Back | Round the Moon | Next
Chapter III. Their Place of Shelter
This curious but certainly correct explanation once given, the
three friends returned to their slumbers. Could they have found a
calmer or more peaceful spot to sleep in? On the earth, houses,
towns, cottages, and country feel every shock given to the exterior
of the globe. On sea, the vessels rocked by the waves are still in
motion; in the air, the balloon oscillates incessantly on the fluid
strata of divers densities. This projectile alone, floating in
perfect space, in the midst of perfect silence, offered perfect
Thus the sleep of our adventurous travelers might have been
indefinitely prolonged, if an unexpected noise had not awakened
them at about seven o’clock in the morning of the 2nd of
December, eight hours after their departure.
This noise was a very natural barking.
“The dogs! it is the dogs!” exclaimed Michel Ardan,
rising at once.
“They are hungry,” said Nicholl.
“By Jove!” replied Michel, “we have forgotten
“Where are they?” asked Barbicane.
They looked and found one of the animals crouched under the
divan. Terrified and shaken by the initiatory shock, it had
remained in the corner till its voice returned with the pangs of
hunger. It was the amiable Diana, still very confused, who crept
out of her retreat, though not without much persuasion, Michel
Ardan encouraging her with most gracious words.
“Come, Diana,” said he: “come, my girl! thou
whose destiny will be marked in the cynegetic annals; thou whom the
pagans would have given as companion to the god Anubis, and
Christians as friend to St. Roch; thou who art rushing into
interplanetary space, and wilt perhaps be the Eve of all Selenite
dogs! come, Diana, come here.”
Diana, flattered or not, advanced by degrees, uttering plaintive
“Good,” said Barbicane: “I see Eve, but where
“Adam?” replied Michel; “Adam cannot be far
off; he is there somewhere; we must call him. Satellite! here,
But Satellite did not appear. Diana would not leave off howling.
They found, however, that she was not bruised, and they gave her a
pie, which silenced her complaints. As to Satellite, he seemed
quite lost. They had to hunt a long time before finding him in one
of the upper compartments of the projectile, whither some
unaccountable shock must have violently hurled him. The poor beast,
much hurt, was in a piteous state.
“The devil!” said Michel.
They brought the unfortunate dog down with great care. Its skull
had been broken against the roof, and it seemed unlikely that he
could recover from such a shock. Meanwhile, he was stretched
comfortably on a cushion. Once there, he heaved a sigh.
“We will take care of you,” said Michel; “we
are responsible for your existence. I would rather lose an arm than
a paw of my poor Satellite.”
Saying which, he offered some water to the wounded dog, who
swallowed it with avidity.
This attention paid, the travelers watched the earth and the
moon attentively. The earth was now only discernible by a cloudy
disc ending in a crescent, rather more contracted than that of the
previous evening; but its expanse was still enormous, compared with
that of the moon, which was approaching nearer and nearer to a
“By Jove!” said Michel Ardan, “I am really
sorry that we did not start when the earth was full, that is to
say, when our globe was in opposition to the sun.”
“Why?” said Nicholl.
“Because we should have seen our continents and seas in a
new light— the first resplendent under the solar rays, the
latter cloudy as represented on some maps of the world. I should
like to have seen those poles of the earth on which the eye of man
has never yet rested.
“I dare say,” replied Barbicane; “but if the
earth had been full, the moon would have been new; that is to say,
invisible, because of the rays of the sun. It is better for us to
see the destination we wish to reach, than the point of
“You are right, Barbicane,” replied Captain Nicholl;
“and, besides, when we have reached the moon, we shall have
time during the long lunar nights to consider at our leisure the
globe on which our likenesses swarm.”
“Our likenesses!” exclaimed Michel Ardan;
“They are no more our likenesses than the Selenites are! We
inhabit a new world, peopled by ourselves— the projectile! I
am Barbicane’s likeness, and Barbicane is Nicholl’s.
Beyond us, around us, human nature is at an end, and we are the
only population of this microcosm until we become pure
“In about eighty-eight hours,” replied the
“Which means to say?” asked Michel Ardan.
“That it is half-past eight,” replied Nicholl.
“Very well,” retorted Michel; “then it is
impossible for me to find even the shadow of a reason why we should
not go to breakfast.”
Indeed the inhabitants of the new star could not live without
eating, and their stomachs were suffering from the imperious laws
of hunger. Michel Ardan, as a Frenchman, was declared chief cook,
an important function, which raised no rival. The gas gave
sufficient heat for the culinary apparatus, and the provision box
furnished the elements of this first feast.
The breakfast began with three bowls of excellent soup, thanks
to the liquefaction in hot water of those precious cakes of Liebig,
prepared from the best parts of the ruminants of the Pampas. To the
soup succeeded some beefsteaks, compressed by an hydraulic press,
as tender and succulent as if brought straight from the kitchen of
an English eating-house. Michel, who was imaginative, maintained
that they were even “red.”
Preserved vegetables (“fresher than nature,” said
the amiable Michel) succeeded the dish of meat; and was followed by
some cups of tea with bread and butter, after the American
The beverage was declared exquisite, and was due to the infusion
of the choicest leaves, of which the emperor of Russia had given
some chests for the benefit of the travelers.
And lastly, to crown the repast, Ardan had brought out a fine
bottle of Nuits, which was found “by chance” in the
provision-box. The three friends drank to the union of the earth
and her satellite.
And, as if he had not already done enough for the generous wine
which he had distilled on the slopes of Burgundy, the sun chose to
be part of the party. At this moment the projectile emerged from
the conical shadow cast by the terrestrial globe, and the rays of
the radiant orb struck the lower disc of the projectile direct
occasioned by the angle which the moon’s orbit makes with
that of the earth.
“The sun!” exclaimed Michel Ardan.
“No doubt,” replied Barbicane; “I expected
“But,” said Michel, “the conical shadow which
the earth leaves in space extends beyond the moon?”
“Far beyond it, if the atmospheric refraction is not taken
into consideration,” said Barbicane. “But when the moon
is enveloped in this shadow, it is because the centers of the three
stars, the sun, the earth, and the moon, are all in one and the
same straight line. Then the nodes coincide with the phases of the
moon, and there is an eclipse. If we had started when there was an
eclipse of the moon, all our passage would have been in the shadow,
which would have been a pity.”
“Because, though we are floating in space, our projectile,
bathed in the solar rays, will receive light and heat. It
economizes the gas, which is in every respect a good
Indeed, under these rays which no atmosphere can temper, either
in temperature or brilliancy, the projectile grew warm and bright,
as if it had passed suddenly from winter to summer. The moon above,
the sun beneath, were inundating it with their fire.
“It is pleasant here,” said Nicholl.
“I should think so,” said Michel Ardan. “With
a little earth spread on our aluminum planet we should have green
peas in twenty-four hours. I have but one fear, which is that the
walls of the projectile might melt.”
“Calm yourself, my worthy friend,” replied
Barbicane; “the projectile withstood a very much higher
temperature than this as it slid through the strata of the
atmosphere. I should not be surprised if it did not look like a
meteor on fire to the eyes of the spectators in Florida.”
“But then J. T. Maston will think we are
“What astonishes me,” said Barbicane, “is that
we have not been. That was a danger we had not provided
“I feared it,” said Nicholl simply.
“And you never mentioned it, my sublime captain,”
exclaimed Michel Ardan, clasping his friend’s hand.
Barbicane now began to settle himself in the projectile as if he
was never to leave it. One must remember that this aerial car had a
base with a superficies of fifty-four square feet. Its height to
the roof was twelve feet. Carefully laid out in the inside, and
little encumbered by instruments and traveling utensils, which each
had their particular place, it left the three travelers a certain
freedom of movement. The thick window inserted in the bottom could
bear any amount of weight, and Barbicane and his companions walked
upon it as if it were solid plank; but the sun striking it directly
with its rays lit the interior of the projectile from beneath, thus
producing singular effects of light.
They began by investigating the state of their store of water
and provisions, neither of which had suffered, thanks to the care
taken to deaden the shock. Their provisions were abundant, and
plentiful enough to last the three travelers for more than a year.
Barbicane wished to be cautious, in case the projectile should land
on a part of the moon which was utterly barren. As to water and the
reserve of brandy, which consisted of fifty gallons, there was only
enough for two months; but according to the last observations of
astronomers, the moon had a low, dense, and thick atmosphere, at
least in the deep valleys, and there springs and streams could not
fail. Thus, during their passage, and for the first year of their
settlement on the lunar continent, these adventurous explorers
would suffer neither hunger nor thirst.
Now about the air in the projectile. There, too, they were
secure. Reiset and Regnaut’s apparatus, intended for the
production of oxygen, was supplied with chlorate of potassium for
two months. They necessarily consumed a certain quantity of gas,
for they were obliged to keep the producing substance at a
temperature of above 400°. But there again they were all safe. The
apparatus only wanted a little care. But it was not enough to renew
the oxygen; they must absorb the carbonic acid produced by
expiration. During the last twelve hours the atmosphere of the
projectile had become charged with this deleterious gas. Nicholl
discovered the state of the air by observing Diana panting
painfully. The carbonic acid, by a phenomenon similar to that
produced in the famous Grotto del Cane, had collected at the bottom
of the projectile owing to its weight. Poor Diana, with her head
low, would suffer before her masters from the presence of this gas.
But Captain Nicholl hastened to remedy this state of things, by
placing on the floor several receivers containing caustic potash,
which he shook about for a time, and this substance, greedy of
carbonic acid, soon completely absorbed it, thus purifying the
An inventory of instruments was then begun. The thermometers and
barometers had resisted, all but one minimum thermometer, the glass
of which was broken. An excellent aneroid was drawn from the wadded
box which contained it and hung on the wall. Of course it was only
affected by and marked the pressure of the air inside the
projectile, but it also showed the quantity of moisture which it
contained. At that moment its needle oscillated between 25.24 and
It was fine weather.
Barbicane had also brought several compasses, which he found
intact. One must understand that under present conditions their
needles were acting wildly, that is without any constant direction.
Indeed, at the distance they were from the earth, the magnetic pole
could have no perceptible action upon the apparatus; but the box
placed on the lunar disc might perhaps exhibit some strange
phenomena. In any case it would be interesting to see whether the
earth’s satellite submitted like herself to its magnetic
A hypsometer to measure the height of the lunar mountains, a
sextant to take the height of the sun, glasses which would be
useful as they neared the moon, all these instruments were
carefully looked over, and pronounced good in spite of the violent
As to the pickaxes and different tools which were
Nicholl’s especial choice; as to the sacks of different kinds
of grain and shrubs which Michel Ardan hoped to transplant into
Selenite ground, they were stowed away in the upper part of the
projectile. There was a sort of granary there, loaded with things
which the extravagant Frenchman had heaped up. What they were no
one knew, and the good-tempered fellow did not explain. Now and
then he climbed up by cramp-irons riveted to the walls, but kept
the inspection to himself. He arranged and rearranged, he plunged
his hand rapidly into certain mysterious boxes, singing in one of
the falsest of voices an old French refrain to enliven the
Barbicane observed with some interest that his guns and other
arms had not been damaged. These were important, because, heavily
loaded, they were to help lessen the fall of the projectile, when
drawn by the lunar attraction (after having passed the point of
neutral attraction) on to the moon’s surface; a fall which
ought to be six times less rapid than it would have been on the
earth’s surface, thanks to the difference of bulk. The
inspection ended with general satisfaction, when each returned to
watch space through the side windows and the lower glass
There was the same view. The whole extent of the celestial
sphere swarmed with stars and constellations of wonderful purity,
enough to drive an astronomer out of his mind! On one side the sun,
like the mouth of a lighted oven, a dazzling disc without a halo,
standing out on the dark background of the sky! On the other, the
moon returning its fire by reflection, and apparently motionless in
the midst of the starry world. Then, a large spot seemingly nailed
to the firmament, bordered by a silvery cord; it was the earth!
Here and there nebulous masses like large flakes of starry snow;
and from the zenith to the nadir, an immense ring formed by an
impalpable dust of stars, the “Milky Way,” in the midst
of which the sun ranks only as a star of the fourth magnitude. The
observers could not take their eyes from this novel spectacle, of
which no description could give an adequate idea. What reflections
it suggested! What emotions hitherto unknown awoke in their souls!
Barbicane wished to begin the relation of his journey while under
its first impressions, and hour after hour took notes of all facts
happening in the beginning of the enterprise. He wrote quietly,
with his large square writing, in a business-like style.
During this time Nicholl, the calculator, looked over the
minutes of their passage, and worked out figures with unparalleled
dexterity. Michel Ardan chatted first with Barbicane, who did not
answer him, and then with Nicholl, who did not hear him, with
Diana, who understood none of his theories, and lastly with
himself, questioning and answering, going and coming, busy with a
thousand details; at one time bent over the lower glass, at another
roosting in the heights of the projectile, and always singing. In
this microcosm he represented French loquacity and excitability,
and we beg you to believe that they were well represented. The day,
or rather (for the expression is not correct) the lapse of twelve
hours, which forms a day upon the earth, closed with a plentiful
supper carefully prepared. No accident of any nature had yet
happened to shake the travelers’ confidence; so, full of
hope, already sure of success, they slept peacefully, while the
projectile under an uniformly decreasing speed was crossing the
Back | Round the Moon | Next