
kept up until nearly one in the morning. We cannot say what
blundering systems were broached, what inconsistent theories
advanced by these bold spirits. Since Barbicane's attempt,
nothing seemed impossible to the Americans. They had already
designed an expedition, not only of savants, but of a whole
colony toward the Selenite borders, and a complete army,
consisting of infantry, artillery, and cavalry, to conquer the
At one in the morning, the hauling in of the sounding-line was
not yet completed; 1,670 fathoms were still out, which would
entail some hours' work. According to the commander's orders,
the fires had been lighted, and steam was being got up.
The Susquehanna could have started that very instant.
At that moment (it was seventeen minutes past one in the
morning) Lieutenant Bronsfield was preparing to leave the watch
and return to his cabin, when his attention was attracted by a
distant hissing noise. His comrades and himself first thought
that this hissing was caused by the letting off of steam; but
lifting their heads, they found that the noise was produced in
the highest regions of the air. They had not time to question
each other before the hissing became frightfully intense, and
suddenly there appeared to their dazzled eyes an enormous
meteor, ignited by the rapidity of its course and its friction
through the atmospheric strata.
This fiery mass grew larger to their eyes, and fell, with
the noise of thunder, upon the bowsprit, which it smashed close
to the stem, and buried itself in the waves with a deafening roar!
A few feet nearer, and the Susquehanna would have foundered with
all on board!
At this instant Captain Blomsberry appeared, half-dressed, and
rushing on to the forecastle-deck, whither all the officers had
hurried, exclaimed, "With your permission, gentlemen, what
And the midshipman, making himself as it were the echo of the
body, cried, "Commander, it is `they' come back again!"
J. T. MASTON RECALLED
"It is `they' come back again!" the young midshipman had said,
and every one had understood him. No one doubted but that the
meteor was the projectile of the Gun Club. As to the travelers
which it enclosed, opinions were divided regarding their fate.
"They are dead!" said one.
"They are alive!" said another; "the crater is deep, and the
shock was deadened."
"But they must have wanted air," continued a third speaker;
"they must have died of suffocation."
"Burned!" replied a fourth; "the projectile was nothing but an
incandescent mass as it crossed the atmosphere."
"What does it matter!" they exclaimed unanimously; "living or
dead, we must pull them out!"
But Captain Blomsberry had assembled his officers, and "with
their permission," was holding a council. They must decide upon
something to be done immediately. The more hasty ones were for
fishing up the projectile. A difficult operation, though not an
impossible one. But the corvette had no proper machinery, which
must be both fixed and powerful; so it was resolved that they
should put in at the nearest port, and give information to the
Gun Club of the projectile's fall.
This determination was unanimous. The choice of the port had
to be discussed. The neighboring coast had no anchorage on
27@ latitude. Higher up, above the peninsula of Monterey, stands
the important town from which it takes its name; but, seated on
the borders of a perfect desert, it was not connected with the
interior by a network of telegraphic wires, and electricity
alone could spread these important news fast enough.
Some degrees above opened the bay of San Francisco. Through the
capital of the gold country communication would be easy with the
heart of the Union. And in less than two days the Susquehanna,
by putting on high pressure, could arrive in that port. She must
therefore start at once.
The fires were made up; they could set off immediately.
Two thousand fathoms of line were still out, which Captain
Blomsberry, not wishing to lose precious time in hauling in,
resolved to cut.
"we will fasten the end to a buoy," said he, "and that buoy will
show us the exact spot where the projectile fell."
"Besides," replied Lieutenant Bronsfield, "we have our situation
exact— 27@ 7' north latitude and 41@ 37' west longitude."
"Well, Mr. Bronsfield," replied the captain, "now, with your
permission, we will have the line cut."
A strong buoy, strengthened by a couple of spars, was thrown
into the ocean. The end of the rope was carefully lashed to it;
and, left solely to the rise and fall of the billows, the buoy
would not sensibly deviate from the spot.
At this moment the engineer sent to inform the captain that
steam was up and they could start, for which agreeable
communication the captain thanked him. The course was then
given north-northeast, and the corvette, wearing, steered at
full steam direct for San Francisco. It was three in the morning.
Four hundred and fifty miles to cross; it was nothing for a good
vessel like the Susquehanna. In thirty-six hours she had covered
that distance; and on the 14th of December, at twenty-seven
minutes past one at night, she entered the bay of San Francisco.
At the sight of a ship of the national navy arriving at full speed,
with her bowsprit broken, public curiosity was greatly roused.
A dense crowd soon assembled on the quay, waiting for them
After casting anchor, Captain Blomsberry and Lieutenant
Bronsfield entered an eight-pared cutter, which soon brought
them to land.
They jumped on to the quay.
"The telegraph?" they asked, without answering one of the
thousand questions addressed to them.
The officer of the port conducted them to the telegraph office
through a concourse of spectators. Blomsberry and Bronsfield
entered, while the crowd crushed each other at the door.
Some minutes later a fourfold telegram was sent out—the first
to the Naval Secretary at Washington; the second to the
vice-president of the Gun Club, Baltimore; the third to the Hon.
J. T. Maston, Long's Peak, Rocky Mountains; and the fourth to
the sub-director of the Cambridge Observatory, Massachusetts.
It was worded as follows:
In 20@ 7' north latitude, and 41@ 37' west longitude, on the
12th of December, at seventeen minutes past one in the morning,
the projectile of the Columbiad fell into the Pacific.
Send instructions.— BLOMSBERRY, Commander Susquehanna.
Five minutes afterward the whole town of San Francisco learned
the news. Before six in the evening the different States of the
Union had heard the great catastrophe; and after midnight, by
the cable, the whole of Europe knew the result of the great
American experiment. We will not attempt to picture the effect
produced on the entire world by that unexpected denouement.
On receipt of the telegram the Naval Secretary telegraphed to
the Susquehanna to wait in the bay of San Francisco without
extinguishing her fires. Day and night she must be ready
to put to sea.
The Cambridge observatory called a special meeting; and, with
that composure which distinguishes learned bodies in general,
peacefully discussed the scientific bearings of the question.
At the Gun Club there was an explosion. All the gunners
were assembled. Vice-President the Hon. Wilcome was in the
act of reading the premature dispatch, in which J. T. Maston
and Belfast announced that the projectile had just been seen in
the gigantic reflector of Long's Peak, and also that it was held
by lunar attraction, and was playing the part of under satellite
to the lunar world.
We know the truth on that point.
But on the arrival of Blomsberry's dispatch, so decidely
contradicting J. T. Maston's telegram, two parties were formed
in the bosom of the Gun Club. On one side were those who
admitted the fall of the projectile, and consequently the return
of the travelers; on the other, those who believed in the
observations of Long's Peak, concluded that the commander of the
Susquehanna had made a mistake. To the latter the pretended
projectile was nothing but a meteor! nothing but a meteor, a
shooting globe, which in its fall had smashed the bows of
the corvette. It was difficult to answer this argument, for
the speed with which it was animated must have made observation
very difficult. The commander of the Susquehanna and her
officers might have made a mistake in all good faith; one argument
however, was in their favor, namely, that if the projectile had
fallen on the earth, its place of meeting with the terrestrial
globe could only take place on this 27@ north latitude, and
(taking into consideration the time that had elapsed, and the
rotary motion of the earth) between the 41@ and the 42@ of
west longitude. In any case, it was decided in the Gun Club
that Blomsberry brothers, Bilsby, and Major Elphinstone should
go straight to San Francisco, and consult as to the means of
raising the projectile from the depths of the ocean.
These devoted men set off at once; and the railroad, which will
soon cross the whole of Central America, took them as far as St.
Louis, where the swift mail-coaches awaited them. Almost at the
same moment in which the Secretary of Marine, the vice-president
of the Gun Club, and the sub-director of the Observatory received
the dispatch from San Francisco, the Honorable J. T. Maston was
undergoing the greatest excitement he had ever experienced in his
life, an excitement which even the bursting of his pet gun, which
had more than once nearly cost him his life, had not caused him.
We may remember that the secretary of the Gun Club had started
soon after the projectile (and almost as quickly) for the station
on Long's Peak, in the Rocky Mountains, J. Belfast, director of the
Cambridge Observatory, accompanying him. Arrived there, the two
friends had installed themselves at once, never quitting the
summit of their enormous telescope. We know that this gigantic
instrument had been set up according to the reflecting system,
called by the English "front view." This arrangement subjected
all objects to but one reflection, making the view consequently
much clearer; the result was that, when they were taking
observation, J. T. Maston and Belfast were placed in the upper
part of the instrument and not in the lower, which they reached
by a circular staircase, a masterpiece of lightness, while below
them opened a metal well terminated by the metallic mirror,
which measured two hundred and eighty feet in depth.
It was on a narrow platform placed above the telescope that the
two savants passed their existence, execrating the day which hid
the moon from their eyes, and the clouds which obstinately
veiled her during the night.
What, then, was their delight when, after some days of waiting,
on the night of the 5th of December, they saw the vehicle which
was bearing their friends into space! To this delight succeeded
a great deception, when, trusting to a cursory observation, they
launched their first telegram to the world, erroneously
affirming that the projectile had become a satellite of the
moon, gravitating in an immutable orbit.
From that moment it had never shown itself to their eyes— a
disappearance all the more easily explained, as it was then
passing behind the moon's invisible disc; but when it was time
for it to reappear on the visible disc, one may imagine the
impatience of the fuming J. T. Maston and his not less
impatient companion. Each minute of the night they thought
they saw the projectile once more, and they did not see it.
Hence constant discussions and violent disputes between them,
Belfast affirming that the projectile could not be seen, J. T.
Maston maintaining that "it had put his eyes out."
"It is the projectile!" repeated J. T. Maston.
"No," answered Belfast; "it is an avalanche detached from a
"Well, we shall see it to-morrow."
"No, we shall not see it any more. It is carried into space."
And at these moments, when contradictions rained like hail, the
well-known irritability of the secretary of the Gun Club
constituted a permanent danger for the Honorable Belfast.
The existence of these two together would soon have become
impossible; but an unforseen event cut short their
During the night, from the 14th to the 15th of December, the two
irreconcilable friends were busy observing the lunar disc, J. T.
Maston abusing the learned Belfast as usual, who was by his
side; the secretary of the Gun Club maintaining for the
thousandth time that he had just seen the projectile, and adding
that he could see Michel Ardan's face looking through one of the
scuttles, at the same time enforcing his argument by a series of
gestures which his formidable hook rendered very unpleasant.
At this moment Belfast's servant appeared on the platform (it
was ten at night) and gave him a dispatch. It was the commander
of the Susquehanna's telegram.
Belfast tore the envelope and read, and uttered a cry.
"What!" said J. T. Maston.
"Has fallen to the earth!"
Another cry, this time a perfect howl, answered him. He turned
toward J. T. Maston. The unfortunate man, imprudently leaning
over the metal tube, had disappeared in the immense telescope.
A fall of two hundred and eighty feet! Belfast, dismayed,
rushed to the orifice of the reflector.
He breathed. J. T. Maston, caught by his metal hook, was
holding on by one of the rings which bound the telescope
together, uttering fearful cries.
Belfast called. Help was brought, tackle was let down, and they
hoisted up, not without some trouble, the imprudent secretary of
the Gun Club.
He reappeared at the upper orifice without hurt.
"Ah!" said he, "if I had broken the mirror?"
"You would have paid for it," replied Belfast severely.
"And that cursed projectile has fallen?" asked J. T. Maston.
"Into the Pacific!"
"Let us go!"
A quarter of an hour after the two savants were descending the
declivity of the Rocky Mountains; and two days after, at the
same time as their friends of the Gun Club, they arrived at San
Francisco, having killed five horses on the road.
Elphinstone, the brothers Blomsberry, and Bilsby rushed toward
them on their arrival.
"What shall we do?" they exclaimed.
"Fish up the projectile," replied J. T. Maston, "and the sooner
RECOVERED FROM THE SEA
The spot where the projectile sank under the waves was exactly
known; but the machinery to grasp it and bring it to the surface
of the ocean was still wanting. It must first be invented,
then made. American engineers could not be troubled with
such trifles. The grappling-irons once fixed, by their help
they were sure to raise it in spite of its weight, which was
lessened by the density of the liquid in which it was plunged.
But fishing-up the projectile was not the only thing to be thought of.
They must act promptly in the interest of the travelers. No one
doubted that they were still living.
"Yes," repeated J. T. Maston incessantly, whose confidence
gained over everybody, "our friends are clever people, and they
cannot have fallen like simpletons. They are alive, quite alive;
but we must make haste if we wish to find them so. Food and
water do not trouble me; they have enough for a long while.
But air, air, that is what they will soon want; so quick, quick!"
And they did go quick. They fitted up the Susquehanna for her
new destination. Her powerful machinery was brought to bear
upon the hauling-chains. The aluminum projectile only weighed
19,250 pounds, a weight very inferior to that of the transatlantic
cable which had been drawn up under similar conditions. The only
difficulty was in fishing up a cylindro-conical projectile, the
walls of which were so smooth as to offer no hold for the hooks.
On that account Engineer Murchison hastened to San Francisco,
and had some enormous grappling-irons fixed on an automatic
system, which would never let the projectile go if it once
succeeded in seizing it in its powerful claws. Diving-dresses
were also prepared, which through this impervious covering allowed
the divers to observe the bottom of the sea. He also had put on
board an apparatus of compressed air very cleverly designed.
There were perfect chambers pierced with scuttles, which, with
water let into certain compartments, could draw it down into
great depths. These apparatuses were at San Francisco, where
they had been used in the construction of a submarine breakwater;
and very fortunately it was so, for there was no time to
construct any. But in spite of the perfection of the machinery,
in spite of the ingenuity of the savants entrusted with the use
of them, the success of the operation was far from being certain.
How great were the chances against them, the projectile being
20,000 feet under the water! And if even it was brought to the
surface, how would the travelers have borne the terrible shock
which 20,000 feet of water had perhaps not sufficiently broken?
At any rate they must act quickly. J. T. Maston hurried the
workmen day and night. He was ready to don the diving-dress
himself, or try the air apparatus, in order to reconnoiter the
situation of his courageous friends.
But in spite of all the diligence displayed in preparing the
different engines, in spite of the considerable sum placed at
the disposal of the Gun Club by the Government of the Union,
five long days (five centuries!) elapsed before the preparations
were complete. During this time public opinion was excited to
the highest pitch. Telegrams were exchanged incessantly
throughout the entire world by means of wires and electric cables.
The saving of Barbicane, Nicholl, and Michel Ardan was an
international affair. Every one who had subscribed to the Gun
Club was directly interested in the welfare of the travelers.
At length the hauling-chains, the air-chambers, and the
automatic grappling-irons were put on board. J. T. Maston,
Engineer Murchison, and the delegates of the Gun Club, were
already in their cabins. They had but to start, which they did
on the 21st of December, at eight o'clock at night, the corvette
meeting with a beautiful sea, a northeasterly wind, and rather
sharp cold. The whole population of San Francisco was gathered
on the quay, greatly excited but silent, reserving their hurrahs
for the return. Steam was fully up, and the screw of the
Susquehanna carried them briskly out of the bay.
It is needless to relate the conversations on board between
the officers, sailors, and passengers. All these men had but
one thought. All these hearts beat under the same emotion.
While they were hastening to help them, what were Barbicane and
his companions doing? What had become of them? Were they able to
attempt any bold maneuver to regain their liberty? None could say.
The truth is that every attempt must have failed! Immersed nearly
four miles under the ocean, this metal prison defied every effort
of its prisoners.
On the 23rd inst., at eight in the morning, after a rapid
passage, the Susquehanna was due at the fatal spot. They must
wait till twelve to take the reckoning exactly. The buoy
to which the sounding line had been lashed had not yet
At twelve, Captain Blomsberry, assisted by his officers who
superintended the observations, took the reckoning in the
presence of the delegates of the Gun Club. Then there was a
moment of anxiety. Her position decided, the Susquehanna was
found to be some minutes westward of the spot where the
projectile had disappeared beneath the waves.
The ship's course was then changed so as to reach this exact point.
At forty-seven minutes past twelve they reached the buoy; it was
in perfect condition, and must have shifted but little.
"At last!" exclaimed J. T. Maston.
"Shall we begin?" asked Captain Blomsberry.
"Without losing a second."
Every precaution was taken to keep the corvette almost
completely motionless. Before trying to seize the projectile,
Engineer Murchison wanted to find its exact position at the
bottom of the ocean. The submarine apparatus destined for this
expedition was supplied with air. The working of these engines
was not without danger, for at 20,000 feet below the surface of
the water, and under such great pressure, they were exposed to
fracture, the consequences of which would be dreadful.
J. T. Maston, the brothers Blomsberry, and Engineer Murchison,
without heeding these dangers, took their places in the
air-chamber. The commander, posted on his bridge, superintended
the operation, ready to stop or haul in the chains on the
slightest signal. The screw had been shipped, and the whole
power of the machinery collected on the capstan would have
quickly drawn the apparatus on board. The descent began at
twenty-five minutes past one at night, and the chamber,
drawn under by the reservoirs full of water, disappeared
from the surface of the ocean.
The emotion of the officers and sailors on board was now
divided between the prisoners in the projectile and the
prisoners in the submarine apparatus. As to the latter, they
forgot themselves, and, glued to the windows of the scuttles,
attentively watched the liquid mass through which they were passing.
The descent was rapid. At seventeen minutes past two, J. T.
Maston and his companions had reached the bottom of the Pacific;
but they saw nothing but an arid desert, no longer animated by
either fauna or flora. By the light of their lamps, furnished
with powerful reflectors, they could see the dark beds of the
ocean for a considerable extent of view, but the projectile was
nowhere to be seen.
The impatience of these bold divers cannot be described, and
having an electrical communication with the corvette, they made
a signal already agreed upon, and for the space of a mile the
Susquehanna moved their chamber along some yards above the bottom.
Thus they explored the whole submarine plain, deceived at every
turn by optical illusions which almost broke their hearts.
Here a rock, there a projection from the ground, seemed to be
the much-sought-for projectile; but their mistake was soon
discovered, and then they were in despair.
"But where are they? where are they?" cried J. T. Maston. And the
poor man called loudly upon Nicholl, Barbicane, and Michel Ardan,
as if his unfortunate friends could either hear or answer him
through such an impenetrable medium! The search continued under
these conditions until the vitiated air compelled the divers to ascend.
The hauling in began about six in the evening, and was not ended
"To-morrow," said J. T. Maston, as he set foot on the bridge of
"Yes," answered Captain Blomsberry.
"And on another spot?"
J. T. Maston did not doubt of their final success, but his
companions, no longer upheld by the excitement of the first
hours, understood all the difficulty of the enterprise.
What seemed easy at San Francisco, seemed here in the wide
ocean almost impossible. The chances of success diminished in
rapid proportion; and it was from chance alone that the meeting
with the projectile might be expected.
The next day, the 24th, in spite of the fatigue of the previous
day, the operation was renewed. The corvette advanced some
minutes to westward, and the apparatus, provided with air, bore
the same explorers to the depths of the ocean.
The whole day passed in fruitless research; the bed of the sea
was a desert. The 25th brought no other result, nor the 26th.
It was disheartening. They thought of those unfortunates shut
up in the projectile for twenty-six days. Perhaps at that
moment they were experiencing the first approach of suffocation;
that is, if they had escaped the dangers of their fall. The air
was spent, and doubtless with the air all their morale.
"The air, possibly," answered J. T. Maston resolutely, "but
their morale never!"
On the 28th, after two more days of search, all hope was gone.
This projectile was but an atom in the immensity of the ocean.
They must give up all idea of finding it.
But J. T. Maston would not hear of going away. He would not
abandon the place without at least discovering the tomb of
his friends. But Commander Blomsberry could no longer persist,
and in spite of the exclamations of the worthy secretary, was
obliged to give the order to sail.
On the 29th of December, at nine A.M., the Susquehanna, heading
northeast, resumed her course to the bay of San Francisco.
It was ten in the morning; the corvette was under half-steam, as
it was regretting to leave the spot where the catastrophe had
taken place, when a sailor, perched on the main-top-gallant
crosstrees, watching the sea, cried suddenly:
"A buoy on the lee bow!"
The officers looked in the direction indicated, and by the help
of their glasses saw that the object signalled had the
appearance of one of those buoys which are used to mark the
passages of bays or rivers. But, singularly to say, a flag
floating on the wind surmounted its cone, which emerged five
or six feet out of water. This buoy shone under the rays
of the sun as if it had been made of plates of silver.
Commander Blomsberry, J. T. Maston, and the delegates of the Gun
Club were mounted on the bridge, examining this object straying
at random on the waves.
All looked with feverish anxiety, but in silence. None dared
give expression to the thoughts which came to the minds of all.
The corvette approached to within two cables' lengths of the object.
A shudder ran through the whole crew. That flag was the
At this moment a perfect howling was heard; it was the brave J.
T. Maston who had just fallen all in a heap. Forgetting on the
one hand that his right arm had been replaced by an iron hook,
and on the other that a simple gutta-percha cap covered his
brain-box, he had given himself a formidable blow.
They hurried toward him, picked him up, restored him to life.
And what were his first words?
"Ah! trebly brutes! quadruply idiots! quintuply boobies that we are!"
"What is it?" exclaimed everyone around him.
"What is it?"
"It is, simpletons," howled the terrible secretary, "it is that
the projectile only weighs 19,250 pounds!"
"And that it displaces twenty-eight tons, or in other words
56,000 pounds, and that consequently it floats!"
Ah! what stress the worthy man had laid on the verb "float!"
And it was true! All, yes! all these savants had forgotten
this fundamental law, namely, that on account of its specific
lightness, the projectile, after having been drawn by its fall
to the greatest depths of the ocean, must naturally return to
the surface. And now it was floating quietly at the mercy of
The boats were put to sea. J. T. Maston and his friends had
rushed into them! Excitement was at its height! Every heart
beat loudly while they advanced to the projectile. What did
it contain? Living or dead?
Living, yes! living, at least unless death had struck
Barbicane and his two friends since they had hoisted the flag.
Profound silence reigned on the boats. All were breathless.
Eyes no longer saw. One of the scuttles of the projectile was open.
Some pieces of glass remained in the frame, showing that it had
been broken. This scuttle was actually five feet above the water.
A boat came alongside, that of J. T. Maston, and J. T. Maston
rushed to the broken window.
At that moment they heard a clear and merry voice, the voice of
Michel Ardan, exclaiming in an accent of triumph:
"White all, Barbicane, white all!"
Barbicane, Michel Ardan, and Nicholl were playing at dominoes!
We may remember the intense sympathy which had accompanied the
travelers on their departure. If at the beginning of the
enterprise they had excited such emotion both in the old and
new world, with what enthusiasm would they be received on
their return! The millions of spectators which had beset
the peninsula of Florida, would they not rush to meet these
sublime adventurers? Those legions of strangers, hurrying from
all parts of the globe toward the American shores, would they
leave the Union without having seen Barbicane, Nicholl, and
Michel Ardan? No! and the ardent passion of the public was
bound to respond worthily to the greatness of the enterprise.
Human creatures who had left the terrestrial sphere, and returned
after this strange voyage into celestial space, could not fail
to be received as the prophet Elias would be if he came back
to earth. To see them first, and then to hear them, such was
the universal longing.
Barbicane, Michel Ardan, Nicholl, and the delegates of the Gun
Club, returning without delay to Baltimore, were received with
indescribable enthusiasm. The notes of President Barbicane's
voyage were ready to be given to the public. The New York
Herald bought the manuscript at a price not yet known, but
which must have been very high. Indeed, during the publication
of "A Journey to the Moon," the sale of this paper amounted to
five millions of copies. Three days after the return of
the travelers to the earth, the slightest detail of their
expedition was known. There remained nothing more but to see
the heroes of this superhuman enterprise.
The expedition of Barbicane and his friends round the moon had
enabled them to correct the many admitted theories regarding the
terrestrial satellite. These savants had observed de visu,
and under particular circumstances. They knew what systems
should be rejected, what retained with regard to the formation
of that orb, its origin, its habitability. Its past, present,
and future had even given up their last secrets. Who could
advance objections against conscientious observers, who at less
than twenty-four miles distance had marked that curious mountain
of Tycho, the strangest system of lunar orography? How answer
those savants whose sight had penetrated the abyss of
Pluto's circle? How contradict those bold ones whom the chances
of their enterprise had borne over that invisible face of the
disc, which no human eye until then had ever seen? It was now
their turn to impose some limit on that selenographic science,
which had reconstructed the lunar world as Cuvier did the
skeleton of a fossil, and say, "The moon was this, a habitable
world, inhabited before the earth. The moon is that, a world
uninhabitable, and now uninhabited."
To celebrate the return of its most illustrious member and his
two companions, the Gun Club decided upon giving a banquet, but
a banquet worthy of the conquerors, worthy of the American
people, and under such conditions that all the inhabitants of
the Union could directly take part in it.
All the head lines of railroads in the States were joined by
flying rails; and on all the platforms, lined with the same
flags, and decorated with the same ornaments, were tables laid
and all served alike. At certain hours, successively
calculated, marked by electric clocks which beat the seconds at
the same time, the population were invited to take their places
at the banquet tables. For four days, from the 5th to the 9th
of January, the trains were stopped as they are on Sundays on
the railways of the United States, and every road was open.
One engine only at full speed, drawing a triumphal carriage, had
the right of traveling for those four days on the railroads of
the United States.
The engine was manned by a driver and a stoker, and bore, by
special favor, the Hon. J. T. Maston, secretary of the Gun Club.
The carriage was reserved for President Barbicane, Colonel
Nicholl, and Michel Ardan. At the whistle of the driver, amid
the hurrahs, and all the admiring vociferations of the American
language, the train left the platform of Baltimore. It traveled
at a speed of one hundred and sixty miles in the hour. But what
was this speed compared with that which had carried the three
heroes from the mouth of the Columbiad?
Thus they sped from one town to the other, finding whole
populations at table on their road, saluting them with the same
acclamations, lavishing the same bravos! They traveled in this
way through the east of the Union, Pennsylvania, Connecticut,
Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire; the north and
west by New York, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin; returning to
the south by Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana;
they went to the southeast by Alabama and Florida, going up by
Georgia and the Carolinas, visiting the center by Tennessee,
Kentucky, Virginia, and Indiana, and, after quitting the
Washington station, re-entered Baltimore, where for four days
one would have thought that the United States of America were
seated at one immense banquet, saluting them simultaneously with
the same hurrahs! The apotheosis was worthy of these three
heroes whom fable would have placed in the rank of demigods.
And now will this attempt, unprecedented in the annals of
travels, lead to any practical result? Will direct
communication with the moon ever be established? Will they
ever lay the foundation of a traveling service through the
solar world? Will they go from one planet to another, from
Jupiter to Mercury, and after awhile from one star to another,
from the Polar to Sirius? Will this means of locomotion allow
us to visit those suns which swarm in the firmament?
To such questions no answer can be given. But knowing the bold
ingenuity of the Anglo-Saxon race, no one would be astonished if
the Americans seek to make some use of President Barbicane's attempt.
Thus, some time after the return of the travelers, the public
received with marked favor the announcement of a company,
limited, with a capital of a hundred million of dollars, divided
into a hundred thousand shares of a thousand dollars each, under
the name of the "National Company of Interstellary Communication."
President, Barbicane; vice-president, Captain Nicholl; secretary,
J. T. Maston; director of movements, Michel Ardan.
And as it is part of the American temperament to foresee
everything in business, even failure, the Honorable Harry
Trolloppe, judge commissioner, and Francis Drayton, magistrate,
were nominated beforehand!