MANY THINGS SEEN UPON MARS--I RECEIVE SOME NEWS.
During the remainder of our stay upon Mars we visited almost every important place upon the planet, either by means of air-ships, motors, or by travelling along the main canals in splendidly equipped electric boats.
We passed through the whole length of the Eumenides-Orcus, from its starting-point on the Phoeniceus Lacus, in the southern hemisphere, to the Trivium Charontis, in the northern hemisphere--a distance of 3540 miles, this being the longest canal on the planet. We visited the Solis Lacus, or "Lake of the Sun" (an area larger than England), situated in the southern hemisphere, which has usually been seen by our observers as a large dark patch, oval in shape. Indications of changes in this area were, however, noted at the time of the opposition in 1907; and it is not improbable that further alterations will be seen shortly.
Numerous important towns exist upon this area, and several canals connect it with surrounding areas.
We visited the north pole in our air-ship, and saw the snow falling thickly, and rapidly adding to the size and thickness of the snow-cap, it being winter time. We visited the south pole and watched the fast-melting snow (the cap being almost at its minimum size) and the distribution of the resultant water down the various broad channels which conduct it to the canals, from whence it is carried all over the planet.
When it is spring in the northern hemisphere the winter snow-cap at the north pole will begin to melt in like manner, and the water be distributed in a similar way. The melting begins about the 1st April and lasts till July, and sometimes considerably later in the year.
Thus, during the Martian year there are two distributions of water--one from the north pole and one from the south pole; and the growth of vegetation follows the passage of the water as it flows downwards from the poles to the equator.
On our earth vegetation progresses in an exactly opposite direction. Beginning near the tropics, where it is always summer, as the sun passes northward of the equator so vegetation gradually appears and develops onwards towards the north pole. It is exactly the same in the southern hemisphere; after the sun crosses the equator into the south the vegetation grows and spreads towards the south pole.
The reason of this is that on the earth the supply of water by rainfall and snows is abundant, and it only requires the warmth of the sun to cause vegetation to spring up again at the proper season when the winter has passed.
On Mars the sun has the same action, but until the water comes down from the poles and furnishes the necessary moisture, the sun can produce no effect and there can be no fresh vegetation. Thus, on Mars, the flow of water is the determining factor, and vegetation follows its course from the poles towards the equator.
Observation shows that this is the case, and it has formed one of the strongest arguments in support of the idea of water conveyance by means of artificial canals. The opponents of the canal theory seem carefully to avoid any mention of this argument.
While we were watching the melting of the snow at the south pole, I mentioned to Merna and Tellurio, who accompanied me, that one of our scientific men, relying for support on a speculation by a lady writer, had arrived at the conclusion that the snow-caps could not possibly supply anything like the amount of water required. The writer in question had stated that the maximum area of the southern snow-cap was 2,400,000 square miles; and, assuming it was composed of snow of an average depth of twenty feet, this would only give an average depth of about one foot of water over its whole area.
The whole of the dark areas on the planet covered at least 17,000,000 square miles, and as this was seven times the area of the snow-cap, it followed that the dark areas could not be covered with more than two inches of water. From this scanty and inadequate supply of two inches of water allowance must be made for an enormous loss by evaporation; so, as the writer said, "the polar reservoirs are despoiled in the act of being opened."
Tellurio at once settled the matter by saying, "Mr. Poynders, it is a very pretty theory, but, unfortunately for its supporters, it is entirely wrong, the figures being inaccurate, and the estimate of the extent of the area to be supplied, as well as the amount of water available, is made under a complete misapprehension of the facts."
[Illustration: From a Globe made by M. Wicks Plate XIV MARS. MAP VII.
The white area at the top of this map is the south polar snow-cap, at about its usual maximum size. In some hard winters it attains a diameter of considerably over 100 degrees.]
"The maximum area of the south polar snow-cap is usually more than 10,000,000 square miles instead of less than 2,500,000 as stated, but it is sometimes still greater during a hard winter. Then, where did the writer acquire the notion that the whole of the dark areas had to be covered with water? Only the canals and trenches have to be filled, and, at the highest computation, these would cover only 2,250,000 square miles! So even accepting her average of twenty feet depth of the snow (which would give about one foot of water over the whole area of the snow-cap), there would still be sufficient water to fill every canal and trench upon our planet to a depth of nearly four feet six inches.
"Let us suppose we have 700 series of canals, each averaging 1400 miles in length, and each series having an aggregate width (including the area of the irrigation trenches) of 2-1/4 miles. You will see that gives about 2,250,000 square miles to be covered with water. My estimate of the area to be covered is, however, much in excess of the real amount, as the average aggregate width of the series of canals would be less than I have assumed, and the trenches are shallow.
"I must also point out that only a small proportion of the whole number of canals would be in use at any given time, and the depth of the polar snows averages considerably more than twenty feet; so a very much greater depth of water can be secured in those canals which are in use. The main canals which are used for navigation purposes are, of course, much wider and deeper than the irrigation canals. In the hotter regions many covered compensation reservoirs are provided, and these make good the wastage caused by excessive evaporation where pipes cannot be used."
"Thank you, sir," I said; "the information you have now given me entirely confirms the figures as to the area of the snow-cap, &c., mentioned by Professor Lowell, but as regards the depth of the snow and the size of the area to be covered, he has with scientific caution refrained from estimating to the full extent which the facts you mention seem to warrant. In addition to this, no allowance has been made for the water derived from the northern snow-cap."
Thus vanished the theory which was supposed to support the view that the canals must be hopelessly unworkable, and could never be of any use for irrigation purposes.
It had also been argued that no intelligent beings would construct canals if the planet were generally flat, as it would only be necessary to let the water flow over the surface as far as it would go, and thus irrigate the parts reached by the water; whilst if it were not flat, the canals could not be constructed at all.
I asked Tellurio "What he thought of this suggestion?"
He replied, "Well, sir--here we have a planet believed to possess only a very scanty supply of water, which must require the most careful husbanding and economy in distribution; yet it seems to have been calmly suggested that we would deliberately waste the precious fluid by allowing it to flow at random over the small portion of our land which it would reach, where it might or might not be required! Our engineers, I may say, are quite capable of overcoming any difficulties arising from inequalities of the ground.
"If, as has been contended, the loss by evaporation would be so great in canals where the water is fairly deep as to result in depletion of the supply, it is clear there must be a hundred times greater loss from the same cause if the water is allowed to spread in a very shallow pool over a large area where it would be totally unprotected from the sun! Then, again, every part of our planet not reached by the water would become desert.
"No, sir," Tellurio added, "the Martians are far too intelligent to waste the water in this fashion: hence their canal system by which the water is economically distributed where required, and also protected from undue evaporation. It must not be forgotten that our canals are also means of communication across the deserts, and without them distant parts of the planet would be entirely isolated from the rest of our world, except for our air-ships.
"Our canal system has been a matter of slow growth and development. Beginning with the straightening of the beds of old rivers and narrow channels connecting seas, the canals were then constructed where they were most needed; but as time passed on, and our water supply from rainfall became less and less, we were convinced of the necessity of adopting a complete system of canalisation in anticipation of the time when our polar snows would be our only source of supply. This was gradually carried into effect, and even now additional canals are being constructed to meet the requirements of places not reached by existing canals.
"In order to secure the return of the water to the poles, and so ensure a future supply, it is absolutely necessary that, wherever possible, the water should be conveyed in open channels so as to allow evaporation to take place, otherwise much would be lost by soakage into the soil."
"Thank you, sir," I said; "those statements meet another objection which has been urged against the possibility of the canals existing; it apparently being assumed that the whole system must have been carried out simultaneously, and that the population of Mars would have been much too small to admit of that being done."
"Our population is by no means small, sir, having regard to the size of our planet; and the Martians, as intelligent beings, have always been in the habit of looking well ahead to ascertain what provision would be required to satisfy our prospective needs. Your people take far too narrow a view of these matters."
Thus many controversial matters were satisfactorily cleared up by statements of actual facts.
During our journeys over the planet we came across a large number of canals in different parts which have apparently not yet been discovered by our observers. These were not all narrow lines of canals, and many of them were double ones, so our observers have more work yet before them in finding out these lines and recording them on their charts.
Professor Lowell, who has made many experiments in order to determine how distant a fine line of known thickness (such as a telegraph wire) may be situated and yet remain visible to the sight under ordinary atmospheric conditions for clear seeing, has come to the conclusion that when Mars arrives at its most favourable position for observation, and other conditions are satisfactory, it will be possible to see lines on the planet which are not more than one mile in width.
As regards the surface characteristics of Mars, we found that it is generally very flat, and that only here and there one comes across slight undulations, whilst hills and mountains are very few indeed. There are, in fact, no high mountains anywhere; the highest altitudes rarely approach 2000 feet, and such heights as these are quite exceptional.
This was quite in accordance with our expectations, because no mountains have ever been seen upon Mars, though they have been carefully searched for by our observers. If there were any elevations much exceeding 2000 feet in height they would have been visible sometimes when the planet was passing under the careful scrutiny of our observers, and they could not have entirely escaped observation.
In all probability Mars never at any time possessed mountains whose height would be at all comparable with that of our mountains; for, according to scientific calculation and reasoning, the planet's internal heat was never sufficient to have caused the formation of such high elevations on its crust.
As the planet advanced stage after stage in its development it became colder and colder; all upheavals ceased, and the height of any elevated parts upon its surface would thenceforward be gradually and continuously reduced by weathering and erosion in the same way as has happened in many places on our own world. We have no very high mountains in the British Isles at the present time, but geology and physical geography teach us that many of the low elevations now existing are merely the basic wrecks and remains of mountains which, in ages past, must have been of considerable altitude. As the world ages and becomes colder its surface will tend to become more and more level, and the rivers will become straighter in consequence.
As regards animals, we discovered that the larger varieties have become extinct, and that there are at present no animals which can properly be termed wild or fierce, for they cannot exist in the deserts without water or vegetation. Numerous animals, however, frequent the irrigated parts where there is vegetation, and, though in a complete state of freedom, have for such an extremely long period been in constant contact with the people that they have become quite tame. The people always treat animals with kindness, and these free creatures are entirely without fear of them.
Most of the animals are different from any we have upon the earth, but some bear a general resemblance to ours of the same species, though they are all of larger size, and differ considerably in details. Like the people, they have developed through the long ages, and have reached a higher point than our animals, and a few have even developed the power of speech.
This may sound exaggerated--but just think! Many of our birds have been taught to speak the human language, and a few have even acquired this power by imitativeness. Who that has kept dogs, cats, monkeys, and horses has not observed the desperate efforts of some of them to make themselves understood. All are not alike, but we often come across an animal which seems to understand almost everything we say, but none has yet developed the power of making an intelligible communication to us, although some try hard to do so. It does not seem beyond the bounds of possibility that a few thousand years hence some animals, especially the monkey species, may be able to speak a little.
The Martians do not use any of their animals as beasts of burden, and it would be contrary to all their ideas to do so. On Mars nearly all heavy labour is performed by means of electrical machines, thus both the people and the animals are spared much heavy work.
Our animals are often greatly overloaded, but we have a salutary law to protect them from this, as well as from other forms of cruelty; and the persons responsible for the ill-treatment may be punished.
Human beings, however, may be overloaded and, in many cases, overworked with impunity, for there is no law to protect the unorganised workers. Is there not something wrong about this?
It may be argued that whilst animals cannot protect themselves human beings can; but, alas, only too often the force of circumstances compels workers to endure anything so long as they can earn a little to keep body and soul together.
Flowers seem to be very plentiful here, and grow very tall and large. Many varieties bear a strong resemblance to our variegated lilies, the flowers being brilliantly tinted, and often measuring twelve to fifteen inches across. But, as upon the earth, flowers are found in all colours and sizes, and in infinite variety.
Trees also grow very tall, many varieties resembling our palms, especially in and near the tropics, where there are also many varieties of cactus. In the temperate and cooler zones trees resembling our firs and pines are plentiful; whilst fruits, vegetables, and nuts, as well as cereals, are grown in enormous quantities on the irrigated areas, as these products form the chief articles of food amongst the Martians.
Insects are numerous on Mars, the conditions being very favourable to insect life; and they are all on a very much larger scale than our insects, especially those which fly.
Everywhere we go we are received by the people with the utmost courtesy and kindness, and have become much attached to those with whom we have been more closely associated. They are indeed a most amiable, intelligent, and lovable people--always good tempered--dignified, yet ready to display great enthusiasm when occasion requires.
The marriage tie is sacred and indissoluble on Mars, and divorce is therefore unknown; but it is also quite unnecessary, for no cause ever arises for a dissolution of marriage.
When Merna was telling me about this, I asked him whether any attempt had been made to dispense with marriage in any Martian community, stating that some of our advanced people were disposed to do so.
He answered that "Some such ideas had been in vogue amongst certain of their nations about two thousand years ago, and attempts were also made to abolish religious observances, but they proved complete failures, and engendered strife. No nation adopting these views ever progressed or prospered; the people were soon clamouring for the revival of their old institutions, and since then no one had ever desired to dispense with them. Both religion and marriage are essential to the stability and well-being of all nations, and the people are soon lost without them. You may be assured," added Merna, "that those on your earth who favour such a change are quite mistaken in thinking it would be an advance in civilisation, for, on the contrary, it would result in a reversion to barbarism."
The Martian educational system is very thorough. In their earlier years the children all receive a good education in general and scientific knowledge, then they pass into the technical, trade, and business schools. Every kind of business and trade is thoroughly taught by teachers who are not mere doctrinaire professors, but persons who have made their mark as good, capable, and practical workers in the particular trade or business which they are required to teach.
We went over several of the ordinary and trade schools, and found them fully equipped with everything likely to be required for a thorough educational course of training.
In the warmer zones we found several large open-air amphitheatres capable of accommodating from 10,000 to 100,000 persons. All around the central arenas of these were rings of beautiful scented flowers and shrubs. Both children and adults spend much of their leisure time in open-air recreation and athletic games, and I was therefore not surprised to find them all so bright and happy, as well as robustly healthy in appearance.
As a result of our visit, the Martians now enjoy a new out-door recreation; for M'Allister, pressing John into his service, has initiated them into all the mysteries of golf, for which pastime their level country is well suited. I have been much amused to note that, whilst M'Allister has always expressed great admiration of the mechanical skill of the Martians, they have risen in his estimation at least 100 per cent. since they have taken so enthusiastically to his national game, and he is never tired of telling us what a "sensible" people they are!
He has taken up their training with all his Scottish vim and thoroughness, and has insisted upon the full rigour of the game. All attempts to Martianise its various technical terms he has courteously, but firmly, suppressed; the Martian vocabulary has, therefore, been considerably extended by the addition of the numerous fearsome technicalities which sound so strange, even to an Englishman who is not familiar with the game. Whatever may be the ultimate result to the Martians, there is no doubt but that M'Allister is most thoroughly enjoying himself.
Tellurio informed me that their medical men have very little to do in the way of curing ailments, their studies and efforts being mainly directed to the prevention of disease; consequently disease and illness are very rare, and many of the diseases which afflicted the people in past ages have been entirely eradicated.
The use of radium as a medical accessory has been known to them for a very long period, and they are able to prepare and utilise it without the slightest risk of any untoward results.
Another large factor in ensuring a strong and healthy population is the methodical system they adopt in planning all their towns. We in England have only recently realised the necessity of town-planning and the advantages of garden cities. On Mars, however, town-planning has been most systematically carried out for centuries; all their towns are glorified garden cities, presenting a happy combination of beauty, utility, and healthfulness.
The general arrangement is as follows: On a circular area, varying from one to five or more miles in diameter, according to circumstances, is the central portion of the town, containing the splendid administrative and business buildings, museums, winter-gardens, educational establishments, and places of amusement, as well as many fine residences. Surrounding this area is a wide ring-canal, on the farther side of which is the outer zone of the town, united to the central portion by many wide and handsome bridges. On the outer zone are extensive residential areas, then a zone of factories and workshops, and beyond that an area often extending for miles, which is covered with cereals and vegetables, fruit trees and nut trees. Outside all is a zone of timber trees. The town and its surroundings, therefore, cover a vast area.
The canals radiate in all directions from the outer edge of the wide ring-canal, and all quays, wharves, and warehouses are alongside of these canals. Thus the ring-canal is kept quite clear of all such buildings, but all round both sides of it are beautiful terraces of white stone, with numerous pavilions, broad boulevards, winter-gardens, and promenades.
All the buildings have open spaces or gardens around them, thus securing ample allowance of light and air. Smoke is quite unknown; no noxious gases or vapours are discharged into the atmosphere from any of the factories, but all such emanations which cannot be absolutely destroyed are purified, condensed, or otherwise dealt with within the buildings. Thus the air is always kept pure and wholesome.
From this description it will be seen that the planning of a town is very systematic, and that it much resembles a wheel. The hub is the central part of the town; the spokes are represented by the bridges; and the outer rim--a very wide one--contains the outer zones.
Besides the gardens there are large open spaces where air-ships have their stations, from whence they can start, or on to which they can descend. The air-ships, also, are usually constructed so that they can descend into the canals, on which they can not only float but be propelled.
Many of these town areas are the oases, about which so much has been said, and which, like many other Martian details, have been described as illusions. I only wish we had a plentiful supply of such illusions in our own old country!
One of the oases we visited was the Lucus Ascraeus, in the northern hemisphere. A large number of canals converge from all directions on to this spot--seventeen of them are marked on our maps--so I expected to find it a place of considerable importance. It is, in fact, a very thriving business and manufacturing place--the Birmingham of Mars, besides being also one of the many centres of government. Like most of the manufacturing towns, it is near the tropical region--because the Martians derive most of their heat and power from solar emanations which they have discovered, and these they store up and transmit to very distant places for use when required. Nearly all the places on Mars to which several canals converge are busy centres of trade and contain large populations.
There are numerous large towns near the canals on all the dark areas, differing only in detail from those on the oases, the general plan being the same.
I remarked to John that "I thought the towns on the dark areas ought to show as rounded spots slightly darker in tint than the surrounding dark areas. Where several towns were close together they would probably be seen as a single spot, large in area and irregular in shape. It seems strange that, except for a few shown on Professor Lowell's charts, they have not been seen by our astronomers; but perhaps during the present near approach of Mars to the earth some of our keen-sighted observers who possess large instruments may see and take note of many more of these dark rounded spots, as they are very numerous, and new towns are in course of development."
During the spring and summer a large number of the people find employment in the regions near the poles, especially those whose work is connected with the canal system and who have to see that the water from the melting snow-caps is turned into the proper channels and everything connected therewith kept in good working condition. All these workers, however, migrate to warmer latitudes as the very long and dreary winter approaches.
I have just received some interesting and very unexpected news which, as some writer says, "gives me furiously to think."
John and M'Allister came to me asking anxiously whether I had fixed the date for our departure.
I replied that we should probably keep to our original programme and leave about the beginning of December, but asked John why he was so anxious to know?
"Well, Professor," he answered, "there is more than one reason for my question. I do not think our stay should be prolonged. Haven't you noticed any change in us?"
I replied that "I had not seen any particular change or alteration in them, except that in build and general appearance they were becoming more like the Martians."
"Yes, Professor," exclaimed John, "that's just it. I don't know whether it is the Martian air or the Martian food, or the combination of both, but we certainly are becoming more like Martians every day. Our eyes are becoming luminous, our complexions and features are changing, and, by Jove! if I haven't grown nearly two inches since we came here! If I go on like this I shall soon be such a giant that I shall not care to go back at all."
"Really, John," I said, "is it so bad as that? Now I come to look at you critically you certainly do look taller; and I can see a little luminosity in M'Allister's eyes, and rather more in yours. I suppose, being the youngest, you are more susceptible than M'Allister or myself."
"Yes, I think that must be the case, Professor," remarked John.
"However," I added, looking at him and smiling, "you told me there were more reasons than one, so I suppose you have kept the weightiest reason to the last."
"Well, I don't know about its being the weightiest reason," he answered, "but we shall require nearly four months to accomplish our journey to England after we leave here, and I reckon that by that time my stock of tobacco will be pretty nearly used up. I have given a lot away to our Martian friends, and I've tried some of the native growth; it's rather decent stuff, but not a patch upon my mixture."
I burst out laughing in such a hearty fashion that it set them off too, as I remarked, "Ah, John, I had a shrewd idea that there was something more behind your anxiety than the fact that you were becoming Martianised."
"Heh, John," exclaimed M'Allister, touching him playfully on the shoulder, "the Professor had you all right that time, I'm thinking!" John blushed up to the eyes, and said no more.
Ultimately it was agreed that it would be well to leave Mars on the 1st December, according to terrestrial reckoning.
So that matter was settled; but, just after they had left, Merna and Eleeta came in, both looking very glowing and happy.
After the usual greetings and a few casual remarks, Merna announced that he and Eleeta were to be united in the coming autumn.
I was a little surprised at the suddenness of the announcement, but at the same time exceedingly pleased; so, embracing them, I congratulated them heartily and wished them every happiness; then they left to tell some one else the news.
But, as I have said, these things "gave me to think."
WE WITNESS SOME WONDERFUL AERIAL EVOLUTIONS AND LISTEN TO MARVELLOUS MUSIC.
Wherever we went we found new subjects for wonder and admiration, and fresh proofs of the high state of civilisation and development attained by the Martians. We had seen many evidences of their genius in engineering and mechanical undertakings, but we found that they excelled in every art and science, and their achievements made terrestrial accomplishments appear poor and even paltry by comparison. Whether we examined their sculpture, paintings, pictures, or photographs--which latter they take direct and at one operation, with all the natural tints--or whether we listened to music, our verdict was perforce the same--"We had not previously known anything to equal it."
We have all become fairly accustomed to seeing numerous air-ships moving in all directions across the sky in the daytime, but it still seems strange to us to see the lights of the air-ships flitting about the nocturnal sky.
I mentioned this to Merna, and he remarked that no doubt it did seem rather strange to us, adding that my mention of air-ships was singularly apropos of what was then in his mind, for he was just about to inform us that an interesting aerial display had been arranged and was to take place that evening, with the view of affording us some idea of Martian out-door entertainments.
We all expressed our thanks, and our appreciation of the kindness we were receiving from the Martian nation; and I ventured to suggest that probably we were indebted to him for a considerable proportion of it.
He answered that it was true he had taken some share in this affair and in a few of the arrangements for the functions we had already attended, but that many others had done the same, for it was natural to the Martians to do all in their power when any help was needed. As we were strangers from another world they all vied with each other in making suggestions and arrangements which would afford us pleasure, or help to enable us to see all that was possible in their world.