pole arctique au pole antarctique par le centre du monde]
Category Archives: Hollow Earth
An Account of a Voyage
from the Arctic to the Antarctic Pole
Center of the Earth.
[continued from Part I]
Of some monstrous Fish that we saw in these Seas; of the tragic & lamentable Accident that happened to two Sailors of the crew; of the 7 inaccessible Isles, & what the Author saw there with a great Spyglass.
We saw nothing worthy of remark on the route that we took to get back on board our vessel. We found among the Rocks a large quantity of birds, which nearly let us take them in our hands, & of which we carried as many as we could. As the Coast where we were anchored was very exposed to great tempests & very impetuous Winds, we feared that by remaining there too long, we would be at some hour broken against the Rocks. We resolved, animated by the desire to make some discovery, to leave instead.
We made a great provision of the roots of which I have already spoken, there being in that place a prodigious quantity, & having raised the anchor, with a little South-east Wind, we sailed toward the West, because when the air was clear & calm, we had always thought we saw some land on that side.
After having sailed happily enough for almost twenty-four hours, we found ourselves between several very dangerous Reefs. There were several Rocks just below the surface, but as the Wind had nearly fallen, & as we sailed very slowly, we avoided them without much difficulty. There was a Rock which rose above the water to a height of around four feet, on the point of which we saw a large bird with black plumage much like a Stork. It was perched on one leg, with its tail spread out like a Peacock. It appeared immobile as a statue on its pedestal. We took several shots without touching it, which did not move it in the least. This bird must have been brought there by the ice, & awaited the passage of some more in order to return.
Some time later, the Wind having fallen completely, we found ourselves in a fog so thick that it was quite dark, which obliged us to drop anchor. This fog was nearly hot. In the past I had always believed that these Climes were uninhabitable because of the great rigor of the cold, but although it made itself felt acutely, there were some frequent intervals where the air turned milder, & was very bearable everywhere.
We remained in the darkness more than twelve hours, after which the weather cleared, the same Wind began to blow again, & we sailed towards the West as before. We found that we were then at sixty & seven degrees six minutes of southern Latitude. There was at that latitude a great number of large, four-winged Flying Fish, with two wings which were towards the head were very large & like the wings of bats, & two which were towards the tail appeared twice as small. Three of these Fish came around our Vessel fluttering & plunging constantly. They exceeded by far the size & length of the most powerful Steers, & notwithstanding that they rose very high & often remained in the air a pregnant minute before plunging, they were very greedy & voracious, flying always with their great maws open, where we saw two rows of short, but very keen teeth. Two of our Sailors were seated close to one another on the Deck toward the Stern, when one of these three Monsters, shooting up suddenly very high, seized them both from behind, & knocked them into the Sea. The one who fell first was torn to pieces & devoured, & the second, who swam around the Ship & to whom we were about to throw a rope, in order to pull him up to us, was attacked by the other two. One took him by the head, & the other by the feet, & each pulling from its side with an extreme fury, they soon split his miserable body, the entrails & blood of which made a long streak in the Sea. That tragic Adventure caused us all a very keen grief, & all the more because these men were two of our best Sailors. After these cruel Animals had followed us a good half hour, we lost them all at once from view.
A short time after we encountered a very great tempest which kept us alert more than six hours. However being carried always towards the West we came to discover four Isles, & shortly after three others. They were all seven on the same line, & not very distant from one another. We first formed the intention of landing there, but it was impossible for us to execute our project, for we found as we approached that around these Isles the Sea abounded with Sandbanks, & Rocks very close to one another, & it was replete with currents that crossed from all sides, making that Sea the most dangerous, in the judgment of our Pilot, that he had ever seen.
We dropped anchor at the point of a great Sandbank which was in front of us, in order to have the time to consider together what route we should take. However, we wanted to consider these Isles carefully. They were full of little mounds which appeared in the distance a vermillion red, & some which shone like rubies. We attributed the cause to some very fiery vapor which was then all around us. We saw on the fifth Isle, which was the largest on the East side, a Rock of round shape which rose very high in a straight line, & which being equally large in height & at base resembled a great, lovely Column. A little bit closer were some grottos & high Rocks very tight & close to one another, which depicted perfectly the ruins of a great & magnificent Castle, at one of the extremities of which we saw like a great, round Tower, from which rose a thick & black vapor which rose so high & with such rapidity into the air, which seemed to join with the clouds, & forming only one body with them. I took my great spyglass, & I discovered in that thick smoke, some large gleams like stars, which were in a perpetual movement. A few moments later, I saw issue from that Rock some large torrents of flame, which like a raging Wind spreading far & wide, caused us a general alarm. I do not believe that Mt. Etna in Sicily, nor Mt. Vesuvius in Italy, ever vomited anything so terrible. These dreadful flames having lasted around three minutes, faded & left after them only some sparks & a light smoke.
We had not yet remained there twenty-four hours, when we noticed that the Sea that surrounded these Isles was all frozen, although where we were we did not feel the least cold. We resolved to make our way back to sea, & to give a wide berth to the dangerous obstacles that we had before us, until we could surely continue our route towards the West. Fortunately we came to the end of it with a favorable Wind, & we entered finally into a broad Sea, where we began to see some great pieces of ice floating.
Of the great Promontory or Cape which is always covered with clouds; of the miraculous Jet of water that was seen there; of the large & deep Cavern over which passed a deep & wide Torrent, extraordinary Combat between two white Bears & three Seals.
In less than two hours the Sea was all covered with ice bergs, & we maneuvered constantly to avoid them as much as possible. There was one which was around five or six musket-shots from us, & so enormous that it looked like a small Island. Breaking into pieces, it made more noise in shattering than a battery of several canons which had been fired all at once. But these floes of ice decreased gradually in number. To our great fortune, we found ourselves suddenly free, but a short time after we were surprised by a calm which would last fifteen hours. The whole surface of the Sea was smoother than a glass mirror.
A good league from the place where we were forced to rest awaiting the Wind, there was a large Rock with three peaks, which we went to reconnoiter with the longboat. It was surrounded by a small pitch, ten or twelve feet wide, all bordered along the water with tall, broad grass, & covered up to the foot of the mountain with shells, among which we found a large quantity of little oysters, the shells of which were very black. We opened them, & some of which had an excellent taste, which caused us to take aboard as many as possible. We were curious to climb to the top of that Rock. Its summit was a sort of platform between three points, on which we saw many feathers from birds scattered here & there. We discovered, in some holes, nests which were only an interweaving of moss, grass & feathers. There were in all only two eggs, as white, but considerably larger than a hen’s eggs. The white was of a pale green, & the yolk of a dark red. Apart from a certain acrid taste that they left in the throat, they would have been good enough to eat.
We had not been returned long to the Vessel, when a light Wind began to rise. At first we prevailed, but in a few hours it had strengthened so much that we were afraid of having a rough storm. It was the same Wind that we had had before, yet we left it out of fear. We sailed for the time being with such speed that we covered a great distance in one hour. Looking out at the horizon, we saw on the West side a tall & thick cloud which seemed to touch the Sea, but which was always approaching us. We discovered a Cape, of very high land, above which there were some thick clouds lost to view, as we intended, before returning to the old world, to make some more new discoveries, we went to drop Anchor in the most convenient place, in order to go ashore. There was a gentle slope by which we ascended easily. Coming to the top, we found a large quantity of gravel & small stones. The ground was all sandy & rocky, & we could not extend our view very far, because at that end of the Cape the Country rose gradually. When we arrived at the greatest height, we discovered some great Plains as far as the eye could see, dotted with many little Lakes, & bordered in the distance by some & high mountains, covered with snow & very crystalline.
Rather close & right across from us there were two small hills, behind which we saw a great Jet of water, shooting rapidly into the air like a tall & fine column, which, crowned by a thick foam, fell again around itself in a multitude of little streams, which, soon dispersing into a great cloud of water, fell back to earth. From the place where we were, we could not see from whence they came. So, hastening our steps, we traveled beyond the hills, & three Jets of water presented themselves to our view. They rose from three little Rocks, arranged in a triangle in the midst of a large pile of loose gravel & stones. The largest of these was the one which we had first seen, rising in the air to a height of around two hundred & fifty feet, but the two smaller ones barely surpassed seven or eight feet. Their waters, falling back to earth, formed a little River, which after winding nine hundred or a thousand paces, cast themselves into one of the Lakes of which I have just spoken. Its water was very clear & very good to drink. The air was very mild, & the extreme cold must make itself felt even later in these Countries.
We must note that these Lakes were all connected by some Streams which flowed from one into another. Consequently we could only advance in this Country by making long detours, which is why we left them on the left & went a little to the right. Everything there was so waterless & arid that not the least bit of grass nor the smallest shrug grew there. A heavy offshore Wind began at that time to blow with such vehemence & whipped up so much sand & dust, that we were forced to stop from time to time, & shut our eyes for fear of being blinded. But, fortunately, this soon passed, & we entered a bottomland, where the earth was very black & covered all over with a long & slender plant, with nodes like a cane. It grew by creeping long distances over the earth, & sprouting at intervals a little bouquet of seeds of a very lovely yellow. That Plant was very pretty.
After having walked five or six hundred paces we heard a noise like that of a great waterfall, & in fact we saw soon afterwards, a deep torrent which issued from between two very high Rocks, rushing down from a height of more than three hundred feet, & then formed a little River, whose waters ran with an extreme swiftness, carrying with it a very great quantity of stones & gravel. As we considered how we could pass it, we saw to one side of a small rise a way down, at the bottom of which there was a sort of Thicket. It was of small, dense shrubs which were armed with thorns & small leaves of a deep red. They partially hid from us the entrance to a Cavern. We considered for some time, not daring at first to risk ourselves in a place which could be fatal to us, but the two boldest of us entering, we all followed, & after walking for some time in the darkness, we discovered suddenly a very large & very spacious underground, divided in various great Vaults of different heights, all carved by Nature from the Rock. There were some higher & more extensive than those of the largest Churches, with large Rocks arranged at unequal distances supporting these enormous & heavy trunks of stone, with the light entering from on high through a large number of openings, of which some were long like slits or large crevasses, & the others nearly round or square, from which hung long-stemmed grasses, the leaves of which were are large as those of a fig tree. It appeared that the warm air that we breathed in that cavern contributed considerably to making them grow. The largest & highest of all these Vaults was, from top to bottom, all inlaid with black & white. The black marks were much larger than the white; but the white shone like crystal, & as there was above, towards the middle, a very large round opening, this created a charming effect. The ground was smooth nearly everywhere, except towards one of the extremities, where it rose imperceptibly. We saw countless birds, white like swans, & larger than sparrows. They thought so little of escaping or flying away that they almost let us walk on their bodies. We took as many of them as we wanted. They were just a ball of fat, very delicate to eat.
When we came to the end, we found an outlet which led us into the countryside, & below, in a very dark spot, we saw a big, round whole, a bit like a well. We cast in several very large rocks, which made no sound as they fell, which surprised us. But some moments later, there suddenly flew from the hole a very big bird, completely black, which, extending its wings, frightened us with their size. Exiting the cavern, it let out three awful cries with which all the vaults resounded. It carried in its beak something big & long, but it didn’t give us time to make out what it could be. The well must have been of a prodigious depth, & that there was some hole or recess within where that bird perhaps had its nest, or else it had found something there for its sustenance.
We left soon after it, but we had much trouble ascending, because the slope was very rough & full of very coarse gravel & sharp stones. When we were at the top we knew we were above the torrent, because it passed over the Cavern & just at the middle.
We were only a quarter of a league from the Cavern, when we saw two white bears come out from between two beautiful hills green as a meadow from below, the summit of which was all covered with that species of thorn of which I have spoken, which had small, bright red leaves. They entered into a sunken path full of sand, along a hillside which led straight to the Sea. They constantly searched the ground with their snouts, apparently seeking some roots. We followed them at a distance, always having our weapons ready in case they were needed, although we had noticed several times that the bears did not attack men. We were soon within view of the Sea.
The Coast at this point formed a small Gulf, & the shore seemed covered with shells. We saw beside the water three seals, asleep on the sand, one of which slept half in the water & half on land. However the Bears, which had taken a little detour came steadily into that place, & rummaging always with their muzzles among the shells, didn’t seem to look in front of them. But the largest, finding itself suddenly next to one of these seals, attacked it high up on the neck, & the first bite made its blood flow to the ground. That animal, waking with a start, shook itself so violently that it pulled free, & it pierced the belly of the Bear with the great fangs that it had in its lower jaw. The bear furiously bit it & cruelly tore it everywhere it could reach. The other two seals coming to the aid of the first, the combat became general between these five animals, but the first of the seals lost so much blood that it fled into the Sea, & the others following it, they left to the two Bears the field of battle & all the honor of the victory.
There were a great number of these seals in this area. I saw some that were eight feet long & proportionally large. They were amphibians, & marked like Tigers in black & white, with bits of yellow, gray & red. Their skin was covered with short fur. They had a very large head & four feet with five undivided claws, like the feet of geese & joined by a black skin. Their tail was very short, & they were well pleased to lay in the sand along the Sea.
We left our two Bears still rummaging among the sea shells, & we followed the beach, coming round to the side where we had left our vessel. As soon as we set foot on the height which formed the point of the Cape, we were astonished to see that the land before us was all wet, while the one that we left was quite dry. The thick cloud which covered it, & which always covered it while we were there, at times secreted a thick dew like a light, very fine rain, while all around the air was very clear & very calm, I have never been able to understand what could have been the cause of it, there must be some occult & attractive virtue in these lands which always maintains above them, even despite the strongest winds, those thick vapors.
Of the Strait of the Bears; of the marvelous rock archway or natural bridge; of the appalling precipice we saw between some high mountains near the Strait of the Bears; of the thunderous subterranean noises accompanied by flashes that we heard in a large Rock far out to Sea.
After having visited a part of the Cape, we wanted to penetrate into the continent, but we did not judge it proper to risk ourselves so long among the mountains, in an unknown country, which had for inhabitants only savage beasts & some birds. Therefore, we resolved to go there by sea. For that purpose, we re-embarked, & with a light east wind we followed the Cape along the west side, & at the end of five or six hours we were surrounded by so many pieces of ice that we feared being forced to drop anchor, but the wind, redoubling its force, drove us towards the west, & we continued our course. We were, however, obliged to bear more to the right, because of a great number of shoals & sandbanks that were along the cape.
We sailed comfortably enough for forty-eight hours, after which we began to see a great gulf which the sea penetrated inland, through a strait which was only a good quarter of a league wide. I named it the Strait of the Bears, because we saw a very great quantity of them there.
There occurred at that moment a thing which struck us with its singularity. You should know that in this straitthere was a current that went from oneshore to another. Twenty to twenty-five of these bears stood at the edge of the water & seemed to await the passage of a great sheet of ice which we saw approaching from far off.Chance dictating that it should float close to them, they all jumped onto it with an incredible swiftness, & the current having borne them to the other side, they jumped back to land with the same agility. This manner of crossing the water demonstrated clearly in these animals much intelligence & reasoning, despite the opinion of certain philosophers.
We went a long way into the gulf, & dropped anchor, despite the presence of the bears, in a place where there were four great piles of ice, which the waves had driven against the coast & heaped on top of one another. Everything we saw around us was covered in snow. Close to a league from there was a chain of very dense mountains, which enclosed in a ring a small lake. On its eastern side, some pieces of rock being detached at the bottom by the succession of time, had left a great opening all across in the form of an arch, by which the waters of the lake flowed into the surrounding country. so that from a distance we thought we saw a bridge with a single arch, & that much more because the rock which remained above was so flat & even. I was curious to climb it, & to make a true bridge of it nothing was lacking but the guard rails.
There was at that time an extreme, cold accompanied from time to time by a snow fine as dust, & consequently the air was very dark & obscure. But then it became very clear & very calm, a beautiful luminous exhalation rose on the side we thought of as south, like a bright dawn, & the cold decreased in such a manner that the snow melting evaporated from the base of mountains. We saw in this place ina very pretty river, lined on both sides with little reeds like rushes, which after having wound through several twists & turns in the country, went on to flow into the gulf a bit above us.
Having climbed towards its source we saw that it fell from the heights of a large mountain, very thin & flat from above. As the slope was easy, I soon climbed it, & I saw on its summit a little lake from which the river flowed. That lake could have been one hundred feet in diameter. Its eastern part was covered by thin ice, & for its small size it seemed extremely deep. Its water was very sweet & clear. All of that would have been an ample matter for consideration & reasoning by people versed in the science of natural things.
That mountain formed a very narrow & tight glen between two ranks of hillocks, which was covered to the bottom with fine, delicate grass. It led to a sort of long & wide esplanade of solid rock, at the edge of which a terrifying precipice presented itself. All around there were only high & awful rocks, at the base of which impetuously rolled, through holes & crevasses, some great, foaming torrents, which, after crossing one another, went on to rush down all together to the bottom. The great depth of that plunge froze us in terror. I can say that the sole recollection of it which remains to me still makes me tremble, & I do not believe that there is such a precipice in the whole rest of the Universe.
As the country on that side was allrocks, as far as we could judge, we turned to the right, that is to say, toward the Gulf. It was only stones & sand interspersed everywhere with a multitude of little brooks which were very difficult to cross. But, finally, after much trouble, we came to the top of a wide, flat & very smooth slope, which led straight to the sea. Reaching the bottom, we sat down to rest on some small rocks along the shore. We saw there, half a cannon shot out to sea, a very large mountain of rock, around which was a thick fog. We had hardly been seated there a quarter of an hour, when a great noise, like something from a subterranean wind, struck our ears, & it seemed to us to come from that mountain. It lasted around two minutes & then suddenly ceased. But a half an hour later the mountain began to emit from all sides, about three feet above the water, an almost endless number of little lights, which whirled furiously in the air, and then vanished like lightning. Then, a few moment later, a furious noise was heard repeatedly, like great claps of thunder. We saw & heard the same thing, four times in succession, in the space of an hour. We noticed that the mountain did not give off any smoke, at the summit or at any other place, & that the fog that surrounded it being entirely dissipated, the air all around it returned to its original serenity.
Of a beautiful & spacious Plain enclosed by three great hills; of a very beautiful & strange Plant; of some ruins; of the curious remains of an ancient Wall in the vicinity of the Sea; of a marvelous Echo; of the crowned Bird which made its nest underground.
I had seen, by means of my spyglass, that on the other side of the gulf the country was much less mountainous & more beautiful. I enlisted some of my traveling companions to explore there with me, & we did so soon after. First we found a plain which was very flat & smooth, but stony, & it seemed to me to that one could extract from it some stone very suitable for building. I even saw in some places large holes, nearly filled in, which could have been taken for quarries.
At that point we were opposite a great hill which limited our view. I climbed to a height to see if I could discover what was beyond it, & I saw three large hills which formed an irregular angle, which enclosed a lovely & spacious plain. We had little trouble descending to it. It was so perfectly flat over its whole extent that we could not see the least rise, or the least depression. The grass which covered it was all moist, as if an abundant dew had fallen recently.
I saw along the slopes a multitude of long white stripes, bright as quicksilver, which crossed a hundred ways, from top to bottom & from the bottom to top. I approached & saw on all sides a species of snail, four times larger than those of our climates, which carried on their back a shell of a very lovely green. These snails had a black body, a long tail, & a small head without horns. Gliding along the earth they left a track of thick, white slime, which made the long lines of which I just spoke. They gnawed quite happily on a plant which grew on the plain, & which was so beautiful & so strange that it deserves to be described here.
It grew to the height of about a cubit, & shot forth twenty five or thirty leaves, very close at the base, but which expanded considerably at the top. These leaves were the width of a span, with points all around as hard & sharp as thorns. They were a very beautiful pale green, & full of large veins in the most beautiful aurora that one could hope to see. We uprooted some, but with much difficulty, because of the spines with which they were armed, & we were surprised to see that their root had the veritable shape of a melon, with a skin of a gray-brown divided by ribs, & as rough to the touch as shagreen. Inside the flesh was soft, whitish, spongy & and had a disagreeable odor, which did not prevent us from tasting it. But if it was not very good to eat, it was certainly something to look at. I have seen more than a hundred of the snails gnaw at a bunch of these plants.
At a corner of that plain, at the angle on the side toward the sea, there was a sort of stone vault, but one so low that it was necessary to bend nearly double in order to pass through the archway. We arrived in a long space, all paved with fine stone, brown like potter’s clay, & around three paces wide. A few hundred yards away, in a place full of sand & gravel, we saw the remains of a tower, beside which appeared, sunk in the earth, a large round rock, concave in shape, like a large globe, which had tree starts on its surface, embossed & all in a line. I could not imagine what that could be.
That stone was at the end of the ruins of a long wall, which extended all the way to the sea. The wall was at least threeand a half feet thick, but it was only raised above the ground a good half foot. There was, however, a section of it close tot eh sea which came up to or waists, & in which was set a large piece of red marble in the shape of a hexagon, where we saw engraved an angle with a sort of serpent in the middle, & all around, bizarre ornaments & outlines. I noted that the stones of the tower & the wall were joined so tightly that it did not appear that there had ever been lime or cement between them. Although during the time that we had been in those climes we had encountered no inhabitants, it is beyond doubt that there must have been some at some time. All these things were incontestable proofs of it, & I was that much more persuaded of it since I had seen several places that seemed to me very fit for cultivation, & where the cold was not unbearable.
We discovered by chance a marvelous echo close to these ruins, for on striking one of the stones with a rock, the sound was repeated six, seven, & eight times along the shore. Moreover, a fine seaport could have been made here. Advancing steadily along this coast, we came to a great beach which was at least three leagues long. There were little sandbanks scattered along it, & there was in the middle of the bay a lovely little island, long & narrow, all covered with deep green reeds. Its shores were all covered with seashells, although there was not a single one on the side where we were.
After that beach, the sea made a great bend in the land, in the crook of which were three high mountains. The one in the middle, which was the highest, extended so far onto the shore that it left hardly three feet of land to pass around it. Beside the sea there was a large hole or recess, like a deep grotto, where I saw the skeletons of two four-legged animals. After examining them closely, I decided that they must be the skeletons of bears, but that they must have been monstrous in size. One occupied the entry & nearly prevented passage, the other was all the way in the back, & I found between the walls a large bird’s nest, with some eggs.
From that place we left the sea & those mountains on our left, & went to the right, farther into that country & it was a sandy region nearly all covered with a sort of white moss, & from place to place we saw the early elevated by little mounds, like in the country where there are moles, but I could never discover what sort of animal made them. Then we saw before us a large brook, doubtless formed by the melting snow which flowed abundantly from the nearby mountains, & as it was impossible for us to cross it, we were obliged to take a rather long detour, & even to walk a long distance along a hillside in soft & half melted snow. But what gave us the courage to advance was a large & beautiful prairie which was nearly across from us, all sown with little yellow flowers, & bordered by a long hill where we saw something like a little hedgerow of deep green shrubs; the yellow flowers gave off a very pleasant odor.
As I amused myself considering them, a large bird suddenly came out from between the shrubs. Fearless, it came to stand thirty paces from us. It was roughly the size of a goose, & strutted proudly as a cock, head high, lifting its feet high with every step, its talons appeared long & pointed. Its plumage was gray, & it had almost no tail. It bore on its head a big bunch of black & white feathers, which very tall &, widening in a circle at the top, resembled a sort of great crown. Its beak was red, thick & short. After it had scavenged for a while on the prairie, it took a bunch of grass in its mouth, & flew off toward the rise. I followed it with my eye & saw it enter a hole at the base. I advanced quickly & noticed that this hole was deep, & twisted far down into the earth. I gathered from this that its nest was there, & noted that there were other holes nearby that were as deep & of the same sort along the base of the hill. But we did not see the bird again, or any others of its species.
Of a great & beautiful Harbor formed by a rocky enclosure on the same Gulf of which we just spoke; of a great & high Mountain which appeared suspended in the air;of an Archipelago or several islands clustered together; of a large & tall Column of Fire on the Sea & of a Phenomenon which had the shape of the Sun.
Having resolved to advance a little farther into the continent, we set out to traverse a great expanse all full of a species of heather, at the end of which there were some large hills of red rock. The soil was nearly the same color, so that after having walked for some time, our shoes and stockings were all covered with a thick, red dust. As soon as we had passed these hills, we discovered first some broad lands that were dry & waterless & very sandy, which in the distance offered to view only some dreadful rocks, some of which were so high, that their summits were hidden in the clouds. All of this so strongly decreased our enthusiasm for penetrating farther that, changing our plans on the spot, we turned in the direction of the sea, with the plan of following it until we came to the Strait of Bears, close to where our vessel was at anchor.
With that aim, we threaded our way through a large valley where the trail was very lovely & smooth. We found there a great number of birds, with a plumage of gray, mixed with a bit of black. They were roughly the size of our pigeons, & and had a hooked beak like parrots. They let us take them in our hands, so we took as many of them back aboard the ship as possible. Soon after, we talked about returning to the old world, but by a plurality of voices, we resolved to first see the western part of the gulf, for we had noted that it extended far from the coast to the west.
So we left the strait with a good north-east wind, & and sailed very happily for more than twenty-four hours, bearing towards the west. But, the wind dropping suddenly, we endured a calm which lasted six hours. We had almost always stayed close to land, & we were then very close to the shore, but we could distinguish nothing of it because of a heavy fog which reigned along the coast. The sea & the fog appeared to be of the same color. However, at the end of a couple of hours, the fog had entirely dissipated, & we saw across from us a great & vast enclosure of rocks, which, advancing inland, formed a circlealmost entirely flooded by the sea, which rested between two tall & terrible mountains, whose summits touched the clouds. It was doubtless the most beautiful & and the largest basin of water in the world, where one could very earily moor more than three hundred and fifty vessels, sheltered from the winds as in a safe & magnificent port.
The entry was hardly fifteen hundred feet wide. The mountains of the enclosure were of medium height, & of nearly white rock, & there were all around, at intervals, large holes in the shape of church-windows, which tunneled clear through, & by which we could see the country on the other side. All that we could see from the place that we were made the finest prospect imaginable. The two large mountains of the entry appeared all covered, up to their summits, with green moss.
I entered, sixth, this fine harbor in the longboat. We saw all around, in holes in the rock, several birds’ nests. The water was very clear & appeared to us to be extremely deep everywhere.
The wind, rising again, turned due East, & after continuing our route for two or three hours, we found ourselves between two very long sand banks, where there was so little water that we had all the trouble in the world exiting again. Finally, we pulled ourselves from there, & we discovered on our left, in the middle of the sea, a collection of rocks which together formed a large mass. There was one of them which, tilting dramatically, thrust a very long point towards the north. There was at the base, a bit above the water, a very large indentation or recess, beneath which the sea entered very far, & as there reigned there a thick vapor, like a cloud around the foot of the rocks, it was impossible to see from afar the part that attached to them, so that they seemed to us to be suspended in the air, until we could consider it all from a closer vantage. That rock appeared to me very worth of attention. It seems impossible that it simply fell into the sea, carried by its own weight. I noticed that all around these rocks the water was thick & green, & seemed like some sort of swamp.
We were hardly half a league from there when the wind rose again dramatically, & we sailed so rapidly that we were soon within sight of a very large number of little islands, placed close together. With the aid of my spyglass, I counted up to twenty-five. They all appeared green as the prairies. We landed on the one which was closest to us, because we saw on its shores a prodigious quantity of seashells. We found there many of that species of small oysters of which I spoke in the sixth chapter.
We did not judge it proper to venture any farther among these islands, for as they were very close together, there was a multitude of breakers, & swirling water, which we believed to indicate many dangerous chasms. So we left them on our left, & at the end of fifteen hours we were in the westernmost end of the gulf. The coastline was very high, & we anchored in its shadow in order to be sheltered from them winds, for there seemed to be a storm brewing, & in fact, soon after some large & black clouds darkened the sky in such a manner that it was nearly like night.
As I considered one cloud, which had a strange shape, it suddenly opened up, & offered to my eyes a really brilliant fire, in the shape of a circle, like the sun, but almost twice as big. In the space of a few minutes this phenomenon made three or four rapid movements from the north to the south. At the same time, I perceived on the edge of the horizon a long series of clouds, some of which came gradually to fall into a perpendicular line just above the sea, without, however, breaking off from the others. It made a bank of very clear & transparent vapor, which the sea pushed steadily towards us. When it was near upon is, it seemed the color ofpale fire. Itlooked like a monstrouscolumn of fire, which at one end touched the sea & at the other touched the clouds, moved over the surface of the waters. After a quarter-hour it disappeared & nothing remained but a light smoke, which soon dissipated completely. However, the circular fire made itself seen from time to time through the gaps in the clouds, & formed shortly after a beautiful arc in the air composed of two colors, a light yellow &a green which included a bit of blue. That arc, reflecting in the sea, made a perfect circle of extraordinary beauty.
The wind increasing dramatically, the sea became very rough, & the waves broke on the coast with a furious rage, so that it seemed like all the winds were raging. Also, a frightening tempest was upon us which made that beautiful arc & the phenomenon that it made disappear in a very short. We were fortunate to be stationed, as we were, under cover from the force of the winds. After that storm had passed & the sky cleared, I went on shore to see the surroundings, but there was nothing to see but rocks on rocks & mountains on mountains, the summits & ridges of which were all covered with snow. In short it was a country of amazing dryness & sterility, where the cold was to be feltmost keenly.
Having advanced about a thousand paces, I saw some sort of fox come out of a hole which was at the foot of a hill, but it was a fox much larger than the ordinary varieties. Its whole pelt was nearly russet. The end of its nose was white & so were its four legs, up to just above the joint. It came fearlessly to graze on a sort of white moss, which was eight paces from me. It was a female, for a moment later five or six of its young, all marked like it, came out of the same hole & also came to feed around her. But one of my companions coming toward the same place, all these animals took fright & bolted rapidly into their den.
The Author & his companions set sail for the old world; some time after they find in their path a dreadful reef; they arrive at the Cape of Good Hope; extraordinary adventure that happened to the Author some days after landing.
Although in the various journeys we had made in the Antarctic Lands, we had not penetrated far into the country, we had, however seen enough to easily judge the rest; & as for several reasons it was not possible for us to stay there any longer, we prepared ourselves to depart, or rather, to return to the old world. We resolved to take ourselves to the Cape of Good Hope. We thus set sail with a good West Wind, which in no time brought us out of the Gulf & the Strait. We raised all our sails, & because the Wind was strong, we went a long distance in a few hours. We took our bearings & found ourselves at sixty-two degrees six minutes of Southern latitude, & when we again met the Sun for the first time, it was about noon.
At about three o’clock, we found ourselves between two very rapid currents, which made us fear that there was some dangerous reef in the vicinity. I took my spyglass, & I saw an endless number of points of Rocks above the water, in the midst of which there were in various places several strong currents, which in their fury raised a thick & boiling foam. We took all imaginable precautions. Our Vessel still half-entered into one of these currents, but a sudden turn of the rudder, given at the right moment, drew us back, & we finally had the good fortune to escape so dangerous a pitch without any other accident, & we arrived fortunately at the Cape of Good Hope at the end of a few day, at ten in the morning, the fifth of July, in the year seventeen hundred & fourteen.
Upon entering the house where I was going to stay, I learned that someone had just been buried, a young man who four or five months since had come from Batavia. When I was told his name, I recalled that he had been known to me, & one of my good friends. Thus I acquainted myself very precisely with all the peculiarities of his death.
Having one night regaled five or six of his friends, & drunk with them a bit more than was right. He was attacked towards midnight by a very violent headache accompanied by very sharp pains in all of his limbs. He went up to his room & went to bed, & around an hour later someone went to see if he needed anything. He was found stone dead.
They had watched over him for only two days, & then they had buried him.
At that moment I recalled, fortunately, what I had been told in the past, that when he was ten or twelve years old, he had fallen into a lethargy in the house of his Father & Mother, & that he had remained three days & three nights without giving the least sign of life. I went then without losing a moment of time to ask permission to disinter him, which I obtained easily.
I took myself to the Cemetery, & I worked at the grave & casket with all diligence. Then we carried him to the house, where we put him in a good, warm bed. I noticed that he did not have that great pallor that dead bodies ordinarily have, & that he even had a sort of little redness in the middle of the left cheek, he remained more than six hours without making the least movement. I desired, however, to remain constantly at his bedside. Finally, he made a little sigh, & right away I wanted to give him a spoonful of an excellent liqueur that I had brought for that purpose, but his teeth were clenched so tight that I could not make a single drop enter. Shortly after, he raised his left arm a little, & I put the spoon back between his teeth, which I opened enough to let him swallow, & in fact he did swallow something, & a moment later opened his eyes, but without having any knowledge of his circumstances.
Finally, he returned to himself all at once, & after introducing myself, & briefly recounting all that had taken place. He expressed all possible gratitude for the great service that I had just rendered him, & was astonished that his host had buried him so promptly. He then told me that he had a Valet, who through his alleged death had doubtless remained the master of some jewelry worth a rather considerable amount of money & of some merchandise that he had. I went in search of him, but did not find him. Doubtless, from the moment when he learned that his Master could well not be dead, he had found the means of escape, or had hidden himself so well that it was not possible to find him, no matter how thorough our search and research. In this way the poor young man saw himself stripped of everything, even his clothes were not found.
Fortunately there was in the Cape a man of my acquaintance, with whom I had previously done some business, who at my recommendation was happy to advance what he needed, as we awaited the imminent arrival of some Vessels of the East India Company, which should stop at the Cape, in order to return to Holland, we resolved to go there together. They arrived at the end of three weeks, & we embarked a few days later, & by the grace of God we came fortunately to Amsterdam.
E N D
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur; original title: Relation d’un voyage du
pole arctique au pole antarctique par le centre du monde]
pole arctique au pole antarctique par le centre du monde]
An Account of a Voyage
from the Arctic to the Antarctic Pole
Center of the Earth.
With the description of that perilous Passage, & of the
marvelous & astonishing things that were discovered
beneath the Antarctic Pole.
M. DCC. XXI
TABLE OF CHAPTERS.
I. Departure of the Author from Amsterdam for Greenland; how the Author & his Companions began to realize that they were nearing the dreadful maelstrom which is under the Arctic Pole; description of the maelstrom.
II. How the Vessel was swallowed up at the center of the maelstrom; how they would find themselves in time under the Antarctic Pole, & how they knew that they were no longer under Northern Skies..
III. They land on the Coast, & penetrate about a league & a half into the country; description of the great Floating Island which is under the Antarctic Pole, & of the mountain of ice which is in the middle of a Pyramidal Figure, & which seems cut in facets; of the marvelous Meteors which appear from time to time around the Floating Island.
IV. Of the marvelous lake whose waters are almost always warm, & of its five admirable Cascades; description of the Valley of White Roses, where they see a very remarkable Monument, a rare & singular Fountain, & some shrubs, very lovely & agreeable to the view.
V. Of some monstrous Fish that we saw in these Seas; tragic & lamentable Accident that happened to two Sailors of the crew; of the 7 inaccessible Isles, & what the Author saw there with a great Spyglass.
VI. Of the great Promontory or Cape which is always covered with clouds; of the miraculous Jet of water that was seen there; of the large & deep Cavern through which passes a deep & wide Torrent; extraordinary Combat between two white Bears & three Seals.
VII. Of the Strait of the Bears; of the marvelous rock archway or natural bridge; of the appalling precipice we saw between some high mountains near the Strait of the Bears; of the thunderous subterrainean noises accompanied by flashes that we heard in a large Rock far out to Sea.
VIII. Of a beautiful & spacious Plain enclosed by three great hills; of a very beautiful & strange Plant; of some ruins; of the curious remains of an ancient Wall in the vicinity of the Sea; of a marvelous Echo; of the crowned Bird which made its nest underground.
IX. Of a great & beautiful Harbor formed by a rocky enclosure on the same Gulf of which we just spoke; of a great & high Mountain which appeared suspended in the air; of an Archipelago or several islands clustered together; of a large & tall Column of Fire on the Sea & of a Phenomenon which had the shape of the Sun.
X. The Author & his companions set sail for the old world; some time after they find in their path a dreadful reef; they arrive at the Cape of Good Hope; extraordinary adventure that happened to the Author some days after landing.
FROM THE ARCTIC POLE,
TO THE ANTARCTIC POLE,
BY WAY OF
THE CENTER OF THE EARTH.
Departure of the Author from Amsterdam for Greenland; how the Author & his Companions began to realize that they were nearing the dreadful maelstrom which is under the Arctic Pole; description of the maelstrom.
Having always had, from my youth, a very great passion for Voyages, I have traveled, in order to satisfy my curiosity, through all the principal parts of the Old & New Worlds, & at the end of my last passage, I found myself in the great & famous City of Amsterdam, where I met with three or four great Merchants who told me that they were equipping a Vessel to carry them to Greenland to the Whale Fishery. At this news, I felt my natural inclinations rekindle, & I conceived at once the design to make that Voyage, having still not seen the icy Climates of the Frigid Zones. I commenced then & there to buy all that I believed necessary, & having put in order all my small equipage, I embarked on the third day of May, of the year seventeen hundred & fourteen.
We set off with a Favorable Wind & had perfect weather for some days, but on the tenth, towards evening, the Heavens darkened, & were covered in no time with dark & heavy clouds, & the Winds started to blow with such vehemence & fury that the crew was on the alert all the following night. That tempest carried us to the West so rapidly, despite all our maneuvers, that in the morning, around four o’clock, we found ourselves in view of the Coasts of the Isle of Iceland, which were only about three leagues distant. The Wind having dropped for the moment, a calm of twelve hours succeeded it, after which we resumed our route with a light South-East Wind. We we so fortunate in our sailing that within fourteen hours we perceived two Vessels which appeared to us to come from Greenland, & to take route to Holland. We were then at sixty-eight degrees, 17 minutes latitude. However, we quickly lost sight of the Vessels, for the weather changed suddenly, & we saw a fearsome Storm form to our East, which approached us in the space of a few minutes. We were first surround by an endless number of flashes, which were followed by appalling claps of thunder & a rain so heavy, strong & long, that the Heavens seemed to threaten the Earth with a second deluge. The darkness was so great that we could not distinguish objects from the Stern to the Prow. The waves were so heavy, & the Winds clattered with so much fury that our Pilot, although highly experienced, hardly knew what course to take. Finally, after we had been for a long time a mere hair’s breadth from death, that horrible tempest began to dissipate. The sun reappeared & we found ourselves in a wide Sea, filled everywhere with great blocks of ice, which rolled against & onto one another. We were afraid of being capsized or crushed. It became very cold, & we saw around us neither Isles nor Coasts.
We had lost our route & consulting our sextant, we found ourselves at seventy-three degrees twenty-two minutes. A light South Wind pushed us always towards the North, & carried us finally to a place where the Sea seemed to us to slope slightly, & where the thread of the water led us, albeit slowly, always to one side of the Pole. Then an old Sailor told us he had once heard a famous Pilot, who had roamed much in the Seas of the North, say that there was beneath the Arctic Pole a terrifying maelstrom, which could be seventy or eighty leagues in circumference. He reckoned this to be the most dangerous hazard in the world, in the midst of which there must be a terrible & bottomless gulf, where all the waters of these Seas rush, having communication by way of the center of the earth, with the Seas which are beneath the Antarctic Pole. This tale chilled us with fright, & we trembled in all the parts of our bodies, for we saw what the course of the water would bring us to, & that it was impossible for us to reverse that course.
We took counsel, & it was concluded that, although there was hardly any hope of salvation for us, it was nonetheless necessary to take every imaginable precaution, & to seal all the openings of the Vessel, to close off every avenue to the water. We performed this task right away, with an incredible eagerness & diligence, after which we all went up on Deck to see if together we could not find a way to avoid the hideous peril which threatened us.
For the moment the Sun did not set, & we always saw it turning around us on the edges of the Horizon, but it was a bit pale. We saw towards the West a rather long Coast, which had three Capes, of which the middle one extended much further into the Sea than the other two. We saw there many high Mountains all covered with snow & ice, & of which the middle-ground appeared to us all on fire. On this same coast, by turning towards the right, we saw a great mass of clouds, of an almost green color, mixed with a very dark gray, & one part of which descended so low that it almost touched the Sea. There came out from it an endless flight of birds, whose numbers, as they flew towards us, was increased so prodigiously that all the air around us was darkened. One flock detached itself from the mass, & passing immediately above our heads, they entered into such a furious battle against one another that they crushed one another cruelly, & with such force that three fell dead on our Deck. Their plumage was deep black, & their beaks were red as blood. From the head down to the tip of the tail they had a stripe white as the snow. But soon all these birds were lost from view.
One will perhaps ask how the birds could traverse these vast Seas, but it is to be presumed that they rest from time to time on those great pieces of ice that one finds in various places in the Northern Seas.
Meanwhile, we had to always follow the penchant of the waters, until suddenly our Vessel made something like a half turn to the left, & then we sailed with a circular movement, which informed us that we had entered into the maelstrom.
That swirling Sea abounded with countless numbers of small Fish, about the size of Herring. From the middle of the body to the tip of the tail, they were of a very beautiful gold color, & as they almost always swam upside down & just below the surface, & as the Sun reflecting on all those tails which were entirely out of the water, that turning resembled a watery Heavens all covered with an infinite number of golden stars in a perpetual movement. An object of that nature would doubtless charm those people who could contemplate it with a tranquil eye.
After having made several turns, we perceived, in the midst of the maelstrom, a sort of floating isle more white than snow, but as our circular movement drew us steadily towards the center, we recognized that the supposed Isle was only a high mass of foam that the waters, pouring & rushing into that abyss, formed on their surface. We judged then that it was time for us to retire within the Vessel, which we did in an instant, all descending into the heart of the ship, to await that which Heaven had ordained for us.
How the Vessel was swallowed up at the center of the maelstrom; how they would find themselves in time under the Antarctic Pole, & how they knew that they were no longer under Northern Skies.
We had hardly been in the hold ten or twelve minutes when we felt ourselves sink with inconceivable speed into that deep abyss. The horrible whistling & humming that we heard around us constantly, carrying terror & dread into our souls, little by little robbed us of all cognizance, & cast us into a sort of swoon, leaving us in no state to recognize how long we remained among the appalling torrents which roll so impetuously in those terrifying underground regions. Finally, however, being awakened from the daze into which we had sunk, & not knowing clearly if we were alive or dead, we soon returned to our senses. Listening, we heard nothing at all, & it seemed to us all that our Vessel was nearly without movement.
Our Pilot, being the boldest of us, ventured to go upstairs. He opened a hatch on the stern side, & climbed onto the Deck. We all followed him, one after another, & we were astonished to find ourselves on a calm Sea, & surrounded by a fog so thick it was impossible to distinguish any object at all around us. The fog & the Sea was of the same color, so that that it seemed to us that our vessel was suspended in the air. But little by little the air cleared & the day was almost like Summer in our Climes, a mere half hour after the Sun has gone down.
It is easy to imagine the joy that filled us, having thought ourselves lost without resources, seeing that we could still hope to return to our homeland. However, we did not know where we were, & our Pilot having gone up, we found ourselves seventy-one degrees & eight minutes southern latitude, which let us know that we were in the Southern Seas, under the Antarctic Pole.
For some time there was not the least bit of wind, & we applied ourselves to restoring, as much as was possible, all our cordage & sails. We still had sufficient provisions in our vessel for some time.
After about four or five hours a light Northwest wind rose, but it was so terribly cold that the Sea was all frozen over in the space of a few moments. I can say that I have never felt a cold so penetrating, & I doubt that we could have withstood it if it had continued long. But, fortunately, a light, sweet rain suddenly began to fall, & we passed in a few minutes from the roughest Winter to Spring. Wise Providence, to make up for the lack of the Sun which strays for so long from these sad Climes, tempers their extreme cold with some warm vapors, which preserve the grasses, plants, & shrubs that we saw there even far into winter.
We sailed with all our canvas aloft, towards a great Coast that we could make out to the East, in the hope of being able to set foot on land somewhere, & we saw at one of its extremities, which advanced towards the Antarctic Pole, a light which rather resembled the aurora. We knew very well that this was not the precursor of the Sun, since several months must pass before it reappeared in these regions. We could no longer distinguish between the day & the night, or between morning & evening. However, the light was sufficient to prevent us from seeing the stars. Luminous vapors rose in the air during the absence of the Sun. Otherwise, the two cold zones would be by turns buried for six months in a terrible night.
As we sailed slowly toward that coast, we saw in four or five places, about the range of a musket from one another, heavy foam which rose high & furiously, forming above the surface of the Sea like little hills. These boilings of water & foam had so much strength, that as our vessel passed through them we thought we would be overturned. We could never understand what that Phenomenon could be, & we have not seen it since. However, the light of which I have just spoken, having little by little diffused the clouds that concealed it from us, rose suddenly, & shone so brightly before our eyes that we were all awestruck. It was a marvelous meteor, which formed a perfect oval of a very dark blue, & which was all studded with stars, of which the middle was the largest, & seemed to dominate all the others, as one can see in FIGURE A. That admirable Phenomenon increased the light on the Coast by half, so that we could see more distinctly all the objects around us. We were already very close, & having finally reached the Coast, we lowered the anchor, as we intended to go ashore.
They land on the Coast, & penetrate about a league & a half into the country; description of the great Floating Island which is under the Antarctic Pole, & of the mountain of ice which is in the middle of a Pyramidal Figure, & which seems cut in facets; of the marvelous Meteors which appear from time to time around the Floating Island.
At the point where we dropped anchor, the coast was bordered everywhere with tall reeds, which out of the water appeared as tall as a pike & as large as an arm, & which ended in a very sharp point. They had nodes at intervals, & below these nodes hung large, wide, yellowish leaves, around the length of a Dutch ell. We lowered the longboat onto the sea to go ashore, & we had great difficulty passing through those reeds, because they were very dense & close to one another. We took all our firearms, as much to defend ourselves from ferocious beasts as to kill some game, if we chanced to encounter any.
We clambered up, because the terrain was steep, & found a beautiful Plain, all sown with a short & fine grass which gave off an agreeable aroma. The Plain was bounded by three great mountain ranges which extended out of sight to the right & left. These mountains appeared to us laid out like an Amphitheater, the second rank being higher than the first, & the third much higher than the second. The first range, the one closest to us, were properly only large hills, all covered with green moss. The mountains of the second were all covered with snow, & those of the third appeared in the distance a flaming red, which produced one of the most beautiful vistas that one can imagine.
When we had traversed the Plain, & gained the base of the hills, we went further, & saw that they formed in this place a large pen or enclosure around a full league in diameter. This enclosure was full of tall grass, so high that the two tallest men of our troop having entered there, we hardly saw the top of their heads. We noted that all around the enclosure there were in the hills large holes or dens, which we judged to be the retreats of some wild beasts, & indeed, a few moments later, we saw come out of the tall grass, two hundred paces from us, three white bears of prodigious size, which without turning to one side or the other, entered the den that was across from them. We did not think it proper after that to remain in this place, which seemed so perilous to us.
We came out onto the field, & advancing always towards the mountains, we found a small stream of fresh, clear water, on the banks of which we saw promenading a great number of birds roughly the size of quail. They were so tame that they let us take them in our hands. We killed a few of them, which we sent aboard our vessel.
By following this brook we were led gradually between two rocks, which we both very high & steep, & all covered from top to bottom with ice. We were shocked to feel an extreme cold there, & we could not understand how, starting from an atmosphere that was so mild & almost warm, we could enter one which was so harsh. We marched for the time being on a very hard-packed snow, & our little stream was entirely frozen in that space. The mountain which was on our right receiving on its icy surface all the light of the meteor of which I have spoken, & reflecting it on the mountain opposite it, they both shone in such a manner that our eyes were dazzled by it, & we could hardly see what was before us.
As soon as we came out from between these mountains, we felt a gentle & temperate breeze, & the stream flowed & wound as it had on the other side. Two hundred paces from there we saw it disappear into the earth, opposite a rock which had the shape of a large, round tower. Nature had dug a kind of Grotto there, which had three openings from top to bottom, in the form of Arches, & inside, in the middle we saw a great basin into which the stream burst by way of a subterranean tunnel. In that grotto were several niches, where we found the nests of birds, & in some of them we found eggs of a very pale green, three times larger than the eggs of ducks. The top of that rock was flat like a terrace, & full of an herb much like our purslane, but much larger. Its leaves were extremely wide & close to the thickness of a little finger, & its stalk was so long, that several hung the full length of the rock.
After admiring this work of Nature we did not judge it proper to push further forward, & we retraced the route to our vessel, but not by precisely the same road. We veered a little to the left, & after having walked for some little time, our ears were suddenly struck by horrible roars & howls which came from the same side where we had seen the three white bears. The air all around us resounded so loudly, that we judged that there must be a very great number of those wild animals in this place. We came gradually onto a flatt & stony terrain which led us towards a mass of large rocks placed very close to each other. They had red, green & blue veins almost like marble, & as we could see a sort of marsh to our right & to our left, we were forced to pass right across them. We found various paths which crossed one another as in a labyrinth, & so many that we were lost there for some time. But finally, one of us having found an exit, we left.
Hardly had we taken four strides, when a monstrous beast rushed at us from behind a small boulder. It had the shape & color of a toad, but it was infinitely larger. It had on its head a great crest of a pale, ugly blue & shot from time to time from its mouth a yellow & green foam. It turned towards the marsh & with a single bound, it plunged so deep into it that we no longer saw it. We did not doubt that there were several more in this place of the same species, & that these beasts might be very venomous.
We continued to walk with much difficulty down this rocky road, up to the beautiful plain where we had come ashore, & we went happily aboard ship, where we cooked the birds that we had taken. the flesh was very tough, but tasty enough & with a flavor like duck. We formed the intention of soon making a second trip & of taking these birds & all other species that we could find, in order to save the rest of our biscuit & the other provisions which could be preserved.
We observed with chagrin the vanishing of the beautiful meteor which had begun to appear when we arrived on that coast, & then we had a little rain mixed with snow & large hail which lasted more than fifteen hours. (We measured our time with an hourglass that we had been fortunate to find in the vessel.) The air became so cold that it was impossible for us to remain even an eighth of an hour on deck, but the rain having ceased, the air warmed so much that we seemed to breath an Autumn breeze, as it is in temperate climates, & another phenomenon appeared from the West side, which was not anywhere near as bright as the first, but still very beautiful. It formed an irregular zig-zag, & very much resembled a constellation. It had in the lower part a sort of tail which was very wide at the end, as one can see in FIGURE B.
It should be noted, that since we had been at anchor, our view had always been limited towards the South, that is, from the side of the Antarctic Pole, by large, thick clouds which were finally dissipated by one of those beautiful luminous exhalations so frequent under the Poles, so much that that we suddenly discovered an isle which appeared to us to float on the surface of the waters, & that we in fact saw approach us to about the range of a cannon shot. That isle was nearly round, & was doubtless only a collection of those great pieces of ice that we saw in the seas, which are linked & frozen together. There was a great mountain of ice in the middle of which rose high in a pyramidal figure, & the pieces forming it were arranged by a surprising artifice, in such a way that it appeared all carved in facets like a diamond, with this difference, that the facets were proportional to the size, the isle was all covered with snow, & we saw on its banks at intervals that looked like little trees of ice, which flung out branches, laden with flockings of snow which served them in place of leaves & fruits. But on the mountain there was not the least bit of snow. All the ice was clear & transparent as crystal.
We considered all these things for quite a long time, & then we went to rest. After we had slept a few hours, wanting to go on deck, we were terrified to find the air all ablaze. But having cast a look in the direct of the isle, we knew that this great illumination proceeded from six amazing lights in the sky, which hung in the air at about an equal distance all around the mountain, like so many grand & magnificent chandeliers. They were all of the same shape & were each composed of four great globes of fire. The one on the bottom was the largest, the second, the third & the fourth being progressively smaller, as one can see in FIGURE C. All these luminous globes being infinitely multiplied in the facets of the mountain, made it appear to be all on fire. All these great & surprising objects taken together made an effect which ravished & enchanted the eye, & was of such strength, that we remained for some moments immobile as statues, struck with admiration & astonishment.
As we were still carefully contemplating them, we perceived very high in the air three large birds which suddenly swooped down across from us on the coast. Their plumage was a mixture of gray & brown on their head. They had a large plume of three snow-white feathers, the ends of which were a very fine crimson, & their tails were longer than their bodies, & seemed a half-open fan. They were larger & broader than eagles, & after they had pecked & searched the grass for some time, they all three flew off rapidly toward the mountain of ice, & having flown around it for a long time, they mounted to its summit, & we saw them no longer. We judged that perhaps they had their nests there. They were very beautiful birds.
Of the marvelous lake whose waters are almost always warm, & of its five admirable Cascades; description of the Valley of White Roses, where they see a very remarkable Monument, a rare & singular Fountain, & some shrubs, very lovely & agreeable to the view.
As we were in a deep sleep, we were awakened by an impetuous wind, which gave such shocks to our vessel, that we all got up, fearing that our cable might be broken. But we no longer saw the floating isle, nor the beautiful phenomena which were all around. The sea was very rough, & full of large pieces of ice which piled up on one another, formed here & there small floating mountains.
As soon as the weather was better, which was not long, we resolved to make, as we had planned, a second trip into the country. Leaving two or three of us aboard ship, we took all our arms, & threaded a different path than the first time. It should be noted that this coast is very mountainous, but we found there a few small Plains & valleys. First we walked between some dry & sepia-colored rocks, where there was neither grass nor moss, & we found there frightful precipices, at the base of which rolled rough torrents with a dreadful noise. We were forced to travel some small paths, very narrow & very dangerous, but, finally, we fortunately came out of the place that we had entered, & we climbed a high mountain from which we could take a look in all directions. We saw Summer & Winter all at once, for on one side there were Plains where everything was frozen & covered with snow, & on the other valleys where a pleasant verdure reigned over all. The air there was so clear & so luminous, that without the aid of the Sun we could easily distinguish the smallest objects. We descended, & found all these places carpeted with a short & fine grass. Here & there we saw plants, which has long & thick foliage. We uprooted some of them, & the roots were round & smooth, almost as big around as your fist, & covered with a very thin black skin. The flesh was a reddish white & with a taste approaching that of the almond. We found a lot of it afterwards on the coast, near the place where we dropped anchor, which we ate instead of bread.
This place appeared so agreeable to us that we rested there for some time. From there we went between two long chains of mountains covered in moss from the foot all the way to the summit, which exuded a sort of odoriferous gum. That double chain was not straight, & formed a great elbow which entirely limited our view, but when we came to the end we suddenly discovered a lake, whose water was greenish, & nearly warm. It exhaled over all of its surface a multitude of little black vapors. We thought, & with reason, that the heat & the vapors proceeded from sulfurous & bituminous materials which must be in its depths. There was not the least little bit of grass on its banks. After following them for some time, we heard a noise & murmur which increased as we advanced, & finally we noted that the end of the lake was all bordered with small rocks, between which the water flowed down, caused the noise that we heard. We doubled our pace, & were very surprised to see five beautiful Cascades, of which the middle was the largest. It formed three great sheets of water, which fell on one another, at three roughly equal degrees of distance, & the water of all these Cascades merging a bit below, fell on a large, nearly flat rock, & falling from there, went on to be lost between the rocks which were below. Since this lake always remained equally full, despite all the water that flowed so abundantly from this side, it must have been the case that there were subterranean channels which constantly furnished it anew.
As we stood there in thought, there suddenly appeared, on a large Hill that was opposite us, a great herd of large & powerful Bears, white as snow. We noticed that there were two or three of them that were dappled with black all over their bodies. One of them descended the Hill, & having crossed a small Brook which was at the base, it slipped between two Rocks. Scarcely had it done so, than it began to make a certain cry, as if he called to the others, & they actually began to follow, jostling & hurrying one another. We had just lost sight of them, when we saw several Birds emerge from these same Rocks. They were soon followed by an even greater number, which all took flight towards some high, snow-covered mountains which were on our right. These Birds apparently had their nests in the cracks & fissures that we could see there, but they were in places that were so steep & so high that it was impossible to reach them.
Moving away from these five admirable Cascades, we descended with much difficulty down a mountain whose pitch was very steep into a long & narrow Plain, pierced all over by little holes which twisted deep into the earth. There must have been in this place a nearly infinite number of animals of some species, which doubtless was unknown to us, but we did not see even one. Walking among these holes, we heard a certain sound, as if there were caves or vaults beneath us. At the end of that Plain, we came out into a great Crossroads, where there were five different routes arranged in a star. We weighed for some time the choice of which we should take. There was one of them between mountains of a height so prodigious, that we were nearly terrified. One entered beneath a large & high portal, the structure of which was just a great piece of Rock, which being detached from one of the sides above, had follow across onto the other, & had perhaps remained suspended there for a very long time. That route was very sandy, & we sank in it up to the ankle. We followed another much more serviceable route. The mountains which lined it were of a nearly black Rock, with great white & gleaming veins, a bit like alum.
We found there above all a great quantity of a sort of Lizard. They were so tame that they constantly passed between our legs, & over our feet. They had a perfectly black head, a reddish body, & an extraordinarily long tail.
The more we advanced down this path, the more it widened. It led us finally into a very pretty and, & very spacious Valley, where we breathed a Spring air. It was covered all over with a plant like the violet. We saw on the majority, in the middle of the stem, a white flower of the size of a Ducatoon. That flower had eight serrated petals, the four largest above, & the smaller four below. The middle was covered with little red grains, It was not a bad likeness of a simple Rose, & had a very sweet odor. The tincture of these flowers, together with the green of their stems made a charming effect all through this Valley. A little Brook of very clear water wound towards the middle.
At the back of a hollow we perceived something white through the tall grass. Approaching, we saw to our great surprise, a small Building of a singular structure. It was all of white stone. The upper part was a large, flat stone, in the shape of a triangle, set on six high columns about three feet, on an oval base which raised it four or five inches about the ground. On the triangular stone we saw an Inscription of bizarre characters, which were known to none of our party, & down low, on the circumference of the base, were spaced more of the same characters, but nearly effaced. This Monument gave rise in us to many speculations, for we could well see that it was not a Work of chance, but I leave the decision about it to those more clever than me. Leaving this place we walked right to the Brook I have just mentioned, & we followed it back towards its source. It came from a lovely Spring that was in a Grotto hollowed by nature in one of the mountains of the Valley.
I entered first. It was carpeted from top to bottom with a lovely green moss, & in the back of the grotto at the height of a man, we saw three channels in a line, & at equal distances. The water flowing out of these channels made a pleasant little murmur, which was like the twittering of birds, & fell into a sort of Basin, which being very full, poured out over all its banks, & gathering before a great crevasse which was in the Rock immediately in front of it, drained down. This Basin was around a foot deep, & in the bottom there were several small stones, red & flat & of different shapes, including square, round, triangular, & in the form of a heart. Wanting to take some, I could hardly endure the excessive cold of the water. Beside the Spring & within the Grotto, there was a round & very deep hole, about a span in width, which exhaled a steam so hot, that I thought it would burn my face. Being by chance close to both, it was not without an extreme astonishment that I saw emanate from nearly the same place hot & cold, all together.
There were in several places in this Valley, various very beautiful & very peculiar shrubs, & one among them of which I have given the picture in FIGURE E. Its leaves sprouted at three levels, equal distances from one another. They were all covered with a sort of down, which made them as soft to the touch as velvet, & they were edged all around with the most beautiful yellow in the world. Above the leaves, & precisely at the place where they were attached to the stalk, we saw some little red seeds sprout, each at the end of a very long stem. They were the size of peas, and formed a perfect circle, & at the top they bore a bouquet of these same seeds, very closely & tightly bunched, which was nearly the shape of a small Pinecone.
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]
The “Symmesonian” Letters
DISPATCHES FROM THE HOLLOW EARTH
Having been informed Mr. Editor, that your countrymen always require of every person when first introduced to them, a regular account of himself—including his name, his business, whence he came, where he is going, &c. &c. I shall commence this communication by informing you that I am desirous of concealing my name, and that all other matters concerning myself will be revealed to you in the course of several communications which I intend making. At present, I shall merely inform you whence I came, and my business here.
My country is that part of the concave surface of this sphere lately discovered by Capt. Symmes of this city, and named by him Symmesonia. I have been induced to undertake the dangerous and fatigueing journey from thence to this city, in consequence of a report by some of the red men of the north, (who have, as they say, been driven quite into the concave regions by your encroachments on their territory,) that an expedition was fitting out here under the command of Capt. Symmes for the purpose of visiting my country. From the character given of you by your red neighbours and their accounts of your conduct toward them, very great alarm has been excited in Symmesonia; and I have been deputed to undertake the journey to this place, in order to ascertain whether the character that has been given of you is correct, and if it be, what measures can be adopted to prevent the threatened expedition of Capt. Symmes; or if this cannot be done, what will be the most judicious course for the Symmesonians to adopt in order to ward themselves from the evils with which it threatens them.
The most difficult as well as the most important part of my business is to acquire a knowledge of the character of the Americans. Of this difficulty the contradictory opinions I have formed at different times on the same subjects may serve as exemplifications. Previous to my departure from Symmesonia, I was informed & believed that the most striking characteristic of your countrymen, was the desire of possessing lands; but long before I reached your city, I found that you I owned immense tracts of which no use whatever was made, and therefore, concluded that my information in this respect was entirely erroneous; in which conclusion I was confirmed by seeing how very small a part was cultivated of that which is settled. I was, however, soon driven back to my original opinions upon learning (soon after my arrival here,) that it is customary with your citizens, to buy and sell not only large tracts of land which they cannot possibly use, on earth, but also quite as large quantities in the moon, and these being more distant and not so valuable as those in Symmesonia, my fears were excited anew.
I was informed by your red neighbours that your government was in the habit of buying their lands, and paying for them principally by treaties,—things that they have no use for and know very little about, but which they consider as very dangerous articles, being liable to get broken; and when this happens, they say that you immediately send out armies to mend them by cutting the throats of those to whom they were given—a course of proceeding which altho’ of a very quieting and composing nature, would not suit the taste of the Symmesonians. Since I have been among you, however, I have heard that your practice of exterminating your neighbours is a trouble you take merely from benevolence and humanity,—which is a thing I cannot yet comprehend.
I was told that attempt had been made, at a place called Zanesville, to dig a passage to Symmesonia through the earth, and first directed my course towards that place in order to ascertain whether they were likely to succeed; but before I arrived there, I was told that they were merely digging for silver,—since I arrived here, however, I have been informed that this could not have been the case, as it was impossible that so many people as live there should be ignorant that silver is never found in such places as that where they were seeking it. Thus I am kept in a state of doubt and uncertainty, and cannot acquire the knowledge respecting your country, which I am seeking, as fast as Capt. Symmes acquires knowledge of Symmesonia, although so far distant from it. This is the reason of my opening a correspondence with you, (for I consider it necessary to keep myself concealed, lest I should be seized upon and compelled to guide those invaders to my country, whom I am endeavouring to discover the means of keeping from it); I hope that you will enable me to obtain correct information, without wasting too much of my time in search of it.
I perceive that I have little time to lose, for the expedition to the moon which is fitting out at Lexington, is an additional subject of apprehension with me. I suppose the object of that expedition must be to look after the lands that have been purchased in that quarter; if I am correctly informed, all that are contained in that planet, will not be sufficient to fulfil the contracts that have been made for them; those, therefore, who are disappointed in getting their supply, will naturally turn their attention to Symmesonia; the course to which country they will perceive on their route homeward.
The only circumstance that affords me any consolation is the indifference towards Capt. Symmes and his project that prevails among all classes; should this continue, I shall consider my country safe, but if otherwise; I dread the fate prepared for her.
TO THE SYMMESONIAN.
As you seem desirous of concealing your name, and announcing only the country or nation from which you came, I am under the necessity of addressing you by the vague appellation which you have assumed. The primary object of your visit to these upper regions appears to be, to determine the truth or falsity of certain flying reports amongst the northern aborigines prejudicial to our character as honest men and good Christians; and moreover, the probability or improbability of our furnishing Captain Symmes with an outfit sufficient to enable him to pay your country a visit. This information you suppose may be obtained from the editor of this paper. Here you are probably mistaken; as this gentleman, having acquired his knowledge principally from colleges and books, must necessarily be imperfectly acquainted with the true genius, principles, and usages of his own countrymen; while I, on the contrary, having read a little and travelled much, am consequently somewhat better qualified than him to set you right (as your information has been egregiously incorrect) on the important objects for which you visited our country.
The report spread abroad by our tawny neighbours of the north, that the government of the United States are in the habit of paying them for their lands in treaties, or, which is the same thing, cheating them out of them altogether, is totally incorrect. It is well known that they receive from our government a stipend annually, for a given number of years, as full satisfaction for the soil, even admitting they had a good title to it. Either a blanket, a cotton shawl, or a butcher knife, though not of the most superfine kind, is surely adequate remuneration for a million of acres over which a plough has never passed. Besides, we occasionally give them a little cash for pocket money, out of pure good nature; and if they pay it back to traders authorized by the government, for whiskey at a dollar per gallon, why that is their own look-out; and if they get drunk on the aforesaid liquor, and commit assault and battery on the whites, they ought not to think hard when an army is sent out with orders to extirpate whole tribes. The evil is of their own seeking.
But I lay down the position that the aborigines of this country, have no just right to the soil. We have a book amongst us called the Bible, of great antiquity and much value, and by the precepts of which, some of the knowing ones have clearly proven (to themselves at least) that the natives, being heathens, and consequently excluded from heaven, may of right be expelled from this continent—nay, from the whole earth, by us who are the chosen favorites of heaven, and who of course are alone worthy to possess the fat things of the earth. We have moreover another book, written by one Knickerbocker of standard value, which though composed in a more recent period o time, is much more valued, and referred by our Scavans. In this invaluable work a vast body of irrefutable arguments are adduced, all which go to prove conclusively that the aborigines of this continent have (a the lawyers say) “No claim, right, no title whatever to the premises abovementioned.” I regret that my present limit will not permit me to marshal before you this host of circumstances and arguments in order to convince you that the native have not, nor ever had, the shadow of claim to the soil of this continent—that therefore the government is not bound in duty to give them any thing in exchange for it—that they ought to consider all that we have given them, or agreed to give the in our treaties, as so many donations—and that we are perfectly justifiable in driving them whenever we choose to do so, not only from their present locations, but from the whole American continent. So much for the base aspersions on our character by you informants, the Arctic red men.
As to our purchasing and selling land which do not exist any where, or lands in the moon—the fact we do not pretend to deny; but clearly justify our conduct on the score, that we pay for them in funds that also have no existence—according to the old adage, “come easy go easy.” If you have come amongst us a little earlier, you would have seen that all our land speculation were bottomed on Bank notes, which were any thing but money, and cost us nothing. This was appropriately denominated moonshine, and was therefore a currency well adapted to pay for lands in the moon; and such traders might well be termed lunatics. This term, however, is not now used among us as one of reproach; as all our poets and lovers, to say nothing of millions besides, admit its applicability to them, and boast of the honor.
From what I have said you will perceive we are not that unjust, avaricious, and blood-thirsty people which those we have done so much to benefit have represented; and that therefore, you need not be alarmed for the safety of your nation when we shall have arrived amongst you, which, by the way, will be very shortly. We shall doubtless treat you pretty much in the same fair, humane, and religious manner in which we have treated your brother heathens, who, if different at all, are better than you—being above you on the globe, and therefore your superiors. In the first place, we shall probably offer you a few blankets, looking glasses, penknives, jews-harps, &c. &c in exchange for whole islands and continents, and if you do not see fit to accept this generous offer for lands to which, as I have shown above, you have no reasonable claim, we shall drive you from the whole at the point of the bayonet, an instrument with which you are probably yet unacquainted, but to which we shall introduce you in good time Meanwhile, as we shall be kindly packing you off very liberally to “another and a better world,” we shall send a large supply of missionaries to convert you to the “true faith,” (as yours is doubtless not orthodox) before giving you “the world to come” in exchange for a few dirty acres in this. This being the course we have pursued on similar occasions, we shall most likely pursue the same with you—a course in justification of which my reasoning has, I hope, convinced even yourself.
A consideration of the manner in which Capt. Symmes intends to discover your concave region—the way in which the means are to be raised—the correctness of his facts and reasoning, and the weakness of those of his opponents—together with sundry other relevant matters, I must postpone to another time, after barely premising that I am a true devotee to his theory, and the possibility of testing it by actual observations. S. R.
The reasonings of S. R. in your last, could not fail to convince me of the justice of the course adopted with respect to your Indian neighbours, and the propriety as well as probability of the same course being pursued towards the Symmesonians. I was aware that, in “extinguishing the Indian title” to lands, you always found it expedient to extinguish the Indians also; and expected no other course to be pursued towards us. But however just and proper this might be, we could never be brought to relish it heartily, and I have been endeavouring to devise some plan to avoid it. I could not discover any place to which we could make our escape, except the midplane space, where we might be employed at the blacksmith’s business, at the forges of which your volcanoes are the chimnies—but this being not suited to our taste, I have relinquished the idea of it and have since discovered a plan of safety for my country, which I think will prevent the necessity of our emigration.
I observe that the British are fitting out an expedition by sea and another by land, which will undoubtedly penetrate to Symmesonia, and tho’ at first I was led to fear them as enemies, I have since discovered the means of making them our friends and protectors.
I have learnt that when these people visit any foreign country, their minds are sure to be out of health and require the discharge of a great deal of ill humour before they can be recovered; this discharge generally commences by cursing the country they are in, for a d——d outlandish place, where nothing can be got fit to eat or drink, and where they have no respect shown them, on account of their being Englishmen. This checked, as it is very apt to be in this country by the resentment it excites; prevents
their restoration to health and (very properly) makes them your irreconcilable enemies. But if it be encouraged by submission and flattery,—if you allow them to boast as much as they please, to tell how they have beaten the French and Spaniards at all times, and every other nation when they pleased, if in addition to this, you drink the porter they bring with them and declare it the best in the world—if you suffer them to show you how to cook your victuals, and after it is done, agree that it is the best possible mode—if you then acknowledge them to be the richest people in the world and ask to negotiate a loan from them, you will make them your firm friends, and if you wish to carry on a war against any other country they will furnish you with ships, armies, and every thing necessary, and money to pay your expenses, and if you want any thing belonging to any other people, they will rob them in order to give it to you.
I have therefore, only to instruct my countrymen as to the course they are to pursue on the arrival of the British expeditions, and after adopting it, we shall be so far from fearing any thing from this country, that we shall require of you such a course e conduct as we may please to dictate: as by stating it to be necessary to keep up the “balance of power” between the concave and convex surfaces of the globe, and by sending Symmesonian stocks to the British exchange for sale, we can not only get Great Britain, but all Europe to take up arms, and compel you to allow us whatever we please to demand.
My mind being now relieved from the fears and cares that have oppressed it ever since left home, I shall spend some time in your country, and make observations respecting such of your manners and customs as I may have opportunities of seeing, and perhaps may communicate some of them to you. I may also want some information, which I trust that you or some of your correspondents will furnish me: in return for which I shall communicate such information respecting the concave as I may think it safe to entrust you with.
 Under this title, a series of communications appeared in the ”Cincinnatti Literary Gazette” in 1824, dealing with the hollow earth theories of John Cleves Symmes.
 Cincinnati Literary Gazette, Feb 28, 1824. p. 66
Cincinnati Literary Gazette, Mar 6, 1824. p. 76
Cincinnati Literary Gazette, Mar 20, 1824. p. 90