페이지 이미지

power and open op de pointed out, a mund the Church of

I regret to disappoint Mr. Taunton and his party, but they must not be surprised if I decline to be silenced by cheap ridicule. There are many, as good Catholics as they, who are honest enough to distinguish between opposition to Vaticanism as a political and social power and open opposition to the Church as a religious body.

As I have aliteady pointed out, a man, even if he have the misfortune to be a novelist, must either be in the Church of Rome or out of it. There are only two methods by which he can forfeit the right officially to define himself as a Roman Catholic-namely, voluntary retirement or formal excommunication. I confess that the prospect of the latter does not arouse my superstitious fears sufficiently to tempt me to discount its terrors by taking the former step, much as my doing so would gratify my critics. The accident of having been born in the nineteenth instead of the sixth or even the fifteenth century robs the priestly anathema of the terrors with which it might otherwise have inspired me. I fear that Mr. Taunton will attribute this to defective imagination on the part of a novelist who has ventured to criticise the musical programme of a Pope.



The object of the present paper is to indicate the reasonable practicability of investigating, at inconsiderable risk to human life, a land .which, hitherto bidding defiance to the boldest explorers, has through all time remained untraversed by civilised man, yet one to which perhaps before all other lands of the wondrous East there attaches more absorbing interest, more of marvel and mystery, and which moreover may, for all that has been inferred to the contrary, be found to yield the richest prizes of discovery. The country to which we refer is Central Arabia, and the mode of approach that we advocate is one which, while it appeals to a spirit of highest enterprise, involves no mere wild or untried scheme. The true roadway across the barrier presented not only by the physical difficulties of a waterless wilderness but also by the hostility of native fanaticism is, we are convinced, not by the desert but by sky. And here it cannot be said that such previous trials and experience as we have to judge from offer any really adverse argument. Let us carefully examine the case as we find it.

The lamentable termination of Andrée’s dash to the Pole may have, indeed, for a while diverted the public mind from the contemplation of that perfectly legitimate and logical application of modern science and skill—the exploration of inaccessible tracts of the globe by balloon. It might, indeed, seem as though for the present the world is standing watching the modern airship, and the yet more recently conceived though somewhat visionary flying-machine, in the hope that these will prove capable of achieving what the balloon has as yet failed to accomplish. Yet the results of past months go to prove that we cannot hope, at least until great advances have been made, that any form of aerial motor will be able, holding a definite course of its own, to contend with the streams and storms which prevail but a little way above the earth's surface.

On the other hand, it should on no account be forgotten that the balloon in Andrée's hands, and in his peculiar circumstances, cannot be said to have had a reasonably fair trial. Owing to the exigencies of the case, the balloon, which seems after all to have hardly been the best for the exceptional purpose in hand, had to be kept inflated for nearly three weeks, while the intrepid navigators were waiting for their wind, during all which time leakage was going on at a known and very appreciable rate ; and thus it came about that in the end Andrée was constrained to commit himself to a wind that was not wholly favourable. To have been entirely in the right direction it should have been due south, whereas on the eve of starting it veered somewhat west of south, and, with fatal allurement' whistling through the woodwork of the shed and flapping the canvas,' urged the voyagers prematurely to their ill-fated venture. And other conditions must have told, and perhaps more seriously, against the success of that hazardous expedition. The extremely low temperature near the Pole would not only cause shrinkage of the gas, but also a constant deposition of the weight of condensed moisture, if not of snow, on the surface of the balloon. "

But over and above all, the mode adopted for the controlling of the balloon would be very largely against the possibility of a prolonged voyage. This mode, it will be remembered, was by means of a trail rope dragging on the ice, which, so long as it was in contact with earth, would render a rudder sail operative to a small extent. Its very efficiency, however, depended on its actually slowing down the speed of the balloon, while it is well known to all aeronauts of experience that it is an exceedingly difficult manquvre to keep a trail rope dragging on the ground if it is desired to prevent collision with the earth, on the one hand, or, on the other hand, to avoid loss of gas, inasmuch as a slight increase of temperature, or drying off of condensed moisture, may-indeed, is sure after a while to lift the rope off the ground, in which case the balloon, rising into upper levels, is liable to be borne away on currents which may be from almost any direction, and of which the observer below may have no cognisance. Thus it will have to be acknowledged that Andrée set himself a task of great difficulty, in which the chances were largely against him; yet, in spite of all we learn from a message recovered from a carrier pigeon that at the end of forty-eight hours the voyagers were full of hope, with their aerial vessel still going strong, and maintaining with good promise what must certainly have proved to be the longest sky journey in time of any yet made on our planet.

But let us now turn to the possibilities of balloon travel under practicable and altogether more favourable circumstances, where climate, instead of being opposed, would be strongly in the balloon's favour, and where the utmost advantage could be taken of the winds, not as they travel more sluggishly near the earth's surface, but as they blow in strength in the free heavens aloft.

America may fairly claim to have been the first to furnish an aerial explorer of the first rank as bold and enterprising as he was confident, who offered, as far back as fifty years ago, to vindicate the capability of the balloon to accomplish exploration of the globe.

His project was to make the transit of the Atlantic by a purely scientific method of aerial navigation which he himself conceived, and the soundness of which is upheld by the leading meteorologists of to-day. It was in 1843 that John Wise wrote to the Lancaster Intelligencer :

Having from a long experience in aeronautics been convinced that a constant and regular current of air is blowing at all times from west to east, with a velocity of from twenty to forty and even sixty miles an hour, according to its height from the earth, and having discovered a composition which renders silk or muslin impervious to hydrogen gas, so that a balloon may be kept afloat for many weeks, I feel confident that with these advantages a trip across the Atlantic will not be attended with as much real danger as by the common mode of transition.

[ocr errors]

Wise further specified that the requisite balloon should be of a hundred feet diameter, and twenty thousand pounds lifting power, and were such a craft provided him he announced his readiness to attempt the proposed venture.

Had this enterprising offer been taken up and successfully carried through, it cannot be doubted that there would be fewer untravelled and unexploited regions of the globe than there are to-day. The mere crossing of the Atlantic on the back of the west wind would have added nought to our geographical knowledge, but it would have proved the possibility of utilising the same westerly wind drift, which we have shortly to consider-to reconnoitre untrodden tracts, more particularly on the great desert belt of the earth, in comparative safety, at a relatively trifling cost, with great expedition withal, and yet with full leisure to make notes by the way, as also to sketch or photograph, not a mere track only as seen by a weary traveller from the height of a camel's back, but a broad tract with a practicable. horizon of near one hundred miles on either side.

Now, among eminent meteorologists there is a general agreement of opinion as to such a prevalence of westerly winds aloft as would well serve the purpose of the aeronaut Arabian explorer. Ferrel, having shown in his practical treatise that strong wind currents from the west are in general required by theoretical considerations, goes on to say that any one of ordinary observing habits could scarcely live a week upon the earth without discovering from the motions of the clouds, and especially the very high cirrus clouds, that the general tendency of the air above is towards the east.

Again, Espy says :

I have found the true cirrus cloud to average scarcely once a year from any eastern direction, and when they do come from that direction it is only when there is a storm of uncommon violence in the east. Mr. Ley also, in his numerous observations of the cirrus clouds, almost universally found them to have a motion towards the east from which they rarely deviated.

Vol. LVI-No. 330

Observations of the directions of clouds at Zi-ka-wei, 31° 12' N. lat., 121° 26' E. long., and again at Colonia Tover, Venezuela, lat. 10° 26', indicate that the principal component of motion above is an eastern one.

But there are other indications of the drift of upper currents besides that afforded by visible clouds. Thus Ferrel adduces as facts of striking significance :

On the 1st of May, 1812, the island of Barbadoes was suddenly obscured by a shower of ashes from an eruptive volcano of St. Vincent, West Indies, more than a hundred miles to the westward. Also on the 20th of January, 1835, the volcano of Coseguina, Central America, lying in the belt of the north-easterly trade winds, sent forth great quantities of lava and ashes, and the latter were borne in a direction just contrary to that of the surface winds, and lodged in the island of Jamaica, 800 miles to the E.N.E.

With regard to the volcanic eruption of the island of Sumbawa, about two hundred miles east of Java, Lyell says : 'On the side of Java the ashes were carried to the distance of three hundred miles, and two hundred and seventeen miles towards Celebes.' Some of the finest particles, says Mr. Crawford, were transported to the islands of Amboyna and Banda, which last is about eight hundred miles from the site of the volcano, although the south-east monsoon was then at its height. According to Mr. Forbes, the dust cloud from the eruption of Krakatoa was carried on the high winds to no less than twelve hundred miles eastward.

No less convincing is the evidence of the winds as actually encountered on lofty mountains. Leopold von Buch says, with regard to the Peak of Teneriffe: ‘It is hard to find any account of an ascent of the peak in which the strong west wind which has been met with on the summit has not been mentioned.' Again, on Pike's Peak, the observations of the Signal Service, during ten years, show the wind to blow very constantly towards a direction somewhat north of east. So, from the top of Mount Washington, Loomis found the resultant direction of the wind to be west by north. So, again, at Mount Alibut, two hundred miles west of Irkutsk, and over seven thousand feet high, a very constant and strong W.N.W. wind is observed.

And it should be noted that it is when we approach nearer to equatorial latitudes that we find greater regularity in the winds, even such as blow at lower levels. It is a well-known fact that over parts of the Australian wilds there are prevalent upper winds from the north-west. Enduring westerly winds blow across Peru and Brazil ; while undoubtedly across Thibet powerful and long-lasting gales, possibly connected with the monsoons, are the heritage of the country. Equally is this the case with respect to the seaboard of Asia, of which we have particularly to speak, due to a cause which at least is unvarying-namely, the great rarefaction of the atmosphere over the centre of that continent. It is possible to prophesy almost to the

« 이전계속 »