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A Jovian Niagara






Part of: LAST OF EARTH
From: A Journey In Other Worlds

Four days later, after crossing a ridge of mountains that the
pressure on the aneroid barometer showed to be about thirty-two
thousand feet high, and a stretch of flat country a few miles in
width, they came to a great arm of the sea. It was about thirty
miles wide at its mouth, which was narrowed like the neck of a
bottle, and farther inland was over one hundred miles across, and
though their glasses, the clear air, and the planet's size
enabled them to see nearly five hundred miles, they could not
find its end. In the shallow water along its shores, and on
the islands rising but a few feet above the waves, they saw
all kinds of amphibians and sea-monsters. Many of these were
almost the exact reproduction in life of the giant plesiosaurs,
dinosaurs, and elasmosaurs, whose remains are preserved in the
museums on earth. The reptilian bodies of the elasmosaurs,
seventy-five feet in length, with the forked tongues, distended
jaws and fangs of a snake, were easily taken for the often
described but probably mythical sea- serpent, as partially coiled
they occasionally raised their heads twelve or fifteen feet.

"Man in his natural state," said Cortlandt, "would have but small
chance of surviving long among such neighbours. Buckland, I
think, once indulged in the jeu d'esprit of supposing an
ichthyosaur lecturing on the human skull. 'You will at once
perceive,' said the lecturer, 'that the skull before us belonged
to one of the lower order of animals. The teeth are very
insignificant, the power of the jaws trifling, and altogether it
seems wonderful how the creature could have procured food.'
Armed with modern weapons, and in this machine, we are, of
course, superior to the most powerful monster; but it is not
likely that, had man been so surrounded during the whole of his
evolution, he could have reached his present plane."

Notwithstanding the striking similarity of these creatures to
their terrestrial counterparts that existed on earth during its
corresponding period, there were some interesting modifications.
The organs of locomotion in the amphibians were more developed,
while the eyes of all were larger, the former being of course
necessitated by the power of gravity, and the latter by the
greater distance from the sun.

"The adaptability and economy of Nature," said Cortlandt, "have
always amazed me. In the total blackness of the Kentucky Mammoth
Cave, where eyes would be of no use to the fishes, our common
mother has given them none; while if there is any light, though
not as much as we are accustomed to, she may be depended upon to
rise to the occasion by increasing the size of the pupil and the
power of the eye. In the development of the ambulatory muscles
we again see her handiwork, probably brought about through the
'survival of the fittest.' The fishes and those wholly immersed
need no increase in power, for, though they weigh more than they
would on earth, the weight of the water they displace is
increased at the same rate also, and their buoyancy remains
unchanged. If the development of life here so closely follows
its lines on earth, with the exception of comparatively slight
modifications, which are exactly what, had we stopped to think,
we should have expected to find, may we not reasonably ask
whether she will not continue on these lines, and in time produce
beings like ourselves, but with more powerful muscles and eyes
capable of seeing clearly with less light? Reasoning by analogy,
we can come to no other conclusion, unless their advent is
anticipated by the arrival of ready-made colonists from the more
advanced earth, like ourselves. In that case man, by pursuing
the same destructive methods that he has pursued in regard to
many other species, may exterminate the intervening links, and so
arrest evolution."

Before leaving Deepwaters Bay they secured a pail of its water,
which they found, on examination, contained a far larger
percentage of salt and solid material than the oceans on earth,
while a thermometer that they immediately immersed in it soon
registered eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit; both of which
discoveries confirmed them in what they already knew, namely,
that Jupiter had advanced comparatively little from the condition
in which the water on the surface is hot, in which state the
earth once was.

They were soon beyond the estuary at which they had stopped to
study the forms of life and to make this test, and kept on due
north for several days, occasionally rising above the air. As
their familiarity with their surroundings increased, they made
notes of several things. The mountains covered far more
territory at their bases than the terrestrial mountains, and they
were in places very rugged and showed vast yawning chasms. They
were also wooded farther up their sides, and bore but little
snow; but so far the travellers had not found them much higher
than those on earth, the greatest altitude being the thirty-two
thousand feet south of Deepwaters Bay, and one other ridge that
was forty thousand; so that, compared with the size of the planet
and its continents, they seemed quite small, and the continents
themselves were comparatively level. They also noted that spray
was blown in vast sheets, till the ocean for miles was white as
milk. The wind often attained tornado strength, and the whole
surface of the water, about what seemed to be the storm centre,
frequently moved with rapidity in the form of foam. Yet,
notwithstanding this, the waves were never as large as those to
which they were accustomed on earth. This they accounted for
very easily by the fact that, while water weighed 2.55 times as
much as on earth, the pressure of air was but little more than
half as much again, and consequently its effect on all but the
very surface of the heavy liquid was comparatively slight.

"Gravity is a useful factor here," observed Cortlandt, as they
made a note of this; "for, in addition to giving immunity from
waves, it is most effective in checking the elevation of high
mountains or table-lands in the high latitudes, which we shall
doubtless find sufficiently cool, or even cold, while in tropical
regions, which might otherwise be too hot, it interferes with
them least, on account of being partly neutralized by the rapid
rotation with which all four of the major planets are blessed."

At sunrise the following morning they saw they were approaching
another great arm of the sea. It was over a thousand miles wide
at its mouth, and, had not the photographs showed the contrary,
they would have thought the Callisto had reached the northern end
of the continent. It extended into the land fifteen thousand
miles, and, on account of the shape of its mouth, they called it
Funnel Bay. Rising to a height, they flew across, and came to a
great table-land peninsula, with a chain of mountains on either
side. The southern range was something over, and the northern
something less than, five thousand feet in height, while the
table-land between sloped almost imperceptibly towards the
middle, in which, as they expected, they found a river compared
to which the Mississippi or the Amazon would be but a brook. In
honour of the President of the Terrestrial Axis Straightening
Company, they called this great projection, which averaged about
four thousand miles across by twelve thousand miles long,
Bearwarden Peninsula. They already noticed a change in climate;
the ferns and palms became fewer, and were succeeded by pines,
while the air was also a good deal cooler, which was easily
accounted for by their altitude--though even at that height it
was considerably denser than at sea- level on earth--and by the
fact that they were already near latitude thirty.

The exposed points on the plateau, as also the summits of the
first mountains they had seen before alighting, were devoid of
vegetation, scarcely so much as a blade of grass being visible.
Since they could not account for this by cold, they concluded
that the most probable explanation lay in the tremendous
hurricanes that, produced by the planet's rapid rotation,
frequently swept along its surface, like the earth's trade-winds,
but with far more violence. On reaching the northern coast of
the peninsula they increased their elevation and changed their
course to northeast, not caring to remain long over the great
body of water, which they named Cortlandt Bay. The thousands of
miles of foam fast flew beneath them, the first thing attracting
their attention being a change in the ocean's colour. In the
eastern shore of Cortlandt Bay they soon observed the mouth of a
river, ten miles across, from which this tinted water issued in a
flood. On account of its colour, which reminded them of a stream
they knew so well, they christened it the Harlem.

Believing that an expedition up its valley might reveal something
of interest, they began the ascent, remaining at an elevation of
a few hundred feet. For about three hundred miles they followed
this river, which had but few bends, while its sides became more
and more precipitous, till it flowed through a canon four and a
half miles across. Though they knew from the wide discoloration
of Cortlandt Bay that the volume of water discharged was
tremendous, the stream seldom moved at a rate of more than five
miles an hour, and for a time was free from rocks and rapids,
from which they concluded that it must be very deep. Half an
hour later they saw a cloud of steam or mist, which expanded, and
almost obscured the sky as they approached. Next they heard a
sound like distant thunder, which they took for the prolonged
eruption of some giant crater, though they had not expected to
find one so far towards the interior of the continent. Presently
it became one continuous roar, the echo in the canon, whose walls
were at this place over six hundred feet high, being simply
deafening, so that the near discharge of the heaviest artillery
would have been completely drowned.

"One would think the end of the world was approaching!" shouted
Cortlandt through his hands.

"Look!" Bearwarden roared back, "the wind is scattering the
mist."

As he spoke, the vapoury curtain was drawn aside, revealing a
waterfall of such vast proportions as to dwarf completely
anything they had ever seen or even imagined. A somewhat open
horseshoe lip, three and a half miles straight across and over
four miles following the line of the curve, discharged a sheet of
water forty feet thick at the edge into an abyss six hundred feet
below. Two islands on the brink divided this sheet of liquid
into three nearly equal parts, while myriads of rainbows hovered
in the clouds of spray. Two things especially struck the
observers: the water made but little curve or sweep on passing
over the edge, and then rushed down to the abyss at almost
lightning speed, shivering itself to infinitesimal particles on
striking any rock or projection at the side. Its behaviour was,
of course, due to its weight, and to the fact that on Jupiter
bodies fall 40.98 feet the first second, instead of sixteen feet,
as on earth, and at correspondingly increasing speed.

Finding that they were being rapidly dazed and stunned by the
noise, the travellers caused the Callisto to rise rapidly, and
were soon surveying the superb sight from a considerable
elevation. Their minds could grasp but slowly the full meaning
and titanic power of what they saw, and not even the vast falls
in their nearness could make their significance clear. Here was
a sheet of water three and a half miles wide, averaging forty
feet in depth, moving at a rapid rate towards a sheer fall of six
hundred feet. They felt, as they gazed at it, that the power of
that waterfall would turn backward every engine and dynamo on the
earth, and it seemed as if it might almost put out the fires of
the sun. Yet it was but an illustration of the action of the
solar orb exerted on a vast area of ocean, the vapour in the form
of rain being afterwards turned into these comparatively narrow
limits by the topography of the continent. Compared with this,
Niagara, with its descent of less than two hundred feet, and its
relatively small flow of water, would be but a rivulet, or at
best a rapid stream. Reluctantly leaving the fascinating
spectacle, they pursued their exploration along the river above
the falls. For the first few miles the surface of the water was
near that of the land; there were occasional rapids, but few
rocks, and the foaming torrent moved at great speed, the red
sandstone banks of the river being as polished as though they had
been waxed. After a while the obstructions disappeared, but the
water continued to rush and surge along at a speed of ten or
twelve miles an hour, so that it would be easily navigable only
for logs or objects moving in one direction. The surface of the
river was soon on an average fifty feet below the edge of the
banks, this depression being one result of the water's rapid
motion and weight, which facilitated the carving of its channel.

When they had followed up the river about sixty miles towards its
source they came upon what at first had the appearance of an
ocean. They knew, however, from its elevation, and the flood
coming from it, that the water must be fresh, as they soon found
it was. This lake was about three hundred miles wide, and
stretched from northeast to southwest. There was rolling land
with hills about its shores, and the foliage on the banks was a
beautiful shade of bluish purple instead of the terrestrial
ubiquitous green.

When near the great lake's upper end, they passed the mouth of a
river on their left side, which, from its volume, they concluded
must be the principal source, and therefore they determined to
trace it. They found it to be a most beautiful stream, averaging
two and a half miles in width, evidently very deep, and with a
full, steady current. After proceeding for several hours, they
found that the general placidity grew less, the smooth surface
occasionally became ruffled by projecting rocks and rapids, and
the banks rose till the voyagers again found themselves in a
ravine or canon.

During their sojourn on Jupiter they had had but little
experience with the tremendous winds that they knew, from reason
and observation, must rage in its atmosphere. They now heard
them whistling over their heads, and, notwithstanding the
protection afforded by the sides of the canon, occasionally
received a gust that made the Callisto swerve. They kept on
steadily, however, till sunset, at which time it became very dark
on account of the high banks, which rose as steeply as the
Palisades on the Hudson to a height of nearly a thousand feet.
Finding a small island near the eastern bank, they were glad to
secure the Callisto there for the night, below the reach of the
winds, which they, still heard singing loudly but with a musical
note in what seemed to them like the sky.

"It is incomprehensible to me." said Ayrault, as they sat at
dinner, "how the sun, at a distance of four hundred and
eighty-three million miles, can raise the amount of water we have
here passing us, and compared with which the discharge of the
greatest river on earth would be insignificant, to say nothing of
the stream we ascended before reaching this."

"We must remember," replied Cortlandt, "that many of the
conditions are different here from those that exist on earth. We
know that some of the streams are warm, and even hot, and that
the temperature of Deepwaters Bay, and doubtless that of the
ocean also, is considerably higher than ours. This would
facilitate evaporation. The density of the atmosphere and the
tremendous winds, of which I suspect we may see more later, must
also help the sun very much in its work of raising vapour. But
the most potent factor is undoubtedly the vast size of the basin
that these rivers drain."

"The great speed at which the atmospheric currents move," said
Bearwarden, "coupled with the comparative lowness of the mountain
chains and the slight obstruction they offer to their passage,
must distribute the rain very thoroughly, notwithstanding the
great unbroken area of the continents. There can be no such
state of things here as exists in the western part of South
America, where the Andes are so high that any east-bound clouds,
in crossing them, are shoved up so far into a cold region that
all moisture they may have brought from the Pacific is condensed
into rain, with which parts of the western slope are deluged,
while clouds from the Atlantic have come so far they have already
dispersed their moisture, in consequence of which the region just
east of the Andes gets little if any rain. It is bad for a
continent to have its high mountains near the ocean from which it
should get its rain, and good for it to have them set well back."

"I should not be surprised," said Cortlandt, "if we saw another
waterfall to-morrow, though not in the shape of rain. In the
hour before we stopped we began to see rapids and protruding
rocks. That means that we are coming to a part of the channel
that is comparatively new, since the older parts have had time to
wear smooth. I take it, then, that we are near the foot of a
retreating cascade, which we may hope soon to see. That is
exactly the order in which we found smooth water and rapids in
river No. 1, which we have named the Harlem."

After this, not being tired, they used the remaining dark hours
for recording their recent adventures.





Next: Hills And Valleys

Previous: Changing Landscapes



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