We Are Mysteriously Prevented From Approaching Mars
From: To Mars Via The Moon
The days then passed uneventfully until at last the long-looked-for day
arrived, and on the 24th September we were so close to Mars that we
hoped to be able to land on the planet by two o'clock in the afternoon.
We made ourselves a little sprucer than usual, as we wished to do credit
to our own world; and M'Allister wore his overalls to protect his
clothes, although our machinery was not nearly so messy to handle as
steam-engines usually are.
We had already examined our three machine-guns so that they might be in
readiness for any emergency, if some of the ideas of which we had read
as to the probable ferocity of the Martians should prove correct. It
had, however, been definitely agreed between us that the guns were only
to be used as a last resort to defend our lives against a wanton attack,
and were to be kept out of sight until they were really required. My own
conception of the Martians was, however, a very different one, though I
thought it quite right to be prepared for anything which might happen.
As Mars was only about twenty-five miles distant, its surface details
could be fairly well seen through the clear thin atmosphere; and, with
the aid of a glass, one question at least was definitely settled-the
numerous lines of vegetation were fairly continuous; but there were no
large canals to be seen, though we thought we could trace some narrow
We could also see several rapidly moving specks in the sky, which, we
suggested, might be air-ships of some kind; but they were so far off and
indistinct, that we were unable to arrive at a definite conclusion.
Our speed having been gradually reduced, we were now only moving at the
rate of twenty-five miles an hour, and it was therefore time to decide
on a landing-place. John and M'Allister pointed out a conspicuous spot
not very far from the centre of the visible surface of the planet, John
remarking that we should be about right if we landed there, because
several canals converged to it, and it must, therefore, be a place of
some importance. On looking at the map we found that it was marked as
the Nodus Gordii, or "Gordian Knot"; so, really, it seemed an
appropriate landing-place for travellers who were desirous of solving
"Very well, then," I said, "we'll land there if you like, but I had
rather a fancy for a different spot, which is on the Sinus Titanum. It
is that place over there, near the point where the vegetation curves
down in both directions," I remarked, as I pointed out the spot.
"Your place is rather nearer to the equator, and is probably pretty
warm; but really it does not matter where we land so long as we arrive
on the planet. Your votes are two to my one; so, as you have a thumping
majority, go ahead, M'Allister, for the place you have chosen! We will
see whether we can cut the Gordian Knot, if we cannot undo it!"
MARS. MAP III
"Sirapion," the landing-place of the "Areonal," is shown just above the
point of the shaded portion near the top. The "Nodus Gordii," where John
wished to land, is seen between the double canal just above the Equator,
on the left-hand side of the map.]
He accordingly directed his course towards the chosen spot; but we had
not proceeded very far before everything below us suddenly disappeared,
being quite blotted out by something of an ochre tint, which entirely
obscured our view of the country.
"Professor," exclaimed M'Allister, "what is the matter? I cannot see
where we are going!"
"I can guess what it is," I replied; "we have run into one of those
sand-clouds I told you of the other evening, and until we get through,
or it passes away, we shall see nothing else. Perhaps we had better go
on very slowly."
We went on accordingly, but instead of our getting through it, the cloud
seemed to become denser and denser. However, we still pressed on, and,
after what seemed quite a long time, we emerged into somewhat clearer
air, although there was still a thin yellow cloud below us. Our course
had been well maintained, for we seemed to be within ten miles of our
destination, which we could just make out through the thin dust-cloud.
Presently M'Allister called out to me, "Professor, I don't know what is
wrong, but the machinery is slowing down so much that I am afraid we
shall soon come to a dead stop! I have switched on more power, but it
does not seem to make any difference!"
"Well, try a little stronger current," I suggested; "but be careful not
to overdo it, or we may land upon Mars more suddenly than we shall
He tried this, but we had not moved more than a hundred yards when he
found that farther progress was impossible. So here we were, only a few
miles from our destination, yet prevented by an impalpable and unknown
obstacle from reaching it!
We consulted together, but could find no solution of the mystery of this
invisible barrier to our progress. Then John suggested that, as we could
not go straight on, we should try a different course. So M'Allister
altered our course a few points, and once more put on the speed power,
only to be brought to a standstill again after a very short spurt.
"My word!" he exclaimed, "I'll not be beaten like this. I've driven an
old iron tramp-steamer through scores of miles of thick seaweed out in
the tropics, although the machinery was almost worn out and the engines
leaking at every joint. Here goes for full speed ahead!" he cried; and,
so saying, he switched on full power, quite heedless of my shout of "Do
be careful, M'Allister, or we shall all be smashed to pieces!"
"She's got to go!" he replied grimly, "smash or no smash! I never was
beaten yet when pushing my way through obstacles, and I'm too old a hand
to be beaten now!"
However, he found he was beaten this time, for although he switched on
the utmost power, it refused to give any evidence of its existence, and
we had to rely on our neutral power in order to maintain our position in
the air; though, as events proved, we could not have fallen.
The excitement and tension of the work had thrown M'Allister into a
profuse perspiration; and, as he stood moodily mopping his brow with his
handkerchief, I heard him muttering and swearing softly to himself. His
blood was evidently up, for he made another desperate attempt to get
the Areonal to move forward, wrenching his switches with angry jerks,
but it all proved labour in vain.
"Well, what is to be done now, John?" I asked; "we have tried two
courses without any effect!"
"I would suggest, Professor, that we should go up higher," he replied,
"so as to enable us to try again from another altitude, then, perhaps,
we may pass above the obstacle."
"A good thought that, John!" I cried. So up we went, the machinery
working all right now, and our spirits rose as we soared higher; but,
alas! after rising a few hundred yards, the machines began to slow down,
and soon stopped altogether.
"The de'il himself must be taking a hand in this business!" exclaimed
M'Allister, "for this beats the worst experience I ever had! We can't go
up, we can't go down, and we can't go forward! Whatever can we do,
Professor? You're a scientific man; can't you suggest something which
"It's a profound mystery to me, M'Allister," I replied, "but we
certainly do not want to remain hung up in space, so I suggest you
should try several different courses. Surely, in some direction we shall
find a way out of this, and get to our destination."
This plan was tried, M'Allister doggedly setting his course first in one
direction, then in another, and trying to put on enough power to force
the vessel along; but time after time we came to a standstill after
moving very slowly for a short distance.
"It looks as though we were to be hung up here indefinitely," said John.
"We do not seem able to get through this mysterious obstacle, whatever
it may be, or whatever course we may try."
"Oh, we've not tried all points yet," I said. "We must not give up now
we have got so close to the object of our trip. Take a fresh course,
He took a fresh course, and another after that, but with exactly the
I had never seen M'Allister in such a perturbed state before; he
actually trembled all over with the intensity of his feelings, and his
face had an expression of grim determination such as I should imagine
might be seen on the face of a soldier at bay with his back to a wall,
and fighting for his life against overwhelming numbers of assailants.
"My word!" he exclaimed, "yon's Mars, and here's us, but it doesn't seem
as if we should ever come together. Losh mon, bonnie Scotland for ever!
Here goes for another try!" and he switched on the current again with a
We watched the machines with intense anxiety, wondering whether this new
course would be any better than the others we had tried-whether the
machines would keep moving, or slow down and stop as before.
No, we kept moving; and soon it was evident we were gaining speed
"Hurrah, hurrah!" I cried in exultation. "We are doing it this time.
Slow down, M'Allister, we are going too fast now!"
"Scotland for ever!" he shrieked. "That did it, Professor!"
Strangely enough, John, usually the most excitable member of our party,
was the calmest of the three, and simply remarked quietly, "We've done
it this time."
Yes, we had indeed done it this time, but our attention had been so
taken up with our anxious watching of the machines that none of us had
noticed the direction we were taking.
We had passed entirely through the last remnant of the sand clouds, and
it was now beautifully clear, the thin air enabling us to see over a
very large area of country. For the first time since leaving the earth I
now opened one of the doors very slightly indeed, and tested the effect
of the real Martian atmosphere.
It seemed to us rather sharp, with a taste something like that of a
tonic medicine, but we were all able to breathe it without any serious
inconvenience, though at first it made us gasp.
Being assured there was no danger, I stepped out on to the platform and
looked down, then started back in utter astonishment, exclaiming to the
others, "Why, look! look! See where we are!"
Next: We Arrive On Mars And Meet With A Startling Surprise
Previous: The Great Martian Controversy Continued