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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Round The Moon - Chapter XIII - Lunar Landscapes
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A Round The Moon - Chapter XIII - Lunar Landscapes Post by :wellnesscoach Category :Long Stories Author :Jules Verne Date :July 2011 Read :812

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A Round The Moon - Chapter XIII - Lunar Landscapes

Chapter XIII - Lunar Landscapes

At half-past two in the morning, the projectile was over the
thirteenth lunar parallel and at the effective distance of five
hundred miles, reduced by the glasses to five. It still seemed
impossible, however, that it could ever touch any part of the disc.
Its motive speed, comparatively so moderate, was inexplicable to
President Barbicane. At that distance from the moon it must have
been considerable, to enable it to bear up against her attraction.
Here was a phenomenon the cause of which escaped them again.
Besides, time failed them to investigate the cause. All lunar
relief was defiling under the eyes of the travelers, and they
would not lose a single detail.

Under the glasses the disc appeared at the distance of five
miles. What would an aeronaut, borne to this distance from the
earth, distinguish on its surface? We cannot say, since the
greatest ascension has not been more than 25,000 feet.

This, however, is an exact description of what Barbicane and his
companions saw at this height. Large patches of different
colors appeared on the disc. Selenographers are not agreed upon
the nature of these colors. There are several, and rather
vividly marked. Julius Schmidt pretends that, if the
terrestrial oceans were dried up, a Selenite observer could not
distinguish on the globe a greater diversity of shades between
the oceans and the continental plains than those on the moon
present to a terrestrial observer. According to him, the color
common to the vast plains known by the name of "seas" is a dark
gray mixed with green and brown. Some of the large craters
present the same appearance. Barbicane knew this opinion of the
German selenographer, an opinion shared by Boeer and Moedler.
Observation has proved that right was on their side, and not on
that of some astronomers who admit the existence of only gray on
the moon's surface. In some parts green was very distinct, such
as springs, according to Julius Schmidt, from the seas of
"Serenity and Humors." Barbicane also noticed large craters,
without any interior cones, which shed a bluish tint similar to
the reflection of a sheet of steel freshly polished. These colors
belonged really to the lunar disc, and did not result, as some
astronomers say, either from the imperfection in the objective
of the glasses or from the interposition of the terrestrial atmosphere.

Not a doubt existed in Barbicane's mind with regard to it, as he
observed it through space, and so could not commit any optical error.
He considered the establishment of this fact as an acquisition
to science. Now, were these shades of green, belonging to
tropical vegetation, kept up by a low dense atmosphere? He could
not yet say.

Farther on, he noticed a reddish tint, quite defined. The same
shade had before been observed at the bottom of an isolated
enclosure, known by the name of Lichtenburg's circle, which is
situated near the Hercynian mountains, on the borders of the
moon; but they could not tell the nature of it.

They were not more fortunate with regard to another peculiarity
of the disc, for they could not decide upon the cause of it.

Michel Ardan was watching near the president, when he noticed
long white lines, vividly lighted up by the direct rays of the sun.
It was a succession of luminous furrows, very different from the
radiation of Copernicus not long before; they ran parallel with
each other.

Michel, with his usual readiness, hastened to exclaim:

"Look there! cultivated fields!"

"Cultivated fields!" replied Nicholl, shrugging his shoulders.

"Plowed, at all events," retorted Michel Ardan; "but what
laborers those Selenites must be, and what giant oxen they must
harness to their plow to cut such furrows!"

"They are not furrows," said Barbicane; "they are _rifts_."

"Rifts? stuff!" replied Michel mildly; "but what do you mean by
`rifts' in the scientific world?"

Barbicane immediately enlightened his companion as to what he
knew about lunar rifts. He knew that they were a kind of furrow
found on every part of the disc which was not mountainous; that
these furrows, generally isolated, measured from 400 to 500
leagues in length; that their breadth varied from 1,000 to 1,500
yards, and that their borders were strictly parallel; but he
knew nothing more either of their formation or their nature.

Barbicane, through his glasses, observed these rifts with
great attention. He noticed that their borders were formed of
steep declivities; they were long parallel ramparts, and with some
small amount of imagination he might have admitted the existence
of long lines of fortifications, raised by Selenite engineers.
Of these different rifts some were perfectly straight, as if cut
by a line; others were slightly curved, though still keeping
their borders parallel; some crossed each other, some cut through
craters; here they wound through ordinary cavities, such as
Posidonius or Petavius; there they wound through the seas, such
as the "Sea of Serenity."

These natural accidents naturally excited the imaginations of
these terrestrial astronomers. The first observations had not
discovered these rifts. Neither Hevelius, Cassin, La Hire, nor
Herschel seemed to have known them. It was Schroeter who in
1789 first drew attention to them. Others followed who studied
them, as Pastorff, Gruithuysen, Boeer, and Moedler. At this
time their number amounts to seventy; but, if they have been
counted, their nature has not yet been determined; they are
certainly _not fortifications, any more than they are the
ancient beds of dried-up rivers; for, on one side, the waters,
so slight on the moon's surface, could never have worn such
drains for themselves; and, on the other, they often cross
craters of great elevation.

We must, however, allow that Michel Ardan had "an idea," and
that, without knowing it, he coincided in that respect with
Julius Schmidt.

"Why," said he, "should not these unaccountable appearances be
simply phenomena of vegetation?"

"What do you mean?" asked Barbicane quickly.

"Do not excite yourself, my worthy president," replied Michel;
"might it not be possible that the dark lines forming that
bastion were rows of trees regularly placed?"

"You stick to your vegetation, then?" said Barbicane.

"I like," retorted Michel Ardan, "to explain what you savants
cannot explain; at least my hypotheses has the advantage of
indicating why these rifts disappear, or seem to disappear, at
certain seasons."

"And for what reason?"

"For the reason that the trees become invisible when they lose
their leaves, and visible again when they regain them."

"Your explanation is ingenious, my dear companion," replied
Barbicane, "but inadmissible."

"Why?"

"Because, so to speak, there are no seasons on the moon's surface,
and that, consequently, the phenomena of vegetation of which you
speak cannot occur."

Indeed, the slight obliquity of the lunar axis keeps the sun at
an almost equal height in every latitude. Above the equatorial
regions the radiant orb almost invariably occupies the zenith,
and does not pass the limits of the horizon in the polar
regions; thus, according to each region, there reigns a
perpetual winter, spring, summer, or autumn, as in the planet
Jupiter, whose axis is but little inclined upon its orbit.

What origin do they attribute to these rifts? That is a
question difficult to solve. They are certainly anterior to the
formation of craters and circles, for several have introduced
themselves by breaking through their circular ramparts. Thus it
may be that, contemporary with the later geological epochs, they
are due to the expansion of natural forces.

But the projectile had now attained the fortieth degree of lunar
latitude, at a distance not exceeding 40 miles. Through the
glasses objects appeared to be only four miles distant.

At this point, under their feet, rose Mount Helicon, 1,520 feet
high, and round about the left rose moderate elevations,
enclosing a small portion of the "Sea of Rains," under the name
of the Gulf of Iris. The terrestrial atmosphere would have to
be one hundred and seventy times more transparent than it is,
to allow astronomers to make perfect observations on the moon's
surface; but in the void in which the projectile floated no
fluid interposed itself between the eye of the observer and
the object observed. And more, Barbicane found himself carried
to a greater distance than the most powerful telescopes had
ever done before, either that of Lord Rosse or that of the
Rocky Mountains. He was, therefore, under extremely favorable
conditions for solving that great question of the habitability
of the moon; but the solution still escaped him; he could
distinguish nothing but desert beds, immense plains, and toward
the north, arid mountains. Not a work betrayed the hand of man;
not a ruin marked his course; not a group of animals was to be
seen indicating life, even in an inferior degree. In no part
was there life, in no part was there an appearance of vegetation.
Of the three kingdoms which share the terrestrial globe between
them, one alone was represented on the lunar and that the mineral.

"Ah, indeed!" said Michel Ardan, a little out of countenance;
"then you see no one?"

"No," answered Nicholl; "up to this time, not a man, not an
animal, not a tree! After all, whether the atmosphere has taken
refuge at the bottom of cavities, in the midst of the circles,
or even on the opposite face of the moon, we cannot decide."

"Besides," added Barbicane, "even to the most piercing eye a man
cannot be distinguished farther than three and a half miles off;
so that, if there are any Selenites, they can see our projectile,
but we cannot see them."

Toward four in the morning, at the height of the fiftieth
parallel, the distance was reduced to 300 miles. To the left
ran a line of mountains capriciously shaped, lying in the
full light. To the right, on the contrary, lay a black hollow
resembling a vast well, unfathomable and gloomy, drilled into
the lunar soil.

This hole was the "Black Lake"; it was Pluto, a deep circle
which can be conveniently studied from the earth, between the
last quarter and the new moon, when the shadows fall from west
to east.

This black color is rarely met with on the surface of
the satellite. As yet it has only been recognized in the depths
of the circle of Endymion, to the east of the "Cold Sea," in the
northern hemisphere, and at the bottom of Grimaldi's circle, on
the equator, toward the eastern border of the orb.

Pluto is an annular mountain, situated in 51@ north latitude,
and 9@ east longitude. Its circuit is forty-seven miles long
and thirty-two broad.

Barbicane regretted that they were not passing directly above
this vast opening. There was an abyss to fathom, perhaps some
mysterious phenomenon to surprise; but the projectile's course
could not be altered. They must rigidly submit. They could not
guide a balloon, still less a projectile, when once enclosed
within its walls. Toward five in the morning the northern
limits of the "Sea of Rains" was at length passed. The mounts
of Condamine and Fontenelle remained-- one on the right, the
other on the left. That part of the disc beginning with 60@ was
becoming quite mountainous. The glasses brought them to within
two miles, less than that separating the summit of Mont Blanc
from the level of the sea. The whole region was bristling with
spikes and circles. Toward the 60@ Philolaus stood predominant
at a height of 5,550 feet with its elliptical crater, and seen
from this distance, the disc showed a very fantastical appearance.
Landscapes were presented to the eye under very different
conditions from those on the earth, and also very inferior to them.

The moon having no atmosphere, the consequences arising from
the absence of this gaseous envelope have already been shown.
No twilight on her surface; night following day and day following
night with the suddenness of a lamp which is extinguished or
lighted amid profound darkness-- no transition from cold to
heat, the temperature falling in an instant from boiling point
to the cold of space.

Another consequence of this want of air is that absolute
darkness reigns where the sun's rays do not penetrate.
That which on earth is called diffusion of light, that luminous
matter which the air holds in suspension, which creates the
twilight and the daybreak, which produces the _umbrae and
_penumbrae_, and all the magic of _chiaro-oscuro_, does not
exist on the moon. Hence the harshness of contrasts, which
only admit of two colors, black and white. If a Selenite
were to shade his eyes from the sun's rays, the sky would seem
absolutely black, and the stars would shine to him as on the
darkest night. Judge of the impression produced on Barbicane
and his three friends by this strange scene! Their eyes
were confused. They could no longer grasp the respective
distances of the different plains. A lunar landscape without
the softening of the phenomena of _chiaro-oscuro could not be
rendered by an earthly landscape painter; it would be spots of
ink on a white page-- nothing more.

This aspect was not altered even when the projectile, at the
height of 80@, was only separated from the moon by a distance
of fifty miles; nor even when, at five in the morning, it
passed at less than twenty-five miles from the mountain of
Gioja, a distance reduced by the glasses to a quarter of a mile.
It seemed as if the moon might be touched by the hand!
It seemed impossible that, before long, the projectile would
not strike her, if only at the north pole, the brilliant arch
of which was so distinctly visible on the black sky.

Michel Ardan wanted to open one of the scuttles and throw
himself on to the moon's surface! A very useless attempt; for
if the projectile could not attain any point whatever of the
satellite, Michel, carried along by its motion, could not attain
it either.

At that moment, at six o'clock, the lunar pole appeared. The disc
only presented to the travelers' gaze one half brilliantly lit up,
while the other disappeared in the darkness. Suddenly the
projectile passed the line of demarcation between intense light
and absolute darkness, and was plunged in profound night!

Content of Chapter XIII - Lunar Landscapes (Jules Verne's novel: A trip around the Moon)

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