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Changing Landscapes






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

On reaching the Callisto, Ayrault worked the lock he had had
placed on the lower door, which, to avoid carrying a key, was
opened by a combination. The car's interior was exactly as they
had left it, and they were glad to be in it again.

"Now," said Bearwarden, "we can have a sound and
undisturbed sleep, which is what I want more than
anything else. No prowlers can trouble us here, and we
shall not need the protection-wires."

They then opened a window in each side--for the large glass
plates, admitting the sun when closed, made the Callisto rather
warm--and placed a stout wire netting within them to keep out
birds and bats, and then, though it was but little past noon, got
into their comfortable beds and slept nine hours at a stretch.
Their strong metal house was securely at rest, receiving the
sunlight and shedding the rain and dew as it might have done on
earth. No winds or storms, lightnings or floods, could trouble
it, while the multiformed monsters of antiquity and mythology
restored in life, with which the terrestrials had been thrown
into such close contact, roamed about its polished walls. Not
even the fiercest could affect them, and they would but see
themselves reflected in any vain assaults. The domed symmetrical
cylinder stood there as a monument to human ingenuity and skill,
and the travellers' last thought as they fell asleep was, "Man is
really lord of creation."

The following day at about noon they awoke, and had a bath in the
warm pool. They saw the armoured mass of the great ant evidently
undisturbed, while the bodies of its victims were already shining
skeletons, and raised a small cairn of stones in memory of the
struggle they had had there.

"We should name this place Kentucky," said Bearwarden, "for it is
indeed a dark and bloody ground," and, seeing the aptness of the
appellation, they entered it so on their charts. While Ayrault
got the batteries in shape for resuming work. Bearwarden
prepared a substantial breakfast. This consisted of oatmeal and
cream kept hermetically sealed in glass, a dish of roast grouse,
coffee, pilot bread, a bottle of Sauterne, and another of Rhine
wine.

"This is the last meal we shall take hereabouts," said their
cook, as they plied their knives and forks beneath the trees, "so
here is a toast to our adventures, and to all the game we have
killed." They drained their glasses in drinking this, after
which Bearwarden regaled them with the latest concert-hall song
which he had at his tongue's end.

About an hour before dark they re-entered their projectile, and,
as a mark of respect to their little ship, named the great branch
of the continent on which they had alighted Callisto Point. They
then got under way. The batteries had to develop almost their
maximum power to overcome Jupiter's attraction; but they were
equal to the task, and the Callisto was soon in the air.
Directing their apergy to the mountains towards the interior of
the continent, and applying repulsion to any ridge or hill over
which they passed, thereby easing the work of the batteries
engaged in supporting the Callisto, they were soon sweeping along
at seventy-five to one hundred miles an hour. By keeping the
projectile just strongly enough charged to neutralize
gravitation, they remained for the most part within two hundred
feet of the ground, seldom rising to an altitude of more than a
mile, and were therefore able to keep the windows at the sides
open and so obtain an unobstructed view. If, however, at any
time they felt oppressed by Jupiter's high barometric pressure,
and preferred the terrestrial conditions, they had but to rise
till the barometer fell to thirty. Then, if an object of
interest recalled them to sea-level, they could keep the
Callisto's inside pressure at what they found on the Jovian
mountains, by screwing up the windows. On account of the
distance of sixty-four thousand miles from Jupiter's equator to
the pole, they calculated that going at the speed of a hundred
miles an hour, night and day, it would take them twenty-five
terrestrial days to reach the pole even from latitude two degrees
at which they started. But they knew that, if pressed for time,
they could rise above the limits of the atmosphere, and move with
planetary speed; while, if they wished a still easier method of
pursuing their observation, they had but to remain poised between
the sun and Jupiter, beyond the latter's upper air, and
photograph or map it as it revolved before them.

By sunset they had gone a hundred miles. Wishing to push along,
they closed the windows, rose higher to avoid any mountain-tops
that might be invisible in the moonlight, and increased their
speed. The air made a gentle humming sound as they shot through
it, and towards morning they saw several bright points of light
in which they recognized, by the aid of their glasses, sheets of
flame and torrents of molten glowing lava, bursting at intervals
or pouring steadily from several volcanoes. From this they
concluded they were again near an ocean, since volcanoes need the
presence of a large body of water to provide steam for their
eruptions.

With the rising sun they found the scene of the day before
entirely changed. They were over the shore of a vast ocean that
extended to the left as far as they could see, for the range of
vision often exceeded the power of sight. The coast-line ran
almost due north and south, while the volcanoes that dotted it,
and that had been luminous during the night, now revealed their
nature only by lines of smoke and vapours. They were struck by
the boldness and abruptness of the scenery. The mountains and
cliffs had been but little cut down by water and frost action,
and seemed in the full vigour of their youth, which was what the
travellers had a right to expect on a globe that was still
cooling and shrinking, and consequently throwing up ridges in the
shape of mountains far more rapidly than a planet as matured and
quiescent as the earth. The absence of lakes also showed them
that there had been no Glacial period, in the latitudes they were
crossing, for a very long time.

"We can account for the absence of ice-action and scratches,"
said Cortlandt, "in one of two ways. Either the proximity of the
internal heat to the surface prevents water from freezing in all
latitudes, or Jupiter's axis has always been very nearly
perpendicular to its orbit, and consequently the thermometer has
never been much below thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit; for, at the
considerable distance we are now from the sun, it is easy to
conceive that, with the axis much inclined, there might be cold
weather, during the Northern hemisphere's winter, that would last
for about six of our years, even as near the equator as this.
The substantiation of an ice-cap at the pole will disprove the
first hypothesis; for what we took for ice before alighting may
have been but banks of cloud, since, having been in the plane of
the planet's equator at the time, we had naturally but a very
oblique view of the poles; while the absence of glacial scratches
shows, I take it, that though the axis may have been a good deal
more inclined than at present, it has not, at all events since
Jupiter's Palaeozoic period, been as much so as that of Uranus or
Venus. The land on Jupiter, corresponding to the Laurentian
Hills on earth, must even here have appeared at so remote a
period that the first surface it showed must long since have been
worn away, and therefore any impressions it received have also
been erased.

"Comparing this land with the photographs we took from space, I
should say it is the eastern of the two crescent-shaped
continents we found apparently facing each other. Their present
form I take to be only the skeleton outline of what they will be
at the next period of Jupiter's development. They will, I
predict, become more like half moons than crescents, though the
profile may be much indented by gulfs and bays, their superficial
area being greatly increased, and the intervening ocean
correspondingly narrowed. We know that North America had a very
different shape during the Cretaceous or even the Middle Tertiary
period from what it has now, and that the Gulf of Mexico extended
up the valley of the Mississippi as far as the Ohio, by the
presence of a great coral reef in the Ohio River near Cincinnati.
We know also that Florida and the Southeastern Atlantic States
are a very recent addition to the continent, while the pampas of
the Argentine Republic have, in a geological sense, but just been
upheaved from the sea, by the fact that the rivers are all on the
surface, not having had time to cut down their channels below the
surrounding country. By similar reasoning, we know that the
canon of the Colorado is a very old region, though the
precipitateness of its banks is due to the absence of rain, for a
local water-supply would cut back the banks, having most effect
where they were steepest, since at those points it would move
with the greatest speed. Thus the majestic canon owes its
existence to two things: the length of time the river has been at
work, and the fact that the water flowing through it comes from
another region where, of course, there is rain, and that it is
merely in transit, and so affects only the bed on which it moves.
Granting that this is the eastern of the two continents we
observed, it evidently corresponds more in shape to the Eastern
hemisphere on earth than to the New World, both of which are set
facing one another, since both drain towards the Atlantic Ocean.
But the analogy here holds also, for the past outlines of the
Eastern hemisphere differed radically from what they are now.
The Mediterranean Sea was formerly of far greater extent than we
see it to-day, and covered nearly the whole of northern Africa
and the old upheaved sea-bottom that we see in the Desert of
Sahara. Much of this great desert, as we know, has a
considerable elevation, though part of it is still below the
level of the Mediterranean.

"Perhaps a more striking proof of this than are the remains of
fishes and marine life that are found there, is the dearth of
natural harbours and indentations in Africa's northern coast,
while just opposite, in southern Europe, there are any number;
which shows that not enough time has elapsed since Africa's
upheaval for liquid or congealed water to produce them. Many of
Europe's best harbours, and Boston's, in our country, have been
dug out by slow ice-action in the oft-recurring Glacial periods.
The Black and Caspian Seas were larger than we now find them;
while the Adriatic extended much farther into the continent,
covering most of the country now in the valley of the Po. In
Europe the land has, of course, risen also, but so slowly that
the rivers have been able to keep their channels cut down; proof
of their ability to perform which feat we see when an ancient
river passes through a ridge of hills or mountains. The river
had doubtless been there long before the mountains began to rise,
but their elevation was so gradual that the rate of the river's
cutting down equalled or exceeded their coming up; proof of which
we have in the patent fact that the ancient river's course
remains unchanged, and is at right angles to the mountain chain.
From all of which we see that the Eastern hemisphere's crescent
hollow--of which, I take it, the Mediterranean, Black, and
Caspian Sea depressions are the remains--has been gradually
filled in, by the elevation of the sea's bottom, and the
extension of deltas from the detrital matter brought from the
high interior of the continents by the rivers, or by the combined
action of the two. Now, since the Gulf of Mexico has been
constantly growing smaller, and the Mediterranean is being
invaded by the land, I reason that similar causes will produce
like effects here, and give to each continent an area far greater
than our entire globe. The stormy ocean we behold in the west,
which corresponds to our Atlantic, though it is far more of a
mare clausum in the geographical sense, is also destined to
become a calm and placid inland sea. There are, of course,
modifications of and checks to the laws tending to increase the
land area. England was formerly joined to the continent, the
land connecting the two having been rather washed away by the
waves and great tides than by any sinking of the English
Channel's bottom, the whole of which is comparatively shallow.
Another case of this kind is seen in Cape Cod and the islands of
Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, all of which are washing away so
rapidly that they would probably disappear before the next
Glacial period, were we not engaged in preventing its recurrence.
These detached islands and sand-bars once formed one large
island, which at a still earlier time undoubtedly was joined to
the mainland. The sands forming the detached masses are in a
great processional march towards the equator, but it is the
result simply of winds and waves, there being no indication of
subsidence. Along the coast of New Jersey we see denudation and
sinking going on together, the well-known SUNKEN FOREST being an
instance of the latter. The border of the continent proper also
extends many miles under the ocean before reaching the edge of
the Atlantic basin. Volcanic eruptions sometimes demolish parts
of headlands and islands, though these recompense us in the
amount of material brought to the surface, and in the increased
distance they enable water to penetrate by relieving the interior
of part of its heat, for any land they may destroy."





Next: A Jovian Niagara

Previous: The Honey Of Death



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