Figures Don't Lie
From: Doctor Jones' Picnic
The North Pole! That spot upon earth so environed with trackless fields
of unbroken snow and mountains of ice; with an atmosphere so cold that
none but the bravest and hardiest of mankind can breathe it and live.
And yet these apparently insuperable obstacles have but stimulated men
to do and dare all things, so that they might but reach that ultima
thule. In vain have our utilitarians cried, "Qui bono?" God has planted
within man the spirit of lordship and domination; and, true to that
spirit, he will never rest until Nature shall have yielded up to him her
last secret, and his restless foot shall have trodden the wildest and
farthest spot of earth. Then, and not till then, will he stand crowned
"Lord of Creation."
In this faithful history of the discovery and exact location of the
North Pole, it is not necessary to bring before the reader in historical
review the many illustrious names and grand heroisms of former explorers
of Arctic regions. They did marvelous deeds, beyond the comprehension of
those who did not actually participate in them. They sacrificed
thousands of noble lives, and undoubtedly did all that could be done
with the means at their command. Ah! there we have struck the keynote.
The means at their command were inadequate, and nothing but failure and
disaster could result from their best laid plans and efforts.
Dr. Jonathan Jones sat in his office in the populous, thriving city of
R----, situated in one of our western states. He occupied an easy chair,
heels upon a low, flat-topped writing desk, newspaper in hand, reading
an account of the failure of Dr. Nansen to reach the North Pole. That
renowned and hardy explorer proposed reaching the spot by floating on an
ice floe. We are all familiar with the fact that he did actually get to
within about three hundred miles of the coveted spot, but was obliged to
turn back for want of dogs and sledges.
Dr. Jones laid the paper down with a groan. "Will they never learn?" he
apostrophizingly cried to a bust of Hahnemann that rested upon a bracket
in a corner of the room. "They can never get there on any such lines. I
believe it to be a perfectly feasible scheme, if worked out on simple
scientific principles. If I had capital, I would try it."
He sat with the points of his extended fingers touching each its mate of
the opposite hand, and mused for several moments. Suddenly he seized a
pencil, and rapidly jotted down figures, lines, and characters that
meant nothing to any mortal but himself.
"Figures don't lie!" he shouted to aforesaid bust. "That depends,
Doctor, on whether they are legitimately used or not. Sometimes they are
made to represent the vilest untruth," said a voice behind him. The
Doctor wheeled about and encountered the genial countenance of Mr. A.L.
"Hullo! Denison. Just the man I wanted to see. Sit down."
"What's up now, Doctor? Anyone hurt or seriously sick?" inquired
Denison, as he occupied a chair.
For answer the Doctor read aloud the account of Dr. Nansen's failure to
reach the North Pole, and then said: "I do not wonder that he failed. No
one will succeed upon any such lines or plans."
"Well, Doctor, you don't suppose that anyone will ever get there and
back alive, do you?"
"Whether they will or not, I do not know; but that it is a perfectly
feasible and rational undertaking, under proper conditions, I as firmly
believe as I do that I am alive," and he brought his fist down upon the
desk by way of emphasis with a whack that made the various loose
articles in the little office rattle. Even the bust upon the bracket
moved about uneasily, whether by way of approbation or not, this
truthful chronicle ventures no opinion. Denison looked at the flushed
face and glittering eyes of the Doctor, moved uneasily in his chair,
and said: "What's up, Doctor? I never knew you to drink. Getting off?"
tapping his os frontis with his forefinger significantly.
"Denison," replied the Doctor, unheeding the innuendoes of his friend,
"I tell you that I have a plan for going to, and returning from, the
North Pole with perfect safety, absolute certainty, and a degree of
comfort that will reduce the whole expedition to the level of a glorious
picnic." Denison indulged in a long, low whistle.
"Draw it a little milder, Doctor. Go to and return from the North Pole
with perfect safety, certainty, comfort, and pleasure! What do you mean?
I never heard of anything so preposterous in my life!"
"Hitch up to the desk here, and I will soon tell you what I mean," cried
the Doctor. Denison complied, and the Doctor, seizing a pencil, drew
upon a leaf of the scratch book, with a few vigorous strokes, a sketch
of a globe, thus:
"There," said he, as he gave a few finishing touches. "There you have
"Well, go on."
"This sketch represents a mammoth globe of aluminum, two hundred feet in
diameter, as you will notice.
"I see," assented Denison.
"We have, then, a great hollow globe, consisting, as I said before, of
aluminum. I have chosen that material for two obvious reasons; lightness
and strength. The globe is simply to be floated by heating the
atmosphere within it."
"What will you heat it with, and how long do you suppose it will be
before your globe returns to the earth?" asked Denison.
"Your questions are quite practical, and I am ready to answer them.
There are to be three skins or coverings to our globe, with a foot of
space (or air blanket, if you please) between them. This affords us two
air chambers that materially prevent the radiation of heat. Once heated,
a very little fuel will keep the interior of our great air-ship at the
desired temperature. You see, at the inferior or lower part of the ship,
a square apartment attached, plentifully supplied with windows. That
represents the living and store rooms. The living rooms are to be
comfortably furnished, and no reason can be alleged why we should not
enjoy in them absolute comfort. In our store-rooms, we will carry one
year's supply of food. And in tanks of sufficient size, petroleum (or
whatever combustible we conclude to be most suitable) for heating and
cooking purposes. See?"
"I see," said Denison.
"You will observe that so conservative of heat is this arrangement that
every particle of caloric created in the living rooms, or cabin below,
helps by that much to float the great globe. All the warmth from cooking
and heating; the heat and smoke from our pipes and cigars; yea, even the
animal heat which radiates from our bodies, all subserve the one great
purpose and function--keeping up the temperature and buoyant effort of
the globe. Do you begin to catch on?" fairly shouted the enthusiastic
"Well, it looks very well so far," returned Denison slowly. "But, my
dear sir, I foresee one difficulty that in your enthusiasm you seem to
have overlooked. You can never guide or steer this immense ship. It must
go with the wind, and you are just as likely to go to the South Pole as
to the North, and very unlikely to go to either. You must excuse me,
but this last is certainly an insuperable obstacle to your making
anything practicable of your idea."
"I admit at once that this great body could not be steered, nor in any
degree guided by any apparatus that we could devise," assented the
Doctor. "But that we should be obliged to float aimlessly, hither and
thither, altogether the creatures of chance, I do not for a moment
admit. The equator, receiving as it does, the vertical rays of the sun,
is by far the hottest portion of the earth. The atmosphere at that
quarter, being constantly superheated and correspondingly rarified,
ascends into the vault above. This creates a semi-vacuum below, and the
cooler atmospheres north and south of the equator rush in and fill the
aforesaid vacuum. Pouring in from opposite directions with an impetus
that often amounts to hurricanes, they boil up as they meet, miles into
the firmament above. They then set off in two strong currents toward
either Pole. What is the natural inference? The navigators of our
air-ship have the power to raise and lower at pleasure. Obviously, there
is but one thing for sensible men to do: Let her rise until we strike a
northerly current, if necessary, and remain in it so long as it is
favorable; when it changes, rise or lower until another favorable
current is found, etc. Do you happen to think of any more 'insuperable'
obstacles, my dear sir?"
"Well, I must say that while I am not convinced of the practicability of
your scheme, still you meet my objections in a way that is quite
surprising, and which shows that you have given the matter much thought;
yet I am not sure that you will not run upon difficulties that will make
it altogether impossible. For instance, there is the cost of so vast an
undertaking. It would cost hundreds of thousands, at the least
"Now, Denison, you have struck the only real difficulty that I can think
of. I really have no idea of who will furnish the money. I had not
thought even of asking anyone to do so."
Patients came in at this juncture, and Denison took his departure. A few
days later, however, he returned, and when the Doctor was at leisure,
opened the conversation by asking if anything had developed with regard
to the air-ship building.
"O, ho!" cried Dr. Jones, "you are getting into my way of thinking on
that subject, are you?"
"Well, to tell you the truth, I have thought of it considerably since I
saw you. I would like, at least, to see it tried."
"There is but one way to do: If you get interested sufficiently to wish
to take hold, we will see if we cannot stir up our friends and form a
stock company. Or, failing in that, we might have a working model built,
and I think we could induce the Government to take hold of the matter."
Denison called frequently during the following month, and it was evident
that he was fast becoming imbued with the Doctor's ideas and
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