The Secret Of The Carets-the Sun As Seen From Mars
From: To Mars Via The Moon
The next day, accompanied by Merna and Tellurio, we started off at an
early hour on an air-ship trip to the northern edge of the Sinus
This is really the bed of an ancient sea, from which all water has long
since disappeared. Nearly all the blue-green patches which are seen on
the planet by our observers are also old sea-beds, and they are now the
most fertile areas upon its surface.
The object of our visit was to inspect the machinery and apparatus by
which the water is lifted and forced along the canals; and remembering
what Merna had told him, M'Allister was looking forward to seeing them
with eager anticipation.
Professor Lowell has arrived at the conclusion that, owing to the shape
of the planet and other conditions, gravitation upon Mars is in a state
of stable equilibrium, and that consequently water would not flow by
gravitation, as it does upon our earth, but merely spread out as it
would on a level floor. If turned into a canal it would not flow along
without artificial propulsion, except so far as it might be carried by
its own "head."
We found, on inquiry, that this conclusion is very nearly correct, but
there is just a small amount of gravitation which is sufficient to
produce an extremely slow movement of the water in the canals.
MARS. MAP V.
The dark wedge-shaped area near the centre is "Syrtis Major." It was on
the desert area to the left of this that Professor Lowell discovered
several new canals on 30th September, 1909.]
I have already mentioned the discovery of the "carets" which exist in
certain places on the planet. They are seen as small V-shaped markings
which are dark in tint; and perhaps might better be described as
resembling our Government's "broad-arrow," the central line representing
the end of a single canal which enters the caret centrally.
Professor Lowell is of opinion that these carets must fulfil some
important purpose, as they only appear where some of the canals connect
with the dark areas of the old sea-beds. He is quite right in this
conclusion, for they are very important indeed in connection with the
working of the canal system.
They are, in fact, all situated on or adjoining the slopes of the
sea-beds, and the dark sides of the V are really two high embankments
covered with dense vegetation, and thus are sufficiently conspicuous to
be seen through our telescopes. The whole encloses an area on each side
of the canals within which large and important engineering works are
The canals which run along the bottom of the sea-beds are, of course, at
a much lower level than the adjoining red area, and the canals on the
latter area are therefore at a higher level. Those canals which cross
the sea-beds cannot be carried by means of viaducts or embankments so as
to place them upon the same level as the canals on the red areas,
because that would defeat the purpose of irrigation, which is their
chief use. It is therefore necessary to lift the water from the
low-level canals and discharge it into those upon the higher ground.
This is accomplished by means of apparatus somewhat resembling an
American "grain-elevator," on a large scale; and it consists of a long
series of very large buckets, V-shaped in cross-section, attached to
endless chain-bands, which, as they are carried round by the machinery,
scoop up the water from the low-level canals and carry it up to the
requisite height, from whence it is automatically discharged into the
high-level canals. Of course it will be understood that the ends of the
latter canals are entirely closed by embankments so that no water can
pass that way.
The buckets are an enormous size, and the electric machinery by which
they are kept in motion is of the most ingenious description.
Besides this there is an immense amount of equally ingenious electrical
machinery for forcing the water along the canals.
Merna and Tellurio showed us all over the area, and carefully explained
the construction and working of the various machines. I do not think
M'Allister ever spent a more enjoyable time in his life, for he went
about amongst the different machines examining them with the keenest
interest and manifestations of delight; and his note-book was in
constant requisition for making sketches and notes of what he saw.
We noticed that he was frequently smiling and chuckling to himself as if
he were intensely pleased; and presently he came over to us, rubbing his
hands together in high glee, and said to John, "Heh, mon, I reckon I see
my way to making a fortune when we return home, out of the ideas and
wrinkles I'm getting here from the work of the Martian engineers!"
John laughed, and congratulated him heartily on his brilliant outlook
for the future, remarking that he did not appear to regret coming to
"Indeed, I don't," M'Allister replied; "I'm thinking it will prove the
very best thing I've done in my life."
"Well, sir," said Merna, "I told you those machines would suit you as an
engineer; are you satisfied now you have seen them?"
"More than satisfied," answered M'Allister; "they are the most
extraordinary and most ingenious machines I ever saw, and I wouldn't
have missed them for anything!"
At the sides of each high-level canal we saw a series of locks and weirs
so constructed that vessels can pass on, in successive stages, from the
high-level to the low-level canals, and vice versa.
These locks and weirs are all within the area enclosed by the
embankments forming the carets, which accounts for the long and
extensive space the latter cover, as the locks are necessarily a
considerable distance apart from each other to allow for a length of
canal to be traversed before the next lock is reached. They are,
however, not in themselves sufficiently conspicuous to be separately
discerned from the earth by our telescopic observers.
Machinery for forcing the water along the canals is also provided at
most of the junctions everywhere on the planet. In this connection it
must be remembered that the water is carried by the canals from one
hemisphere to the other, and, after passing the equator, must therefore
move in a direction contrary to that of ordinary gravitation.
Thus at one season of the year the water passes from the north polar
regions down into the southern hemisphere, and at the opposite period of
the year it is carried in the same way from the south polar regions
right into the northern hemisphere.
Gravitation being almost non-effective as regards the flow of water on
Mars, the movement would be extremely slow everywhere were it not for
the machinery, which adds to the speed of the flow. The average rate of
the movement of the water in the canals is about fifty-one miles a day,
and it takes about fifty-two days for the water to pass from about
latitude 72 deg. down to the equator, a distance of 2650 miles.
This rate of flow, as indicated by the darkening arising from the growth
of vegetation which follows the flow of the water down the canals, has
been observed and noted many times at Flagstaff Observatory.
It was now perfectly clear to us why the "carets" are only seen in the
particular places in which they have been observed by Professor Lowell
and his colleagues. They are, in fact, only needed in connection with
water-lifting apparatus, and locks and weirs, at the places where
high-level canals connect with those at a lower level!
We were all very pleased at finding the solution of a problem which had
been much discussed between us without arriving at any satisfactory
John then asked Tellurio if he would be good enough to explain to us how
it was that our observers on the earth saw some of the Martian canals
doubled at some periods of the year and single at other times; and
sometimes one of the twin canals was seen alone, and at other times the
second one only was visible.
"It is a very simple matter, sir," replied Tellurio. "You will
understand that we do not wish to waste any of our water, and as it is
quite unnecessary to use all our canals at the same time, we only use
those which are actually required. This arrangement also allows us to
have a much greater depth of water in the canals than would be the case
if they were all in use at once.
"Many of the canals are only required for irrigating seasonal crops; so
as soon as the requisite amount of moisture has been acquired by the
soil the water is turned from that canal into another one, passing
through an area where a later seasonal crop is to be grown. This
arrangement, moreover, applies not only to our double canals, but also
to very many of the series which you have regarded as single canals."
Thus the mysteries connected with Mars were being cleared up one after
the other; and having regard to the very simple and natural explanations
we received, we could not help laughing as we talked the matter over and
recalled the immense amount of discussion and wrangling which had
occurred amongst our scientific men in connection with these matters,
and especially at the difficulty they seemed to experience in believing
that the canals could exist at all. Then there were those charges and
theories of overstrained eyes, diplopia, and defective focussing, to say
nothing of other suggestions. Well, I will not say any more upon this
In continuation of our discussion of the canal question, I asked
Tellurio "Whether the canals and irrigation system had been the means of
reclaiming any large areas of land which had previously been deserts?"
"Oh yes, sir," he answered, "that has been the case in many parts of
our world; some very large areas indeed which were once deserts have now
become very fertile. Quite apart from such reclamations, however, our
canals and irrigation systems have also effectually checked the spread
of desertism. If it had remained unchecked, probably by this time the
entire surface of our planet would have become a desert."
I then explained that I asked the question because our observers had
seen and noted upon their charts several large areas which seemed to
have become fertile. Thus, along the eastern side of Thaumasia it had
been noted that, during a period of about twenty-three years, the green
area had advanced at least 400 miles nearer to the place we called the
"Solar Lake." On measuring this area on the map it appeared to me that
at least 200,000 square miles which had previously been desert had
Similar extensions of vegetation had also been charted in several other
places, for instance, on the east side of the large area known to us as
"Syrtis Major." I had, however, been rather surprised not to have come
across any comment by our scientists on the significance of this very
large increase of fertile land, as, taken in connection with the great
canal system, it seemed to me very significant and full of meaning.
Merna, continuing his remarks, then said that "Lately considerable
extensions of their canal system had been carried out. New canals had
been dug, others altered or extended, and vast areas had been
considerably changed by replanting in some places and fallowing in
others. The result of all this work," he said, "would produce a
striking alteration in the configuration of some of the dark areas. Such
changes," he remarked, "were carried out very rapidly, so rapidly indeed
that it would probably be almost incredible to terrestrials; but it must
be remembered that excavation, loading and removal of soil, as well as
most other operations, were accomplished by special machinery. He had no
doubt these changes would be noted by our observers, as Mars was so
favourably situated in regard to the earth at the present time. Besides
this," he continued, "many of our canals have been dealt with, and some
of them will disappear, either temporarily or permanently."
"Well, Merna," said John, "if that is the case our observers will soon
miss them; and I can imagine some of them gazing on your planet through
their telescopes and exclaiming, 'Lo! here is the symbol of the death of
Mars. Where we used to see canals there is now only blank space; the
canals are disappearing, and the Martians must be rapidly decreasing in
numbers and no longer able to maintain their vast canal system; or
perhaps their water supply is diminishing so rapidly that it is becoming
insufficient to keep the canals in working order; so ere long all life
upon Mars must come to an end!'"
"If that should be so," said Merna, "they will be altogether wrong in
their surmises, for the disappearance of several of our canals will not
indicate death but life. Some of those canals will only be temporarily
put out of use, but others, having served their purpose, will be
discontinued permanently. They are like our flowers that have done
blooming, which may be allowed to grow again next season, or the ground
may be fallowed and fresh flowers planted elsewhere; so the vanished
canals may be succeeded by fresh ones where they are needed; and when
your people see these new canals they will know that they indicate the
continued existence of vigorous and enterprising life upon Mars."
We then started upon our return home, and on the way I drew M'Allister's
attention to the smaller size of the sun as we saw it now as compared
with the size it appeared to us when on the earth. I told him that Mars
was then about 131,000,000 miles from the sun, so the sun's apparent
diameter was only about 22-1/4 minutes.
On the earth that day the sun's apparent diameter would be about 32
minutes. So to the Martians the sun only appeared about two-thirds the
size it appeared to the people on the earth.
When, on 13th August this year, Mars was at its "perihelion," or nearest
point to the sun, the latter was 129,500,000 miles distant, and would
appear rather more than 22-1/2 minutes in diameter.
At the opposite point of its orbit, where it will be in "aphelion," or
farthest from the sun, the sun will only appear about 19 minutes in
I then explained that, although the sun is so distant, Mars receives a
very much larger percentage of the total heat and light available than
we do on the earth, because of the thinness and generally cloudless
condition of the atmosphere. It is estimated that our atmosphere and
clouds shut out nearly 50 per cent. of the light and heat which would
otherwise reach us in the course of the year. On the other hand, their
"blanketing" effect considerably lessens the amount of heat radiated
into space; thus, by keeping in the heat we have received, compensating
to some extent for the original loss in quantity.
But, owing to its thin clear atmosphere, Mars receives nearly 99 per
cent. of the total amount of heat and light proceeding to it from the
sun; so that, although the sun is more distant from the planet, the
warmth on Mars does not compare so unfavourably with the warmth on the
earth as many have imagined it to do.
M'Allister replied that "He had expected to find it very cold indeed
upon Mars in consequence of its distance from the sun, but was surprised
to find it so warm," and added, "what you have now told me, Professor,
explains why this is so, and I can only say that at present I find the
climate a delightful one-pleasantly warm, yet bracing and invigorating.
Even in the tropical regions, although it is hot, it is not the
oppressive and enervating heat that I have experienced in the tropics on
our own world."
He then remarked that "He knew the planets all moved through space and
had read that some of the stars did too, and he would like to know
whether our sun had any motion in space?"
"Yes," I replied; "as the result of a long series of observations and
calculations it has been determined that the sun is moving through space
and carrying with it all the planets in our system. Its rate of movement
is not known with certainty, but it is estimated at about 1,000,000
miles a day. Whether it is moving in a straight line or in a vast orbit
around some far distant sun is also an open question, and it may take
centuries to arrive at a definite result. This motion of our sun, rapid
though it is, is very slow compared with the motion of some of the
stars. One that appears only a small star to us, but which is probably
a sun enormously larger than ours, is moving through space at a rate
which cannot be less than 200 miles a second; and unless that movement
is direct across our line of sight its rate must be still more rapid.
Yet it is so enormously distant that, in 500 years, it would only appear
to have moved over a space of one degree on the sky! It is calculated
that Arcturus moves still more rapidly.
"The movements of several other stars have been calculated; but the
distance of the stars is so enormously great that the majority appear to
have no movement at all, though probably not one of the heavenly bodies
is at rest.
"It is estimated that the light of the nearest star we know of takes at
least four years to reach the earth, yet light travels at the rate of
186,000 miles a second. We know of others whose light takes centuries to
reach us, and, with regard to most of the stars, the light we see
probably left them thousands of years ago.
"It is only when a star is so near to us that the earth's revolution in
its orbit is sufficient to cause a change in the apparent position of
the star which can be measured with our instruments that any calculation
can be made to determine its distance from us. In nearly all cases where
the distance has been calculated, the change in position is so minute
and difficult to measure accurately, that the results obtained can only
be regarded as very rough approximations to the real distances.
"The universe is infinite in extent, and the human mind is quite unable
to conceive what is really implied in the distances of the planets
belonging to our own solar system; yet they are as nothing when
compared with the distances of the fixed stars, either from the earth or
from each other. We equally fail to realise the immense numbers of the
stars. The camera, it is estimated, shows at least one hundred millions
in the heavens; and our great telescopes can penetrate through
inconceivable distances of space and render visible millions which the
smaller instruments fail to reveal. Every increase of instrumental
power, however, carries us still farther, and reveals more and more
stars in deeper depths of the illimitable abysses of space.
"In these matters there is no finality, for though with telescopic aid:
'World after world, sun after sun, star after star are past,
Yet systems round in myriads rise more glorious than the last:
The wondrous universe of God still limitless is found,
For endless are its distances, and none its depths can sound!'"
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