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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Round The Moon - Chapter XVII - Tycho
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A Round The Moon - Chapter XVII - Tycho Post by :cmyer00 Category :Long Stories Author :Jules Verne Date :July 2011 Read :1605

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A Round The Moon - Chapter XVII - Tycho

Chapter XVII - Tycho

At six in the evening the projectile passed the south pole at
less than forty miles off, a distance equal to that already
reached at the north pole. The elliptical curve was being
rigidly carried out.

At this moment the travelers once more entered the blessed rays
of the sun. They saw once more those stars which move slowly
from east to west. The radiant orb was saluted by a triple hurrah.
With its light it also sent heat, which soon pierced the metal walls.
The glass resumed its accustomed appearance. The layers of ice
melted as if by enchantment; and immediately, for economy's sake,
the gas was put out, the air apparatus alone consuming its
usual quantity.

"Ah!" said Nicholl, "these rays of heat are good. With what
impatience must the Selenites wait the reappearance of the orb
of day."

"Yes," replied Michel Ardan, "imbibing as it were the brilliant
ether, light and heat, all life is contained in them."

At this moment the bottom of the projectile deviated somewhat
from the lunar surface, in order to follow the slightly
lengthened elliptical orbit. From this point, had the earth
been at the full, Barbicane and his companions could have
seen it, but immersed in the sun's irradiation she was
quite invisible. Another spectacle attracted their attention,
that of the southern part of the moon, brought by the glasses
to within 450 yards. They did not again leave the scuttles,
and noted every detail of this fantastical continent.

Mounts Doerful and Leibnitz formed two separate groups very near
the south pole. The first group extended from the pole to the
eighty-fourth parallel, on the eastern part of the orb; the
second occupied the eastern border, extending from the 65@ of
latitude to the pole.

On their capriciously formed ridge appeared dazzling sheets, as
mentioned by Pere Secchi. With more certainty than the
illustrious Roman astronomer, Barbicane was enabled to recognize
their nature.

"They are snow," he exclaimed.

"Snow?" repeated Nicholl.

"Yes, Nicholl, snow; the surface of which is deeply frozen.
See how they reflect the luminous rays. Cooled lava would never
give out such intense reflection. There must then be water,
there must be air on the moon. As little as you please, but the
fact can no longer be contested." No, it could not be. And if
ever Barbicane should see the earth again, his notes will bear
witness to this great fact in his selenographic observations.

These mountains of Doerful and Leibnitz rose in the midst of
plains of a medium extent, which were bounded by an indefinite
succession of circles and annular ramparts. These two chains
are the only ones met with in this region of circles.
Comparatively but slightly marked, they throw up here and there
some sharp points, the highest summit of which attains an
altitude of 24,600 feet.

But the projectile was high above all this landscape, and the
projections disappeared in the intense brilliancy of the disc.
And to the eyes of the travelers there reappeared that original
aspect of the lunar landscapes, raw in tone, without gradation
of colors, and without degrees of shadow, roughly black and
white, from the want of diffusion of light.

But the sight of this desolate world did not fail to captivate
them by its very strangeness. They were moving over this region
as if they had been borne on the breath of some storm, watching
heights defile under their feet, piercing the cavities with their
eyes, going down into the rifts, climbing the ramparts, sounding
these mysterious holes, and leveling all cracks. But no trace
of vegetation, no appearance of cities; nothing but stratification,
beds of lava, overflowings polished like immense mirrors,
reflecting the sun's rays with overpowering brilliancy.
Nothing belonging to a _living world-- everything to a dead
world, where avalanches, rolling from the summits of the mountains,
would disperse noiselessly at the bottom of the abyss, retaining
the motion, but wanting the sound. In any case it was the image
of death, without its being possible even to say that life had ever
existed there.

Michel Ardan, however, thought he recognized a heap of ruins,
to which he drew Barbicane's attention. It was about the 80th
parallel, in 30@ longitude. This heap of stones, rather
regularly placed, represented a vast fortress, overlooking a
long rift, which in former days had served as a bed to the
rivers of prehistorical times. Not far from that, rose to a
height of 17,400 feet the annular mountain of Short, equal to
the Asiatic Caucasus. Michel Ardan, with his accustomed ardor,
maintained "the evidences" of his fortress. Beneath it he
discerned the dismantled ramparts of a town; here the still
intact arch of a portico, there two or three columns lying under
their base; farther on, a succession of arches which must have
supported the conduit of an aqueduct; in another part the sunken
pillars of a gigantic bridge, run into the thickest parts of
the rift. He distinguished all this, but with so much imagination
in his glance, and through glasses so fantastical, that we must
mistrust his observation. But who could affirm, who would dare
to say, that the amiable fellow did not really see that which
his two companions would not see?

Moments were too precious to be sacrificed in idle discussion.
The selenite city, whether imaginary or not, had already
disappeared afar off. The distance of the projectile from the
lunar disc was on the increase, and the details of the soil were
being lost in a confused jumble. The reliefs, the circles,
the craters, and the plains alone remained, and still showed
their boundary lines distinctly. At this moment, to the left,
lay extended one of the finest circles of lunar orography,
one of the curiosities of this continent. It was Newton,
which Barbicane recognized without trouble, by referring to
the _Mappa Selenographica_.

Newton is situated in exactly 77@ south latitude, and 16@
east longitude. It forms an annular crater, the ramparts of
which, rising to a height of 21,300 feet, seemed to be impassable.

Barbicane made his companions observe that the height of this
mountain above the surrounding plain was far from equaling the
depth of its crater. This enormous hole was beyond all
measurement, and formed a gloomy abyss, the bottom of which the
sun's rays could never reach. There, according to Humboldt,
reigns utter darkness, which the light of the sun and the earth
cannot break. Mythologists could well have made it the mouth of hell.

"Newton," said Barbicane, "is the most perfect type of these
annular mountains, of which the earth possesses no sample.
They prove that the moon's formation, by means of cooling, is
due to violent causes; for while, under the pressure of internal
fires the reliefs rise to considerable height, the depths withdraw
far below the lunar level."

"I do not dispute the fact," replied Michel Ardan.

Some minutes after passing Newton, the projectile directly
overlooked the annular mountains of Moret. It skirted at some
distance the summits of Blancanus, and at about half-past seven
in the evening reached the circle of Clavius.

This circle, one of the most remarkable of the disc, is situated
in 58@ south latitude, and 15@ east longitude. Its height is
estimated at 22,950 feet. The travelers, at a distance of
twenty-four miles (reduced to four by their glasses) could
admire this vast crater in its entirety.

"Terrestrial volcanoes," said Barbicane, "are but mole-hills
compared with those of the moon. Measuring the old craters
formed by the first eruptions of Vesuvius and Etna, we find them
little more than three miles in breadth. In France the circle
of Cantal measures six miles across; at Ceyland the circle of
the island is forty miles, which is considered the largest on
the globe. What are these diameters against that of Clavius,
which we overlook at this moment?"

"What is its breadth?" asked Nicholl.

"It is 150 miles," replied Barbicane. "This circle is certainly
the most important on the moon, but many others measure 150,
100, or 75 miles."

"Ah! my friends," exclaimed Michel, "can you picture to
yourselves what this now peaceful orb of night must have been
when its craters, filled with thunderings, vomited at the same
time smoke and tongues of flame. What a wonderful spectacle
then, and now what decay! This moon is nothing more than a thin
carcase of fireworks, whose squibs, rockets, serpents, and suns,
after a superb brilliancy, have left but sadly broken cases.
Who can say the cause, the reason, the motive force of
these cataclysms?"

Barbicane was not listening to Michel Ardan; he was
contemplating these ramparts of Clavius, formed by large
mountains spread over several miles. At the bottom of the
immense cavity burrowed hundreds of small extinguished craters,
riddling the soil like a colander, and overlooked by a peak
15,000 feet high.

Around the plain appeared desolate. Nothing so arid as these
reliefs, nothing so sad as these ruins of mountains, and (if we
may so express ourselves) these fragments of peaks and mountains
which strewed the soil. The satellite seemed to have burst at
this spot.

The projectile was still advancing, and this movement did
not subside. Circles, craters, and uprooted mountains succeeded
each other incessantly. No more plains; no more seas. A never
ending Switzerland and Norway. And lastly, in the canter of
this region of crevasses, the most splendid mountain on the
lunar disc, the dazzling Tycho, in which posterity will ever
preserve the name of the illustrious Danish astronomer.

In observing the full moon in a cloudless sky no one has failed
to remark this brilliant point of the southern hemisphere.
Michel Ardan used every metaphor that his imagination could
supply to designate it by. To him this Tycho was a focus of
light, a center of irradiation, a crater vomiting rays. It was
the tire of a brilliant wheel, an _asteria enclosing the disc
with its silver tentacles, an enormous eye filled with flames,
a glory carved for Pluto's head, a star launched by the
Creator's hand, and crushed against the face of the moon!

Tycho forms such a concentration of light that the inhabitants
of the earth can see it without glasses, though at a distance
of 240,000 miles! Imagine, then, its intensity to the eye of
observers placed at a distance of only fifty miles! Seen through
this pure ether, its brilliancy was so intolerable that Barbicane
and his friends were obliged to blacken their glasses with the gas
smoke before they could bear the splendor. Then silent, scarcely
uttering an interjection of admiration, they gazed, they contemplated.
All their feelings, all their impressions, were concentrated in that
look, as under any violent emotion all life is concentrated at the heart.

Tycho belongs to the system of radiating mountains, like
Aristarchus and Copernicus; but it is of all the most complete
and decided, showing unquestionably the frightful volcanic
action to which the formation of the moon is due. Tycho is
situated in 43@ south latitude, and 12@ east longitude. Its center
is occupied by a crater fifty miles broad. It assumes a slightly
elliptical form, and is surrounded by an enclosure of annular
ramparts, which on the east and west overlook the outer plain from
a height of 15,000 feet. It is a group of Mont Blancs, placed
round one common center and crowned by radiating beams.

What this incomparable mountain really is, with all the
projections converging toward it, and the interior excrescences
of its crater, photography itself could never represent.
Indeed, it is during the full moon that Tycho is seen in all
its splendor. Then all shadows disappear, the foreshortening
of perspective disappears, and all proofs become white-- a
disagreeable fact: for this strange region would have been
marvelous if reproduced with photographic exactness. It is
but a group of hollows, craters, circles, a network of crests;
then, as far as the eye could see, a whole volcanic network
cast upon this encrusted soil. One can then understand that
the bubbles of this central eruption have kept their first form.
Crystallized by cooling, they have stereotyped that aspect
which the moon formerly presented when under the Plutonian forces.

The distance which separated the travelers from the annular
summits of Tycho was not so great but that they could catch
the principal details. Even on the causeway forming the
fortifications of Tycho, the mountains hanging on to the
interior and exterior sloping flanks rose in stories like
gigantic terraces. They appeared to be higher by 300 or 400
feet to the west than to the east. No system of terrestrial
encampment could equal these natural fortifications. A town
built at the bottom of this circular cavity would have been
utterly inaccessible.

Inaccessible and wonderfully extended over this soil covered
with picturesque projections! Indeed, nature had not left the
bottom of this crater flat and empty. It possessed its own
peculiar orography, a mountainous system, making it a world
in itself. The travelers could distinguish clearly cones,
central hills, remarkable positions of the soil, naturally
placed to receive the _chefs-d'oeuvre of Selenite architecture.
There was marked out the place for a temple, here the ground of a
forum, on this spot the plan of a palace, in another the plateau
for a citadel; the whole overlooked by a central mountain of
1,500 feet. A vast circle, in which ancient Rome could have
been held in its entirety ten times over.

"Ah!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, enthusiastic at the sight; "what
a grand town might be constructed within that ring of mountains!
A quiet city, a peaceful refuge, beyond all human misery. How calm
and isolated those misanthropes, those haters of humanity might
live there, and all who have a distaste for social life!"

"All! It would be too small for them," replied Barbicane simply.

Content of Chapter XVII - Tycho (Jules Verne's novel: A trip around the Moon)

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Chapter XVIII - Grave QuestionsBut the projectile had passed the _enceinte of Tycho, andBarbicane and his two companions watched with scrupulousattention the brilliant rays which the celebrated mountain shedso curiously over the horizon.What was this radiant glory? What geological phenomenon haddesigned these ardent beams? This question occupied Barbicane's mind.Under his eyes ran in all directions luminous furrows, raised atthe edges and concave in the center, some twelve miles, othersthirty miles broad. These brilliant trains extended in someplaces to within 600 miles of Tycho, and seemed to cover,particularly toward the east, the northeast and the north, thehalf of the
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