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The Maracot Deep (1929)

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Kothar Bishop
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« on: October 28, 2007, 02:19:38 pm »

The Maracot Deep (1929)
Author:     Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Chapter 1

Since these papers have been put into my hands to edit, I will begin
by reminding the public of the sad loss of the steamship _Stratford_,
which started a year ago upon a voyage for the purpose of oceanography
and the study of deep-sea life. The expedition had been organized by
Dr. Maracot, the famous author of Pseudo-Coralline Formations and The
Morphology of the Lamellibranchs. Dr. Maracot had with him Mr. Cyrus
Headley, formerly assistant at the Zoological Institute of Cambridge,
Massachusetts, and at the time of the voyage Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.
Captain Howie, an experienced navigator, was in charge of the vessel,
and there was a crew of twenty-three men, including an American
mechanic from the Merribank Works, Philadelphia.

This whole party has utterly disappeared, and the only word ever heard
of the ill-fated steamer was from the report of a Norwegian barque
which actually saw a ship, closely corresponding with her description,
go down in the great gale of the autumn of 1926. A lifeboat marked
_Stratford_ was found later in the neighbourhood of the tragedy,
together with some deck gratings, a lifebuoy, and a spar. This,
coupled with the long silence, seemed to make it absolutely sure that
the vessel and her crew would never be heard of more. Her fate is
rendered more certain by the strange wireless message received at the
time, which, though incomprehensible in parts, left little doubt as to
the fate of the vessel. This I will quote later.

There were some remarkable points about the voyage of the _Stratford_
which caused comment at the time. One was the curious secrecy observed
by Professor Maracot. He was famous for his dislike and distrust of
the Press, but it was pushed to an extreme upon this occasion, when he
would neither give information to reporters nor would he permit the
representative of any paper to set foot in the vessel during the weeks
that it lay in the Albert Dock. There were rumours abroad of some
curious and novel construction of the ship which would fit it for
deep-sea work, and these rumours were confirmed from the yard of
Hunter and Company of West Hartlepool, where the structural changes
had actually been carried out. It was at one time said that the whole
bottom of the vessel was detachable, a report which attracted the
attention of the underwriters at Lloyd's, who were, with some
difficulty, satisfied upon the point. The matter was soon forgotten,
but it assumed an importance now when the fate of the expedition has
been brought once more in so extraordinary manner to the notice of the
public.

So much for the beginning of the voyage of the _Stratford_. There are
now four documents which cover the facts so far as they are known. The
first is the letter which was written by Mr. Cyrus Headley, from the
capital of the Grand Canary, to his friend, Sir James Talbot, of
Trinity College, Oxford, upon the only occasion, so far as is known,
when the _Stratford_ touched land after leaving the Thames. The second
is the strange wireless call to which I have alluded. The third is
that portion of the log of the Arabella Knowles which deals with the
vitreous ball. The fourth and last is the amazing contents of that
receptacle, which either represent a most cruel and complex
mystification, or else open up a fresh chapter in human experience the
importance of which cannot be exaggerated. With this preamble I will
now give Mr. Headley's letter, which I owe to the courtesy of Sir
James Talbot, and which has not previously been published. It is dated
October 1st, 1926.

I am mailing this, my dear Talbot, from Porta de la Luz, where we have
put in for a few days of rest. My principal companion in the voyage
has been Bill Scanlan, the head mechanic, who, as a fellow-countryman
and also as a very entertaining character, has become my natural
associate. However, I am alone this morning as he has what he
describes as 'a date with a skirt'. You see, he talks as Englishmen
expect every real American to talk. He would be accepted as the true
breed. The mere force of suggestion makes me 'guess' and 'reckon' when
I am with my English friends. I feel that they would never really
understand that I was a Yankee if I did not. However, I am not on
those terms with you, so let me assure you right now that you will not
find anything but pure Oxford in the epistle which I am now mailing to
you.

You met Maracot at the Mitre, so you know the dry chip of a man that
he is. I told you, I think, how he came to pitch upon me for the job.
He inquired from old Somerville of the Zoological Institute, who sent
him my prize essay on the pelagic crabs, and that did the trick. Of
course, it is splendid to be on such a congenial errand, but I wish it
wasn't with such an animated mummy as Maracot. He is inhuman in his
isolation and his devotion to his work. 'The world's stiffest stiff,'
says Bill Scanlan: And yet you can't but admire such complete
devotion. Nothing exists outside his own science. I remember that you
laughed when I asked him what I ought to read as a preparation, and he
said that for serious study I should read the collected edition of his
own works, but for relaxation Haeckel's Plankton-Studien.

I know him no better now than I did in that little parlour looking out
on the Oxford High. He says nothing, and his gaunt, austere face--the
face of a Savonarola, or rather, perhaps, of a Torquemada--never
relapses into geniality. The long, thin, aggressive nose, the two
small gleaming grey eyes set closely together under a thatch of
eyebrows, the thin-lipped, compressed mouth, the cheeks worn into
hollows by constant thought and ascetic life, are all uncompanionable.
He lives on some mental mountaintop, out of reach of ordinary mortals.
Sometimes I think he is a little mad. For example, this extraordinary
instrument that he has made ... but I'll tell things in their due
order and then you can judge for yourself.

I'll take our voyage from the start. The _Stratford_ is a fine seaworthy
little boat, specially fitted for her job. She is twelve hundred tons,
with clear decks and a good broad beam, furnished with every possible
appliance for sounding, trawling, dredging and tow-netting. She has,
of course, powerful steam winches for hauling the trawls, and a number
of other gadgets of various kinds, some of which are familiar enough,
and some are strange. Below these are comfortable quarters with a
well--fitted laboratory for our special studies.

We had the reputation of being a mystery ship before we started, and I
soon found that it was not undeserved. Our first proceedings were
commonplace enough. We took a turn up the North Sea and dropped our
trawls for a scrape or two, but, as the average depth is not much over
sixty feet and we were specially fitted for very deep-sea work, it
seemed rather a waste of time. Anyhow, save for familiar table fish,
dog-fish, squids, jelly-fish and some terrigenous bottom deposits of
the usual alluvial clay-mud, we got nothing worth writing home about.
Then we rounded Scotland, sighted the Faroes, and came down the
Wyville-Thomson Ridge, where we had better luck. Thence we worked
south to our proper cruising-ground, which was between the African
coast and these islands. We nearly grounded on Fuert-Eventura one
moonless night, but save for that our voyage was uneventful.

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Kothar Bishop
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« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2007, 02:21:31 pm »

During these first weeks I tried to make friends with Maracot, but it
was not easy work. First of all, he is the most absorbed and
absent-minded man in the world. You will remember how you smiled when
he gave the elevator boy a penny under the impression that he was in a
street car. Half the time he is utterly lost in his thoughts, and
seems hardly aware of where he is or what he is doing. Then in the
second place he is secretive to the last degree. He is continually
working at papers and charts, which he shuffles away when I happen to
enter the cabin. It is my firm belief that the man has some secret
project in his mind, but that so long as we are due to touch at any
port he will keep it to himself. That is the impression which I have
received, and I find that Bill Scanlan is of the same opinion.

'Say, Mr. Headley,' said he one evening, when I was seated in the
laboratory testing out the salinity of samples from our hydrographic
soundings, 'what d'you figure out that this guy has in his mind? What
d'you reckon that he means to do?'

'I suppose,' said I, 'that we shall do what the Challenger and a dozen
other exploring ships have done before us, and add a few more species
to the list of fish and a few more entries to the bathymetric chart.'

'Not on your life,' said he. 'If that's your opinion you've got to
guess again. First of all, what am I here for, anyhow?'

'In case the machinery goes wrong,' I hazarded.

'Machinery nothing! The ship's machinery is in charge of MacLaren, the
Scotch engineer. No, sir, it wasn't to run a donkey-engine that the
Merribank folk sent out their star performer. If I pull down fifty
bucks a week it's not for nix. Come here, and I'll make you wise to
it..'

He took a key from his pocket and opened a door at the back of the
laboratory which led us down a companion ladder to a section of the
hold which was cleared right across save for four large glittering
objects half-exposed amid the straw of their huge packing-cases. They
were flat sheets of steel with elaborate bolts and rivets along the
edges. Each sheet was about ten feet square and an inch and a half
thick, with a circular gap of eighteen inches in the middle.

'What in thunder is it?' I asked.

Bill Scanlan's queer face--he looks half-way between a vaudeville
comic and a prize-fighter--broke into a grin at my astonishment.

'That's my baby, sir,' he quoted. 'Yes, Mr. Headley, that's what I am
here for. There is a steel bottom to the thing. It's in that big case
yonder. Then there is a top, kind of arched, and a great ring for a
chain or rope. Now, look here at the bottom of the ship.'

There was a square wooden platform there, with projecting screws at
each corner which showed that it was detachable.

'There is a double bottom,' said Scanlan. 'It may be that this guy is
clean loco, or it may be that he has more in his block than we know,
but if I read him right he means to build up a kind of room--the
windows are in storage here--and lower it through the bottom of the
ship. He's got electric searchlights here, and I allow that he plans
to shine 'em through the round portholes and see what's goin' on
around.'

'He could have put a crystal sheet into the ship, like the Catalina
Island boats, if that was all that was in his mind,' said I.

'You've said a mouthful,' said Bill Scanlan, scratching his head. 'I
can't figger it out nohow. The only one sure thing is, that I've been
sent to be under his orders and to help him with the darn fool thing
all I can. He has said nothin' up to now, so I've said the same, but
I'll just snoop around, and if I wait long enough I'll learn all there
is to know.'

So that was how I first got on to the edge of our mystery. We ran into
some dirty weather after that, and then we got to work doing some
deep-sea trawling north-west of Cape Juba, just outside the
Continental Slope, and taking temperature readings and salinity
records. It's a sporting proposition, this deep-sea dragging with a
Peterson otter trawl gaping twenty feet wide for everything that comes
its way--sometimes down a quarter of a mile and bringing up one lot
of fish, sometimes half a mile and quite a different lot, every
stratum of ocean with its own inhabitants as separate as so many
continents. Sometimes from the bottom we would just bring up half a
ton of clear pink jelly, the raw material of life, or, maybe, it would
be a scoop of pteropod ooze, breaking up under the microscope into
millions of tiny round reticulated balls with amorphous mud between. I
won't bore you with all the brotulids and macrurids, the ascidians and
holothurians and polyzoa and echinoderms--anyhow, you can reckon that
there is a great harvest in the sea, and that we have been diligent
reapers. But always I had the same feeling that the heart of Maracot
was not in the job, and that other plans were in that queer high,
narrow Egyptian mummy of a head. It all seemed to me to be a try-out
of men and things until the real business got going.

I had got as far as this in my letter when I went ashore to have a
last stretch, for we sail in the early morning. It's as well, perhaps,
that I did go, for there was no end of a barney going on upon the
pier, with Maracot and Bill Scanlan right in the heart of it. Bill is
a bit of a scrapper, and has what he calls a mean wallop in both
mitts, but with half a dozen Dagoes with knives all round them things
looked ugly, and it was time that I butted in. It seems that the
Doctor had hired one of the things they call cabs, and had driven half
over the island inspecting the geology, but had clean forgotten that
he had no money on him. When it came to paying, he could not make
these country hicks understand, and the cabman had grabbed his watch
so as to make sure. That brought Bill Scanlan into action, and they
would have both been on the floor with their backs like pin-cushions
if I had not squared the matter up, with a dollar or two over for the
driver and a five-dollar bonus for the chap with the mouse under his
eye. So all ended well, and Maracot was more human than ever I saw him
yet. When we got to the ship he called me into the little cabin which
he reserves for himself and he thanked me.

'By the way, Mr. Headley,' he said, 'I understand that you are not a
married man?'

'No,' said I, 'I am not.'

'No one depending upon you?'

'No.'

'Good!' said he. 'I have not spoken of the object of this voyage
because I have, for my own reasons, desired it to be secret. One of
those reasons was that I feared to be forestalled. When scientific
plans get about one may be served as Scott was served by Amundsen. Had
Scott kept his counsel as I have done, it would be he and not Amundsen
who would have been the first at the South Pole. For my part, I have
quite as important a destination as the South Pole, and so I have been
silent. But now we are on the eve of our great adventure and no rival
has time to steal my plans. Tomorrow we start for our real goal.'

'And what is that?' I asked.

He leaned forward, his ascetic face all lit up with the enthusiasm of
the fanatic.

'Our goal,' said he, 'is the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.'

And right here I ought to stop, for I expect it has taken away your
breath as it did mine. If I were a story-writer, I guess I should
leave it at that. But as I am just a chronicler of what occurred, I
may tell you that I stayed another hour in the cabin of old man
Maracot, and that I learned a lot, which there is still just time for
me to tell you before the last shore boat leaves.

'Yes, young man,' said he, 'you may write freely now, for by the time
your letter reaches England we shall have made the plunge.'

This started him sniggering, for he has a queer dry sense of humour of
his own.

'Yes, sir, the plunge is the right word on this occasion, a plunge
which will be historic in the annals of Science. Let me tell you, in
the first place, that I am well convinced that the current doctrine as
to the extreme pressure of the ocean at great depths is entirely
misleading. It is perfectly clear that other factors exist which
neutralize the effect, though I am not yet prepared to say what those
factors may be. That is one of the problems which we may settle. Now,
what pressure, may I ask, have you been led to expect under a mile of
water?' He glowered at me through his big horn spectacles.

'Not less than a ton to the square inch,' I answered. 'Surely that has
been clearly shown.'

'The task of the pioneer has always been to disprove the thing which
has been clearly shown. Use your brains, young man. You have been for
the last month fishing up some of the most delicate Bathic forms of
life, creatures so delicate that you could hardly transfer them from
the net to the tank without marring their sensitive shapes. Did you
find that there was evidence upon them of this extreme pressure?'

'The pressure,' said I, 'equalized itself. It was the same within as
without.'

'Words--mere words!' he cried, shaking his lean head impatiently.
'You have brought up round fish, such fish as Gastro-stomus globulus.
Would they not have been squeezed flat had the pressure been as you
imagine? Or look at our otter-boards. They are not squeezed together
at the mouth of the trawl.'

'But the experience of divers?'

'Certainly it holds good up to a point. They do find a sufficient
increase of pressure to influence what is perhaps the most sensitive
organ of the body, the interior of the ear. But as I plan it, we shall
not be exposed to any pressure at all. We shall be lowered in a steel
cage with crystal windows on each side for observation. If the
pressure is not strong enough to break in an inch and a half of
toughened double-nickelled steel, then it cannot hurt us. It is an
extension of the experiment of the Williamson Brothers at Nassau, with
which no doubt you are familiar. If my calculation is wrong--well,
you say that no one is dependent upon you. We shall die in a great
adventure. Of course, if you would rather stand clear, I can go
alone.'

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Kothar Bishop
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« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2007, 02:31:03 pm »

It seemed to me the maddest kind of scheme, and yet you know how
difficult it is to refuse a dare. I played for time while I thought it
over.

'How deep do you propose to go, sir?' I asked.

He had a chart pinned upon the table, and he placed the end of his
compasses upon a point which lies to the south-west of the Canaries.

'Last year I did some sounding in this part,' said he.

'There is a pit of great depth. We got twenty-five thousand feet
there. I was the first to report it. Indeed, I trust that you will
find it on the charts of the future as the "Maracot Deep".'

'But, good God, sir!' I cried, 'you don't propose to descend into an
abyss like that?'

'No, no,' he answered, smiling. 'Neither our lowering chain nor our
air tubes reach beyond half a mile. But I was going to explain to you
that round this deep crevasse, which has no doubt been formed by
volcanic forces long ago, there is a varied ridge or narrow plateau,
which is not more than three hundred fathoms under the surface.'

'Three hundred fathoms! A third of a mile!'

'Yes, roughly a third of a mile. It is my present intention that we
shall be lowered in our little pressure-proof look-out station on to
this submarine bank. There we shall make such observations as we can.
A speaking-tube will connect us with the ship so that we can give our
directions. There should be no difficulty in the mater. When we wish
to be hauled up we have only to say so.'

'And the air?'

'Will be pumped down to us.'

'But it will be pitch-dark.'

'That, I fear, is undoubtedly true. The experiments of Fol and Sarasin
at the Lake of Geneva show that even the ultra-violet rays are absent
at that depth. But does it matter? We shall be provided with the
powerful electric illumination from the ship's engines, supplemented
by six two-volt Hellesens dry cells connected together so as to give a
current of twelve volts. That, with a Lucas army signalling lamp as a
movable reflector, should serve our turn. Any other difficulties?'

'If our air lines tangle?'

'They won't tangle. And as a reserve we have compressed air in tubes
which would last us twenty--four hours. Well, have I satisfied you?
Will you come?'

It was not an easy decision. The brain works quickly and imagination
is a mighty vivid thing. I seemed to realize that black box down in
the primeval depths, to feel the foul twice-breathed air, and then to
see the walls sagging, bulging inwards, rending at the joints with the
water spouting in at every rivet-hole and crevice and crawling up from
below. It was a slow, dreadful death to die. But I looked up, and
there were the old man's fiery eyes fixed upon me with the exaltation
of a martyr to Science. It's catching, that sort of enthusiasm, and if
it be crazy, it is at least noble and unselfish. I caught fire from
his great flame, and I sprang to my feet with my hand out.

'Doctor, I'm with you to the end,' said I.

'I knew it,' said he. 'It was not for your smattering of learning that
I picked you, my young friend, nor,' he added, smiling, 'for your
intimate acquaintance with the pelagic crabs. There are other
qualities which may be more immediately useful, and they are loyalty
and courage.'

So with that little bit of sugar I was dismissed, with my future
pledged and my whole scheme of life in ruins. Well, the last shore
boat is leaving. They are calling for the mail. You will either not
hear from me again, my dear Talbot, or you will get a letter worth
reading. If you don't hear you can have a floating headstone and drop
it somewhere south of the Canaries with the inscription :

'Here, or Hereabouts, lies all that the fishes have left of my friend,
CYRUS J. HEADLEY.'

The second document in the case is the unintelligible wireless message
which was intercepted by several vessels, including the Royal Mail
steamer Arroya. It was received at 3 p.m. October 3rd, 1926, which
shows that it was dispatched only two days after the _Stratford_ left
the Grand Canary, as shown in the previous letter, and it corresponds
roughly with the time when the Norwegian barque saw a steamer founder
in a cyclone two hundred miles to the south-west of Porta de la Luz.
It ran thus :

Blown on our beam ends. Fear position hopeless. Have already lost
Maracot, Headley, Scanlan. Situation incomprehensible. Headley
handkerchief end of deep sea sounding wire. God help us! S. S.
_Stratford_

This was the last, incoherent message which came from the ill-fated
vessel, and part of it was so strange that it was put down to delirium
on the part of the operator. It seemed, however, to leave no doubt as
to the fate of the ship.

The explanation--if it can be accepted as an explanation--of the
matter is to be found in the narrative concealed inside the vitreous
ball, and first it would be as well to amplify the very brief account
which has hitherto appeared in the Press of the finding of the ball. I
take it verbatim from the log of the Arabella Knowles, master Amos
Green, outward bound with coals from Cardiff to Buenos Aires :

'Wednesday, Jan. 5th, 1927. Lat. 27.14, Long. 28 West. Calm weather.
Blue sky with low banks of cirrus clouds. Sea like glass. At two bells
of the middle watch the first officer reported that he had seen a
shining object bound high out of the sea, and then fall back into it.
His first impression was that it was some strange fish, but on
examination with his glasses he observed that it was a silvery globe,
or ball, which was so light that it lay, rather than floated, on the
surface of the water. I was called and saw it, as large as a football,
gleaming brightly about half a mile off on our starboard beam. I
stopped the engines and called away the quarter-boat under the second
mate, who picked the thing up and brought it aboard.

'On examination it proved to be a ball made of some sort of very tough
glass, and filled with a substance so light that when it was tossed in
the air it wavered about like a child's balloon. It was nearly
transparent, and we could see what looked like a roll of paper inside
it. The material was so tough, however, that we had the greatest
possible difficulty in breaking the ball open and getting at the
contents. A hammer would not crack it, and it was only when the chief
engineer nipped it in the throw of the engine that we were able to
smash it. Then I am sorry to say that it dissolved into sparkling
dust, so that it was impossible to collect any good-sized piece for
examination. We got the paper, however, and, having examined it and
concluded that it was of great importance, we laid it aside with the
intention of handing it over to the British Consul when we reached the
Plate River. Man and boy, I have been at sea for five-and-thirty
years, but this is the strangest thing that ever befell me, and so
says every man aboard this ship. I leave the meaning of it all to
wiser heads than mine.'

So much for the genesis of the narrative of Cyrus J. Headley, which we
will now give exactly as written :

Whom am I writing to? Well, I suppose I may say to the whole wide
world, but as that is rather a vague address I'll aim at my friend Sir
James Talbot, of Oxford University, for the reason that my last letter
was to him and this may be regarded as a continuation. I expect the
odds are a hundred to one that this ball, even if it should see the
light of day and not be gulped by a shark in passing, will toss about
on the waves and never catch the eye of the passing sailor, and yet
it's worth trying, and Maracot is sending up another, so, between us,
it may be that we shall get our wonderful story to the world. Whether
the world will believe it is another matter, I guess, but when folk
look at the ball with its vitrine cover and note its contents of
levigen gas, they will surely see for themselves that there is
something here that is out of the ordinary. You at any rate, Talbot,
will not throw it aside unread.

If anyone wants to know how the thing began, and what we were trying
to do, he can find it all in a letter I wrote you on October 1st last
year, the night before we left Porta de la Luz. By George! If I had
known what was in store for us, I think I should have sneaked into a
shore boat that night. And yet--well, maybe, even with my eyes open I
would have stood by the Doctor and seen it through. On second thoughts
I have not a doubt that I would.

Well, starting from the day that we left Grand Canary I will carry on
with my experiences.

The moment we were clear, of the port, old man Maracot fairly broke
into flames. The time for action had come at last and all the
damped-down energy of the man came flaring up. I tell you he took hold
of that ship and of everyone and everything in it, and bent it all to
his will. The dry, creaking, absent-minded scholar had suddenly
vanished, and instead there emerged a human electrical machine,
crackling with vitality and quivering from the great driving force
within. His eyes gleamed behind his glasses like flames in a lantern.
He seemed to be everywhere at once, working out distances on his
chart, comparing reckonings with the skipper, driving Bill Scanlan
along, setting me on to a hundred odd jobs, but it was all full of
method and with a definite end. He developed an unexpected knowledge
of electricity and of mechanics and spent much of his time working at
the machinery which Scanlan, under his supervision, was now carefully
piecing together.

'Say, Mr. Headley, it's just dandy,' said Bill, on the morning of the
second day. 'Come in here and have a look. The Doc. is a regular
fellow and a whale of a slick mechanic.'
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« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2007, 02:34:09 pm »

I had a most unpleasant impression that it was my own coffin at which
I was gazing, but, even so, I had to admit that it was a very adequate
mausoleum. The floor had been clamped to the four steel walls, and the
porthole windows screwed into the centre of each. A small trapdoor at
the top gave admission, and there was a second one at the base. The
steel cage was supported by a thin but very powerful steel hawser,
which ran over a drum, and was paid out or rolled in by the strong
engine which we used for our deep-sea trawls. The hawser, as I
understood, was nearly half a mile in length, the slack of it coiled
round bollards on the deck. The rubber breathing-tubes were of the
same length, and the telephone wire was connected with them, and also
the wire by which the electric lights within could be operated from
the ship's batteries, though we had an independent instalment as well.

It was on the evening of that day that the engines were stopped. The
glass was low, and a thick black cloud rising upon the horizon gave
warning of coming trouble. The only ship in sight was a barque flying
the Norwegian colours, and we observed that it was reefed down, as if
expecting trouble. For the moment, however, all was propitious and the
_Stratford_ rolled gently upon a deep blue ocean, white-capped here and
there from the breath of the trade wind. Bill Scanlan came to me in my
laboratory with more show of excitement than his easy-going
temperament had ever permitted him to show.

'Look it here, Mr. Headley,' said he, 'they've lowered that
contraption into a well in the bottom of the ship. D'you figure that
the Boss is going down in it?'

'Certain sure, Bill. And I am going with him.'

'Well, well, you are sure bughouse, the two of you, to think of such a
thing. But I'd feel a cheap skate if I let you go alone.'

'It is no business of yours, Bill.!

'Well, I just feel that it is. Sure, I'd be as yellow as a Chink with
the jaundice if I let you go alone. Merribanks sent me here to look
after the machinery, and if the machinery is down at the bottom of the
sea, then it's a sure thing that it's me for the bottom. Where those
steel castings are--that's the address of Bill Scanlan--whether the
folk round him are crazy or no.'

It was useless to argue with him, so one more was added to our little
suicide club and we just waited for our orders.

All night they were hard at work upon the fittings, and it was after
an early breakfast that we descended into the hold ready for our
adventure. The steel cage had been half lowered into the false bottom,
and we now descended one by one through the upper trap-door, which was
closed and screwed down behind us, Captain Howie with a most
lugubrious face having shaken hands with each of us as we passed him.
We were then lowered a few more feet, the shutter drawn above our
heads, and the water admitted to test how far we were really
seaworthy. The cage stood the trial well, every joint fitted exactly,
and there was no sign of any leakage. Then the lower flap in the hold
was loosened and we hung suspended in the ocean beneath the level of
the keel.

It was really a very snug little room, and I marvelled at the skill
and foresight with which everything had been arranged. The electric
illumination had not been turned on, but the semi--tropical sun shone
brightly through the bottle-green water at either porthole. Some small
fish were flickering here and there, streaks of silver against the
green background. Inside there was a settee round the little room,
with a bathymetric dial, a thermometer, and other instruments ranged
above it. Beneath the settee was a row of pipes which represented our
reserve supply of compressed air in case the tubes should fail us.
Those tubes opened out above our heads, and the telephonic apparatus
hung beside them. We could all hear the mournful voice of the captain
outside.

'Are you really determined to go?' he asked.

'We are quite all right,' the Doctor answered, impatiently. 'You will
lower slowly and have someone at the receiver all the time. I will
report conditions. When we reach the bottom, remain as you are until I
give instructions. It will not do to put too much strain upon the
hawser, but a slow movement of a couple of knots an hour should be
well within its strength. And now "Lower away!" '

He yelled out the two words with the scream of a lunatic. It was the
supreme moment of his life, the fruition of all his brooding dreams.
For an instant I was shaken by the thought that we were really in the
power of a cunning, plausible monomaniac. Bill Scanlan had the same
thought, for he looked across at me with a rueful grin and touched his
forehead. But after that one wild outburst our leader was instantly
his sober, self-contained self once more. Indeed, one had but to look
at the order and forethought which showed itself in every detail
around us to be reassured as to the power of his mind.

But now all our attention was diverted to the wonderful new experience
which every instant was providing. Slowly the cage was sinking into
the depths of the ocean. Light green water turned to dark olive. That
again deepened into a wonderful blue, a rich deep blue gradually
thickening to a dusky purple. Lower and lower we sank--a hundred
feet, two hundred feet, three hundred. The valves were acting to
perfection. Our breathing was as free and natural as upon the deck of
the vessel. Slowly the bathymeter needle moved round the luminous
dial. Four hundred, five hundred, six hundred. 'How are you?' roared
an anxious voice from above us.

'Nothing could be better,' cried Maracot in reply. But the light was
failing. There was now only a dim grey twilight which rapidly changed
to utter darkness. 'Stop her!' shouted our leader. We ceased to move
and hung suspended at seven hundred feet below the surface of the
ocean. I heard the click of the switch, and the next instant we were
flooded with glorious golden light which poured out through each of
our side windows and sent long glimmering vistas into the waste of
waters round us. With our faces against the thick glass, each at our
own porthole, we gazed out into such a prospect as man had never seen.

Up to now we had known these strata by the sight of the few fish which
had been too slow to avoid our clumsy trawl, or too stupid to escape a
drag-net. Now we saw the wonderful world of water as it really was. If
the object of creation was the production of man, it is strange that
the ocean is so much more populous than the land. Broadway on a
Saturday night, Lombard Street on a week-day afternoon, are not more
crowded than the great sea spaces which lay before us. We had passed
those surface strata where fish are either colourless or of the true
maritime tints of ultramarine above and silver below. Here there were
creatures of every conceivable tint and form which pelagic life can
show. Delicate leptocephali or eel larva shot like streaks of
burnished silver across the tunnel of radiance. The slow snake-like
form of muroena, the deepsea lamprey, writhed and twisted by, or the
black ceratia, all spikes and mouth, gaped foolishly back at our
peering faces. Sometimes it was the squat cuttlefish which drifted
across and glanced at us with human sinister eyes, sometimes it was
some crystal-clear pelagic form of life, cystoma or glaucus, which
lent a flower--like charm to the scene. One huge caranx, or horse
mackerel, butted savagely again and again against our window until the
dark shadow of a seven-foot shark came across him, and he vanished
into its gaping jaws. Dr. Maracot sat entranced, his notebook upon his
knee, scribbling down his observations and keeping up a muttered
monologue of scientific comment. 'What's that? What's that?' I would
hear. 'Yes, yes, chimoera mirabilis as taken by the Michael Sars. Dear
me, there is lepidion, but a new species as I should judge. Observe
that macrurus, Mr. Headley; its colouring is quite different to what
we get in the net.' Once only was he taken quite aback. It was when a
long oval object shot with great speed past his window from above, and
left a vibrating tail behind it which extended as far as we could see
above us and below. I admit that I was as puzzled for the moment as
the Doctor, and it was Bill Scanlan who solved the mystery.

'I guess that boob, John Sweeney, has heaved his lead alongside of us.
Kind of a joke, maybe, to prevent us from feeling lonesome.'

'To be sure! To be sure!' said Maracot, sniggering. 'Plumbus
longicaudatus--a new genus, Mr. Headley, with a piano-wire tail and
lead in its nose. But, indeed, it is very necessary they should take
soundings so as to keep above the bank, which is circumscribed in
size. All well, Captain!' he shouted. 'You may drop us down.'

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« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2007, 02:34:49 pm »

And down we went. Dr. Maracot turned off the electric light and all
was pitch-darkness once more save for the bathymeter's luminous face,
which ticked off our steady fall. There was a gentle sway, but
otherwise we were hardly conscious of any motion. Only that moving
hand upon the dial told us of our terrific, our inconceivable,
position. Now we were at the thousand-foot level, and the air had
become distinctly foul. Scanlan oiled the valve of the discharge tube
and things were better. At fifteen hundred feet we stopped and swung
in mid-ocean with our lights blazing once more. Some great dark mass
passed us here, but whether swordfish or deep-sea shark, or monster of
unknown breed, was more than we could determine. The Doctor hurriedly
turned off the lights. 'There lies our chief danger,' said he; 'there
are creatures in the deep before whose charge this steel-plated room
would have as much chance as a beehive before the rush of a
rhinoceros.'

'Whales, maybe,' said Scanlan.

'Whales may sound to a great depth,' the savant answered. 'A Greenland
whale has been known to take out nearly a mile of line in a
perpendicular dive. But unless hurt or badly frightened no whale would
descend so low. It may have been a giant squid: They are found at
every level.'

'Well, I guess squids are too soft to hurt us. The laugh would be with
the squid if he could claw a hole in Merribanks' nickel steel.'

'Their bodies may be soft,' the Professor answered, 'but the beak of a
large squid would sheer through a bar of iron, and one peck of that
beak might go through these inch-thick windows as if they were
parchment.'

'Gee Whittaker!' cried Bill, as we resumed our downward journey.

And then at last, quite softly and gently, we came to rest. So
delicate was the impact that we should hardly have known of it had it
not been that the light when turned on showed great coils of the
hawser all around us. The wire was a danger to our breathing tubes,
for it might foul them, and at the urgent cry of Maracot it was pulled
taut from above once more. The dial marked eighteen hundred feet. We
lay motionless on a volcanic ridge at the bottom of the Atlantic.

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« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2007, 02:36:48 pm »

Chapter 2

For a time I think that we all had the same feeling. We did not want
to do anything or to see anything. We just wanted to sit quiet and try
to realize the wonder of it--that we should be resting in the plumb
centre of one of the great oceans of the world. But soon the strange
scene round us, illuminated in all directions by our lights, drew us
to the windows.

We had settled upon a bed of high algae ('Cutleria multifida,' said
Maracot), the yellow fronds of which waved around us, moved by some
deep-sea current, exactly as branches would move in a summer breeze.
They were not long enough to obscure our view, though their great flat
leaves, deep golden in the light, flowed occasionally across our
vision. Beyond them lay slopes of some blackish slag-like material
which were dotted with lovely coloured creatures, holothurians,
ascidians, echini and echinoderms, as thickly as ever an English
spring time bank was sprinkled with hyacinths and primroses. These
living flowers of the sea, vivid scarlet, rich purple and delicate
pink, were spread in profusion upon that coal-black background. Here
and there great sponges bristled out from the crevices of the dark
rocks, and a few fish of the middle depths, themselves showing up as
flashes of colour, shot across our circle of vivid radiance. We were
gazing enraptured at the fairy scene when an anxious voice came down
the tube:

'Well, how do you like the bottom? Is all well with you? Don't be too
long, for the glass is dropping and I don't like the look of it.
Giving you air enough? Anything more we can do?'

'All right, Captain!' cried Maracot, cheerily. 'We won't be long. You
are nursing us well. We are quite as comfortable as in our own cabin.
Stand by presently to move us slowly forwards.'

We had come into the region of the luminous fishes, and it amused us
to turn out our own lights, and in the absolute pitch-darkness--a
darkness in which a sensitive plate can be suspended for an hour
without a trace even of the ultra-violet ray--to look out at the
phosphorescent activity of the ocean. As against a black velvet
curtain one saw little points of brilliant light moving steadily along
as a liner at night might shed light through its long line of
portholes. One terrifying creature had luminous teeth which gnashed in
Biblical fashion in the outer darkness. Another had long golden
antennae, and yet another a plume of flame above its head. As far as
our vision carried, brilliant points flashed in the darkness, each
little being bent upon its own business, and lighting up its own
course as surely as the nightly taxicab at the theatre-hour in the
Strand. Soon we had our own lights up again and the Doctor was making
his observations of the sea-bottom.

'Deep as we are, we are not deep enough to get any of the
characteristic Bathic deposits,' said he. 'These are entirely beyond
our possible range. Perhaps on another occasion with a longer hawser-'

'Cut it out!' growled Bill. 'Forget it!'

Maracot smiled. 'You will soon get acclimatized to the depths,
Scanlan. This will not be our only descent.'

'The Hell you say!' muttered Bill.

'You will think no more of it than of going down into the hold of the
_Stratford_. You will observe, Mr. Headley, that the groundwork here, so
far as we can observe it through the dense growth of hydrozoa and
silicious sponges, is pumicestone and the black slag of basalt,
pointing to ancient plutonic activities. Indeed, I am inclined to
think that it confirms my previous view that this ridge is part of a
volcanic formation and that the Maracot Deep,' he rolled out the words
as if he loved them, 'represents the outer slope of the mountain. It
has struck me that it would be an interesting experiment to move our
cage slowly onwards until we come to the edge of the Deep, and see
exactly what the formation may be at that point. I should expect to
find a precipice of majestic dimensions extending downwards at a sharp
angle into the extreme depths of the ocean.'

The experiment seemed to me to be a dangerous one, for who could say
how far our thin hawser could bear the strain of lateral movement; but
with Maracot danger, either to himself or to anyone else, simply did
not exist when a scientific observation had to be made. I held my
breath, and so I observed did Bill Scanlan, when a slow movement of
our steel shell, brushing aside the waving fronds of seaweed, showed
that the full strain was upon the line. It stood it nobly, however,
and with a very gentle sweeping progression we began to glide over the
bottom of the ocean, Maracot, with a compass in the hollow of his
hand, shouting his direction as to the course to follow, and
occasionally ordering the shell to be raised so as to avoid some
obstacle in our path.

'This basaltic ridge can hardly be more than a mile across,' he
explained. 'I had marked the abyss as being to the west of the point
where we took our plunge. At this rate, we should certainly reach it
in a very short time.'

We slid without any check over the volcanic plain, all feathered by
the waving golden algae and made beautiful by the gorgeous jewels of
Nature's cutting, flaming out from their setting of jet. Suddenly the
Doctor dashed to the telephone.

'Stop her!' he cried. 'We are there!'

A monstrous gap had opened suddenly before us. It was a fearsome
place, the vision of a nightmare. Black shining cliffs of basalt fell
sheer down into the unknown. Their edges were fringed with dangling
laminaria as ferns might overhang some earthly gorge, but beneath that
tossing, vibrating rim there were only the black gleaming walls of the
chasm. The rocky edge curved away from us, but the abyss might be of
any breadth, for our lights failed to penetrate the gloom which lay
before us. When a Lucas signalling lamp was turned downwards it shot
out a long golden lane of parallel beams extending down, down, down
until it was quenched in the gloom of the terrible chasm beneath us.

'It is indeed wonderful!' cried Maracot, gazing out with a pleased
proprietary expression upon his thin, eager face. 'For depth I need
not say that it has often been exceeded. There is the Challenger Deep
of twenty-six thousand feet near the Ladrone Islands, the Planet Deep
of thirty-two thousand feet off the Philippines, and many others, but
it is probable that the Maracot Deep stands alone in the declivity of
its descent, and is remarkable also for its escape from the
observation of so many hydrographic explorers who have charted the
Atlantic. It can hardly be doubted-'

He had stopped in the middle of a sentence and a look of intense
interest and surprise had frozen upon his face. Bill Scanlan and I,
gazing over his shoulders, were petrified by that which met our
startled eyes.

Some great creature was coming up the tunnel of light which we had
projected into the abyss. Far down where it tailed off into the
darkness of the pit we could dimly see the vague black lurchings and
heavings of some monstrous body in slow upward progression. Paddling
in clumsy fashion, it was rising with dim flickerings to the edge of
the gulf. Now, as it came nearer, it was right in the beam, and we
could see its dreadful form more clearly. It was a beast unknown to
Science, and yet with an analogy to much with which we are familiar.
Too long for a huge crab and too short for a giant lobster, it was
moulded more upon the lines of the crayfish, with two monstrous
nippers outstretched on either side, and a pair of sixteen-foot
antennae which quivered in front of its black dull sullen eyes. The
carapace, light yellow in colour, may have been ten feet across, and
its total length, apart from the antennae, must have been not less
than thirty.

'Wonderful!' cried Maracot, scribbling desperately in his notebook.
'Semi-pediculated eyes, elastic lamellae, family crustacea, species
unknown. Crustaceus Maracoti--why not? Why not?'

'By gosh, I'll pass its name, but it seems to me it's coming our way!'
cried Bill. 'Say, Doc, what about putting our light out?'

'Just one moment while I note the reticulations!' cried the
naturalist. 'Yes, yes, that will do.' He clicked off the switch and we
were back in our inky darkness, with only the darting lights outside
like meteors on a moonless night.

'That beast is sure the world's worst,' said Bill, wiping his
forehead. 'I felt like the morning after a bottle of Prohibition
Hoosh.'

'It is certainly terrible to look at,' Maracot remarked, 'and perhaps
terrible to deal with also if we were really exposed to those
monstrous claws. But inside our steel case we can afford to examine
him in safety and at our ease.'

He had hardly spoken when there came a rap as from a pickaxe upon our
outer wall. Then there was a long drawn rasping and scratching, ending
in another sharp rap.

'Say, he wants to come in!' cried Bill Scanlan in alarm. 'By gosh! we
want "No Admission" painted on this shack.' His shaking voice showed
how forced was his merriment, and I confess that my own knees were
knocking together as I was aware of the stealthy monster closing up
with an even blacker darkness each of our windows in succession, as he
explored this strange shell which, could he but crack it, might
contain his food.

'He can't hurt us,' said Maracot, but there was less assurance in his
tone. 'Maybe it would be as well to shake the brute off.' He hailed
the Captain up the tube.

'Pull us up twenty or thirty feet,' he cried.
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« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2007, 02:37:45 pm »

A few seconds later we rose from the lava plain and swung gently in
the still water. But the terrible beast was pertinacious. After a very
short interval we heard once more the raspings of his feelers and the
sharp tappings of his claws as he felt us round. It was terrible to
sit silently in the dark and know that death was so near. If that
mighty claw fell upon the window, would it stand the strain? That was
the unspoken question in each of our minds.

But suddenly an unexpected and more urgent danger presented itself.
The tappings had gone to the roof of our little dwelling, and now we
began to sway with a rhythmic movement to and fro.

'Good God!' I cried. 'It has hold of the hawser. It will surely snap
it.'

'Say, Doc, it's mine for the surface. I guess we've seen what we came
to see, and it's home, sweet home for Bill Scanlan. Ring up the
elevator and get her going.'

'But our work is not half done,' croaked Maracot. 'We have only begun
to explore the edges of the Deep. Let us at least see how broad it is.
When we have reached the other side I shall be content to return.'
Then up the tube: 'All well, Captain. Move on at two knots until I
call for a stop.'

We moved slowly out over the edge of the abyss. Since darkness had not
saved us from attack we now turned on our lights. One of the portholes
was entirely obscured by what appeared to be the creature's lower
stomach. Its head and its great nippers were at work above us, and we
still swayed like a clanging bell. The strength of the beast must have
been enormous. Were ever mortals placed in such a situation, with five
miles of water beneath--and that deadly monster above? The
oscillations became more and more violent. An excited shout came down
the tube from the Captain as he became aware of the jerks upon the
hawser, and Maracot sprang to his feet with his hands thrown upwards
in despair. Even within the shell we were aware of the jar of the
broken wires, and an instant later we were falling into the mighty
gulf beneath us.

As I look back at that awful moment I can remember hearing a wild cry
from Maracot.

'The hawser has parted! You can do nothing! We are all dead men!' he
yelled, grabbing at the telephone tube, and then, 'Good-bye, Captain,
good-bye to all.' They were our last words to the world of men.

We did not fall swiftly down, as you might have imagined. In spite of
our weight our hollow shell gave us some sustaining buoyancy, and we
sank slowly and gently into the abyss. I heard the long scrape as we
slid through the claws of the horrible creature who had been our ruin,
and then with a smooth gyration we went circling downwards into the
abysmal depths. It may have been fully five minutes, and it seemed
like an hour, before we reached the limit of our telephone wire and
snapped it like a thread. Our air tube broke off at almost the same
moment and the salt water came spouting through the vents. With quick,
deft hands Bill Scanlan tied cords round each of the rubber tubes and
so stopped the inrush, while the Doctor released the top of our
compressed air which came hissing forth from the tubes. The lights had
gone out when the wire snapped, but even in the dark the Doctor was
able to connect up the Hellesens dry cells which lit a number of lamps
in the roof.

'It should last us a week,' he said, with a wry smile. 'We shall at
least have light to die in.' Then he shook his head sadly and a kindly
smile came over his gaunt features. 'It is all right for me. I am an
old man and have done my work in the world. My one regret is that I
should have allowed you two young fellows to come with me. I should
have taken the risk alone.'

I simply shook his hand in reassurance, for indeed there was nothing I
could say. Bill Scanlan, too, was silent. Slowly we sank, marking our
pace by the dark fish shadows which flitted past our windows. It
seemed as if they were flying upwards rather than that we were sinking
down. We still oscillated, and there was nothing so far as I could see
to prevent us from falling on our side, or even turning upside down.
Our weight, however, was, fortunately, very evenly balanced and we
kept a level floor. Glancing up at the bathymeter I saw that we had
already reached the depth of a mile.

'You see, it is as I said,' remarked Maracot, with some complacency.
'You may have seen my paper in the Proceedings of the Oceanographical
Society upon the relation of pressure and depth. I wish I could get
one word back to the world, if only to confute Bulow of Giessen, who
ventured to contradict me.'

'My gosh! If I could get a word back to the world I wouldn't waste it
on a square-head highbrow,' said the mechanic. 'There is a little wren
in Philadelphia that will have tears in her pretty eyes when she hears
that Bill Scanlan has passed out. Well, it sure does seem a darned
queer way of doing it, anyhow.'

'You should never have come,' I said, putting my hand on his.

'What sort of tin-horn sport should I have been if I had quitted?' he
answered. 'No, it's my job, and I am glad I stuck it.'

'How long have we?' I asked the Doctor, after a pause.

He shrugged his shoulders.

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« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2007, 02:38:40 pm »

'We shall have time to see the real bottom of the ocean, anyhow,' said
he. 'There is air enough in our tubes for the best part of a day. Our
trouble is with the waste products. That is what is going to choke us.
If we could get rid of our carbon dioxide-'

'That I can see is impossible.'

'There is one tube of pure oxygen. I put it in in case of accidents. A
little of that from time to time will help to keep us alive. You will
observe that we are now more than two miles deep.'

'Why should we try to keep ourselves alive? The sooner it is over the
better,' said I.

'That's the dope,' cried Scanlan. 'Cut loose and have done with it.' .

'And miss the most wonderful sight that man's eye has ever seen!' said
Maracot. 'It would be treason to Science. Let us record facts to the
end, even if they should be for ever buried with our bodies. Play the
game out.'

'Some sport, the Doc!' cried Scanlan. 'I guess he has the best guts of
the bunch. Let us see the spiel to an end.'

We sat patiently on the settee, the three of us, gripping the edges of
it with strained fingers as it swayed and rocked, while the fishes
still flashed swiftly upwards athwart the portholes.

'It is now three miles,' remarked Maracot. 'I will turn on the oxygen,
Mr. Headley, for it is certainly very close. There is one thing,' he
added, with his dry, cackling laugh, 'it will certainly be the Maracot
Deep from this time onwards. When Captain Howie takes back the news my
colleagues will see to it that my grave is also my monument. Even
Bulow of Giessen-' He babbled on about some unintelligible scientific
grievance.

We sat in silence again, watching the needle as it crawled on to its
fourth mile. At one point we struck something heavy, which shook us so
violently that I feared that we would turn upon our side. It may have
been a huge fish, or conceivably we may have bumped upon some
projection of the cliff over the edge of which we had been
precipitated. That edge had seemed to us at the time to be such a
wondrous depth, and now looking back at it from our dreadful abyss it
might almost have been the surface. Still we swirled and circled lower
and lower through the dark green waste of waters. Twenty-five thousand
feet now was registered upon the dial.

'We are nearly at our journey's end,' said Maracot. 'My Scott's
recorder gave me twenty-six thousand seven hundred last year at the
deepest point. We shall know our fate within a few minutes. It may be
that the shock will crush us. It may be--'

And at that moment we landed.

There was never a babe lowered by its mother on to a feather-bed who
nestled down more gently than we on to the extreme bottom of the
Atlantic Ocean. The soft thick elastic ooze upon which we lit was a
perfect buffer, which saved us from the slightest jar. We hardly moved
upon our seats, and it is as well that we did not, for we had perched
upon some sort of a projecting hummock, clothed thickly with the
viscous gelatinous mud, and there we were balanced rocking gently with
nearly half our base projecting and unsupported. There was a danger
that we would tip over on our side, but finally we steadied down and
remained motionless. As we did so Dr. Maracot, staring out through his
porthole, gave a cry of surprise and hurriedly turned out our electric
light.

To our amazement we could still see clearly. There was a dim, misty
light outside which streamed through our porthole, like the cold
radiance of a winter morning. We looked out at the strange scene, and
with no help from our own lights we could see clearly for some hundred
yards in each direction. It was impossible, inconceivable, but none
the less the evidence of our senses told us that it was a fact. The
great ocean floor is luminous.

'Why not?' cried Maracot, when we had stood for a minute or two in
silent wonder. 'Should I not have foreseen it? What is this pteropod
or globigerina ooze? Is it not the product of decay, the mouldering
bodies of a billion billion organic creatures? And is decay not
associated with phosphorescent luminosity? Where, in all creation,
would it be seen if it were not here? Ah! It is indeed hard that we
should have such a demonstration and be unable to send our knowledge
back to the world.'

'And yet,' I remarked, 'we have scooped half a ton of radiolarian
jelly at a time and detected no such radiance.'

'It would lose it, doubtless, in its long journey to the surface. And
what is half a ton compared to these far-stretching plains of slow
putrescence? And see, see,' he cried in uncontrollable excitement,
'the deep-sea creatures graze upon this organic carpet even as our
herds on land graze upon the meadows!'
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« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2007, 02:39:52 pm »

As he spoke a flock of big black fish, heavy and squat, came slowly
over the ocean bed towards us, nuzzling among the spongy growths and
nibbling away as they advanced. Another huge red creature, like a
foolish cow of the ocean, was chewing the cud in front of my porthole,
and others were grazing here and there, raising their heads from, time
to time to gaze at this strange object which had so suddenly appeared
among them.

I could only marvel at Maracot, who in that foul atmosphere, seated
under the very shadow of death, still obeyed the call of Science and
scribbled his observations in his notebook. Without following his
precise methods, I none the less made my own mental notes, which will
remain for ever as a picture stamped upon my brain. The lowest plains
of ocean consist of red clay, but here it was overlaid by the grey
bathybian slime which formed an undulating plain as far as our eyes
could reach. This plain was not smooth, but was broken by numerous
strange rounded hillocks like that upon which we had perched, all
glimmering in the spectral light. Between these little hills there
darted great clouds of strange fish, many of them quite unknown to
Science, exhibiting every shade of colour, but black and red
predominating. Maracot watched them with suppressed excitement and
chronicled them in his notes.

The air had become very foul, and again we were only able to save
ourselves by a fresh emission of oxygen. Curiously enough, we were all
hungry--I should rather say ravenous--and we fell upon the potted
beef with bread and butter, washed down by whisky and water, which the
foresight of Maracot had provided. With my perceptions stimulated by
this refreshment, I was seated at my lookout portal and longing for a
last cigarette, when my eyes caught something which sent a whirl of
strange thoughts and anticipations through my mind.

I have said that the undulating grey plain on every side of us was
studded with what seemed like hummocks. A particularly large one was
in front of my porthole, and I looked out at it within a range of
thirty feet. There was some peculiar mark upon the side of it, and as
I glanced along I saw to my surprise that this mark was repeated again
and again until it was lost round the curve. When one is so near death
it takes much to give one a thrill about anything connected with this
world, but my breath failed me for a moment and my heart stood still
as I suddenly realized that it was a frieze at which I was looking and
that, barnacled and worn as it was, the hand of man had surely at some
time carved these faded figures. Maracot and Scanlan crowded to my
porthole and gazed out in utter amazement at these signs of the
omnipresent energies of man.

'It is carving, for sure!' cried Scanlan. 'I guess this dump has been
the roof of a building. Then these other ones are buildings also. Say,
boss, we've dropped plumb on to a regular burg.'

'It is, indeed, an ancient city,' said Maracot. 'Geology teaches that
the seas have once been continents and the continents seas, but I have
always distrusted the idea that in times so recent as the quaternary
there could have been an Atlantic subsidence. Plato's report of
Egyptian gossip had then a foundation of fact. These volcanic
formations confirm the view that this subsidence was due to seismic
activity.'

'There is regularity about these domes,' I remarked. 'I begin to think
that they are not separate houses, but that they are cupolas and form
the ornaments of the roof of some huge building.'

'I guess you are right,' said Scanlan. 'There are four big ones at the
corners and the small ones in lines between. It's some building, if we
could see the whole of it! You could put the whole Merribank plant
inside it--and then some.'

'It has been buried up to the roof by the constant dropping from
above,' said Maracot. 'On the other hand, it has not decayed. We have
a constant temperature of a little over 32 Fahrenheit in the great
depths, which would arrest destructive processes. Even the dissolution
of the Bathic remains which pave the floor of the ocean and
incidentally give us this luminosity must be a very slow one. But,
dear me! this marking is not a frieze but an inscription.'

There was no doubt that he was right. The same symbol recurred every
here and there. These marks were unquestionably letters of some
archaic alphabet.

'I have made a study of Phoenician antiquities, and there is certainly
something suggestive and familiar in these characters,' said our
leader. 'Well, we have seen a buried city of ancient days, my friends,
and we carry a wonderful piece of knowledge with us to the grave.
There is no more to be learned. Our book of knowledge is closed. I
agree with you that the sooner the end comes the better.'

It could not now be long delayed. The air was stagnant and dreadful.
So heavy was it with carbon products that the oxygen could hardly
force its way out against the pressure. By standing on the settee one
was able to get a gulp of purer air, but the mephitic reek was slowly
rising. Dr. Maracot folded his arms with an air of resignation and
sank his head upon his breast. Scanlan was now overpowered by the
fumes and was already sprawling upon the floor. My own head was
swimming, and I felt an intolerable weight at my chest. I closed my
eyes and my senses were rapidly slipping away. Then I opened them for
one last glimpse of that world which I was leaving, and as I did so I
staggered to my feet with a hoarse scream of amazement.

A human face was looking in at us through the porthole!

Was it my delirium? I clutched at the shoulder of Maracot and shook
him violently. He sat up and stared, wonder-struck and speechless at
this apparition. If he saw it as well as I, it was no figment of the
brain. The face was long and thin, dark in complexion, with a short,
pointed beard, and two vivid eyes darting here and there in quick,
questioning glances which took in every detail of our situation. The
utmost amazement was visible upon the man's face. Our lights were now
full on, and it must indeed have been a strange and vivid picture
which presented itself to his gaze in that tiny chamber of death,
where one man lay senseless and two others glared out at him with the
twisted, contorted features of dying men, cyanosed by incipient
asphyxiation. We both had our hands to our throats, and our heaving
chests carried their message of despair. The man gave a wave of his
hand and hurried away.

'He has deserted us!' cried Maracot.

'Or gone for help. Let us get Scanlan on the couch. It's death for him
down there.'

We dragged the mechanic on to the settee and propped his head against
the cushions. His face was grey and he murmured in delirium, but his
pulse was still perceptible.

'There is hope for us yet,' I croaked.

'But it is madness!' cried Maracot. 'How can man live at the bottom of
the ocean? How can he breathe? It is collective hallucination. My
young friend, we are going mad.'
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« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2007, 02:41:08 pm »

Looking out at the bleak, lonely grey landscape in the dreary spectral
light, I felt that it might be as Maracot said. Then suddenly I was
aware of movement. Shadows were flitting through the distant water.
They hardened and thickened into moving figures. A crowd of people
were hurrying across the ocean bed in our direction. An instant later
they had assembled in front of the porthole and were pointing and
gesticulating in animated debate. There were several women in the
crowd, but the greater part were men, one of whom, a powerful figure
with a very large head and a full black beard, was clearly a person of
authority. He made a swift inspection of our steel shell, and, since
the edge of our base projected over the place on which we rested, he
was able to see that there was a hinged trap-door at the bottom. He
now sent a messenger flying back, while he made energetic and
commanding signs to us to open the door from within.

'Why not?' I asked. 'We may as well be drowned as be smothered. I can
stand it no longer.'

'We may not be drowned,' said Maracot. 'The water entering from below
cannot rise above the level of the compressed air. Give Scanlan some
brandy. He must make an effort, if it is his last one.'

I forced a drink down the mechanic's throat. He gulped and looked
round him with wondering eyes. Between us we got him erect on the
settee and stood on either side of him. He was still half-dazed, but
in a few words I explained the situation.

'There is a chance of chlorine poisoning if the water reaches the
batteries,' said Maracot. 'Open every air tube, for the more pressure
we can get the less water may enter. Now help me while I pull upon the
lever.'

We bent our weight upon it and yanked up the circular plate from the
bottom of our little home, though I felt like a suicide as I did so.
The green water, sparkling and gleaming under our light, came gurgling
and surging in. It rose rapidly to our feet, to our knees, to our
waists, and there it stopped. But the pressure of the air was
intolerable. Our heads buzzed and the drums of our ears were bursting.
We could not have lived in such an atmosphere for long. Only by
clutching at the rack could we save ourselves from falling back into
the waters beneath us.

From our higher position we could no longer see through the portholes,
nor could we imagine what steps were being taken for our deliverance.
Indeed, that any effective help could come to us seemed beyond the
power of thought, and yet there was a commanding and purposeful air
about these people, and especially about that squat bearded chieftain,
which inspired vague hopes. Suddenly we were aware of his face looking
up at us through the water beneath and an instant later he had passed
through the circular opening and had clambered on to the settee, so
that he was standing by our side--a short sturdy figure, not higher
than my shoulder, but surveying us with large brown eyes, which were
full of a half-amused confidence, as who should say, 'You poor devils;
you think you are in a very bad way, but I can clearly see the road
out.'

Only now was I aware of a very amazing thing. The man, if indeed he
was of the same humanity as ourselves, had a transparent envelope all
round him which enveloped his head and body, while his arms and legs
were free. So translucent was it that no one could detect it in the
water, but now that he was in the air beside us it glistened like
silver, though it remained as clear as the finest glass. On either
shoulder he had a curious rounded projection beneath the clear
protective sheath. It looked like an oblong box pierced with many
holes, and gave him an appearance as if he were wearing epaulettes.

When our new friend had joined us another face appeared in the
aperture of the bottom and thrust through it what seemed like a great
bubble of glass. Three of these in succession were passed in and
floated upon the surface of the water. Then six small boxes were
handed up and our new acquaintance tied one with the straps attached
to them to each of our shoulders, whence they stood up like his own.
Already I began to surmise that no infraction of natural law was
involved in the life of these strange people, and that while one box
in some new fashion was a producer of air the other was an absorber of
waste products. He now passed the transparent suits over our heads,
and we felt that they clasped us tightly in the upper arm and waist by
elastic bands, so that no water could penetrate. Within we breathed
with perfect ease, and it was a joy to me to see Maracot looking out
at me with his eyes twinkling as of old behind his glasses, while Bill
Scanlan's grin assured me that the life-giving oxygen had done its
work, and that he was his cheerful self once more. Our rescuer looked
from one to another of us with grave satisfaction, and then motioned
to us to follow him through the trap-door and out on to the floor of
the ocean. A dozen willing hands were outstretched to pull us through
and to sustain our first faltering steps as we staggered with our feet
deep in the slimy ooze.

Even now I cannot get past the marvel of it! There we were, the three
of us, unhurt and at our ease at the bottom of a five-mile abyss of
water. Where was that terrific pressure which had exercised the
imagination of so many scientists? We were no more affected by it than
were the dainty fish which swam around us. It is true that, so far as
our bodies were concerned, we were protected by these delicate bells
of vitrine, which were in truth tougher than the strongest steel, but
even our limbs, which were exposed, felt no more than a firm
constriction from the water which one learned in time to disregard. It
was wonderful to stand together and to look back at the shell from
which we had emerged. We had left the batteries at work, and it was a
wondrous object with its streams of yellow light flooding out from
each side, while clouds of fishes gathered at each window. As we
watched it the leader took Maracot by the hand, and we followed them
both across the watery morass, clumping heavily through the sticky
surface.

And now a most surprising incident occurred, which was clearly as
astonishing to these strange new companions of ours as to ourselves.
Above our heads there appeared a small, dark object, descending from
the darkness above us and swinging down until it reached the bed of
the ocean within a very short distance from where we stood. It was, of
course, the deep-sea lead from the _Stratford_ above us, making a
sounding of that watery gulf with which the name of the expedition was
to be associated. We had seen it already upon its downward path, and
we could well understand that the tragedy of our disappearance had
suspended the operation, but that after a pause it had been concluded,
with little thought that it would finish almost at our feet. They were
unconscious, apparently, that they had touched bottom, for the lead
lay motionless in the ooze. Above me stretched the taut piano wire
which connected me through five miles of water with the deck of our
vessel. Oh, that it were possible to write a note and to attach it!
The idea was absurd, and yet could I not send some message which would
show them that we were still conscious? My coat was covered by my
glass bell and the pockets were unapproachable, but I was free below
the waist and my handkerchief chanced to be in my trousers pocket. I
pulled it out and tied it above the top of the lead. The weight at
once disengaged itself by its automatic mechanism, and presently I saw
my white wisp of linen flying upwards to that world which I may never
see again. Our new acquaintances examined the seventy-five pounds of
lead with great interest, and finally carried it off with us as we
went upon our way.

We had only walked a couple of hundred yards, threading our way among
the hummocks, when we halted before a small square-cut door with solid
pillars on either side and an inscription across the lintel. It was
open, and we passed through it into a large, bare chamber. There was a
sliding partition worked by a crank from within, and this was drawn
across behind us. We could, of course, hear nothing in our glass
helmets, but after standing a few minutes we were aware that a
powerful pump must be at work, for we saw the level of the water
sinking rapidly above us. In less than a quarter of an hour we were
standing upon a sloppy stone-flagged pavement, while our new friends
were busy in undoing the fastenings of our transparent suits. An
instant later there we stood, breathing perfectly pure air in a warm,
well-lighted atmosphere, while the dark people of the abyss, smiling
and chattering, crowded round us with hand-shakings and friendly
pattings. It was a strange, rasping tongue that they spoke, and no
word of it was intelligible to us, but the smile on the face and the
light of friendship in the eye are understandable even in the waters
under the earth. The glass suits were hung on numbered pegs upon the
wall, and the kindly folk half led and half pushed us to an inner door
which opened on to a long downward-sloping corridor. When it closed
again behind us there was nothing to remind us of the stupendous fact
that we were the involuntary guests of an unknown race at the bottom
of the Atlantic ocean and cut off for ever from the world to which we
belonged.

Now that the terrific strain had been so suddenly eased we were all
exhausted. Even Bill Scanlan, who was a pocket Hercules, dragged his
feet along the floor, while Maracot and I were only too glad to lean
heavily upon our guides. Yet, weary as I was, I took in every detail
as we passed. That the air came from some air-making machine was very
evident, for it issued in puffs from circular openings in the walls.
The light was diffused and was clearly an extension of that fluor
system which was already engaging the attention of our European
engineers when the filament and lamp were dispensed with. It shone
from long cylinders of clear glass which were suspended along the
cornices of the passages. So much I had observed when our descent was
checked and we were ushered into a large sitting-room, thickly
carpeted and well furnished with gilded chairs and sloping sofas which
brought back vague memories of Egyptian tombs. The crowd had been
dismissed and only the bearded man with two attendants remained.
'Manda' he repeated several times, tapping himself upon the chest.
Then he pointed to each of us in turn and repeated the words Maracot,
Headley and Scanlan until he had them perfect. He then motioned us to
be seated and said a word to one of the attendants, who left the room
and returned presently, escorting a very ancient gentleman,
white-haired and long-bearded, with a curious conical cap of black
cloth upon his head. I should have said that all these folk were
dressed in coloured tunics, which extended to their knees, with high
boots of fish skin or shagreen. The venerable newcomer was clearly a
physician, for he examined each of us in turn, placing his hand upon
our brows and closing his own eyes as if receiving a mental impression
as to our condition. Apparently he was by no means satisfied, for he
shook his head and said a few grave words to Manda. The latter at once
sent the attendant out once more, and he brought in a tray of eatables
and a flask of wine, which were laid before us. We were too weary to
ask ourselves what they were, but we felt the better for the meal. We
were then led to another room, where three beds had been prepared, and
on one of these I flung myself down. I have a dim recollection of Bill
Scanlan coming across and sitting beside me.

'Say, Bo, that jolt of brandy saved my life,' said he. 'But where are
we, anyhow?'

'I know no more than you do.'

'Well, I am ready to hit the hay,' he said, sleepily, as he turned to
his bed. 'Say, that wine was fine. Thank God, Volstead never got down
here.' They were the last words I heard as I sank into the most
profound sleep that I can ever recall.

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« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2007, 02:42:47 pm »

Chapter 3

When I came to myself I could not at first imagine where I was. The
events of the previous day were like some blurred nightmare, and I
could not believe that I had to accept them as facts. I looked round
in bewilderment at the large, bare, windowless room with drab-coloured
walls, at the lines of quivering purplish light which flowed along the
cornices, at the scattered articles of furniture, and finally at the
two other beds, from one of which came the high-pitched, strident
snore which I had learned aboard the _Stratford_, to associate with
Maracot. It was too grotesque to be true, and it was only when I
fingered my bed cover and observed the curious woven material, the
dried fibres of some sea plant, from which it was made, that I was
able to realize this inconceivabl eadventure which had befallen us. I
was still pondering it when there came a loud explosion of laughter,
and Bill Scanlan sat up in bed.

'Mornin', Bo!' he cried, amid his chuckles, on seeing that I was
awake.

'You seem in good spirits,' said I, rather testily. 'I can't see that
we have much to laugh about.'

'Well, I had a grouch on me, the same as you, when first I woke up,'
he answered. 'Then came a real cute idea, and it was that that made me
laugh.'

'I could do with a laugh myself,' said I. 'What's the idea?'

'Well, Bo, I thought how durned funny it would have been if we had all
tied ourselves on to that deep-sea line. I allow with those glass
dinguses we could have kept breathing all right. Then when old man
Howie looked over the side there would have been the whole bunch of us
comin' up at him through the water. He would have figured that he had
hooked us, sure. Gee, what a spiel!'

Our united laughter woke the Doctor, who sat up in bed with the same
amazed expression upon his face which had previously been upon my own.
I forgot our troubles as I listened in amusement to his disjointed
comments, which alternated between ecstatic joy at the prospect of
such a field of study, and profound sorrow that he could never hope to
convey his results to his scientific confreres of the earth. Finally
he got back to the actual needs of the moment.

'It is nine o'clock,' he said, looking at his watch. We all registered
the same hour, but there was nothing to show if it was night or
morning.

'We must keep our own calendar,' said Maracot; 'we descended upon
October 3rd. We reached this place on the evening of the same day. How
long have we slept?'

'My gosh, it may have been a month,' said Scanlan, 'I've not been so
deep since Mickey Scott got me on the point in the six round try-out
at the Works.'

We dressed and washed, for every civilized convenience was at hand.
The door, however, was fastened, and it was clear that we were
prisoners for the time. In spite of the apparent absence of any
ventilation, the atmosphere kept perfectly sweet, and we found that
this was due to a current of air which came through small holes in the
wall. There was some source of central heating, too, for though no
stove was visible, the temperature was pleasantly warm. Presently I
observed a knob upon one of the walls, and pressed it. This was, as I
expected, a bell, for the door instantly opened, and a small, dark
man, dressed in a yellow robe, appeared in the aperture. He looked at
us inquiringly, with large brown, kindly eyes.

'We are hungry,' said Maracot; 'can you get us some food?'

The man shook his head and smiled. It was clear that the words were
incomprehensible to him.

Scanlan tried his luck with a flow of American slang, which was
received with the same blank smile. When, however, I opened my mouth
and thrust my finger into it, our visitor nodded vigorously and
hurried away.

Ten minutes later the door opened and two of the yellow attendants
appeared, rolling a small table before them. Had we been at the
Biltmore Hotel we could not have had better fare. There were coffee,
hot milk, rolls, delicious flat fish, and honey. For half an hour we
were far too busy to discuss what we ate or whence it was obtained. At
the end of that time the two servants appeared once more, rolled out
the tray, and closed the door carefully behind them.

'I'm fair black and blue with pinching myself,' said Scanlan. 'Is this
a pipe dream or what? Say, Doc, you got us down here, and I guess it
is up to you to tell us just how you size it all up.'

The Doctor shook his head.

'It is like a dream to me also, but it is a glorious dream! What a
story for the world if we could but get it to them!'

'One thing is clear,' said I, 'there was certainly truth in this
legend of Atlantis, and some of the folk have in a marvellous way
managed to carry on.'

'Well, even if they carried on,' cried Bill Scanlan, scratching his
bullet head, 'I am darned if I can understand how they could get air
and fresh water and the rest. Maybe if that queer duck with the beard
that we saw last night comes to give us a once-over he will put us
wise to it.'

'How can he do that when we have no common language?'

'Well, we shall use our own observation,' said Maracot. 'One thing I
can already understand. I learned it from the honey at breakfast. That
was clearly synthetic honey, such as we have already learned to make
upon the earth. But if synthetic honey, why not synthetic coffee, or
flour? The molecules of the elements are like bricks, and these bricks
lie all around us. We have only to learn how to pull out certain
bricks--sometimes just a single brick--in order to make a fresh
substance. Sugar becomes starch, or either becomes alcohol, just by a
shifting of the bricks. What is it that shifts them? Heat.
Electricity. Other things perhaps of which we know nothing. Some of
them will shift themselves, and radium becomes lead or uranium becomes
radium without our touching them.'

'You think, then, that they have an advanced chemistry?'

'I'm sure of it. After all there is no elemental brick which is not
ready to their hands. Hydrogen and oxygen come readily from the sea
water. There are nitrogen and carbon in those masses of sea
vegetation, and there are phosphorus and calcium in the bathybic
deposit. With skilful management and adequate knowledge, what is there
which could not be produced?'

The Doctor had launched upon a chemical lecture when the door opened
and Manda entered, giving us a friendly greeting. There came with him
the same old gentleman of venerable appearance whom we had met the
night before. He may have had a reputation for learning, for he tried
several sentences, which were probably different languages, upon us,
but all were equally unintelligible. Then he shrugged his shoulders
and spoke to Manda, who gave an order to the two yellow-clad servants,
still waiting at the door. They vanished, but returned presently with
a curious screen, supported by two side posts. It was exactly like one
of our cinema screens, but it was coated with some sparkling material
which glittered and shimmered in the light. This was placed against
one of the walls. The old man then paced out very carefully a certain
distance, and marked it upon the floor. Standing at this point he
turned to Maracot and touched his forehead, pointing to the screen.

'Clean dippy,' said Scanlan. 'Bats in the belfry.'
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« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2007, 02:43:54 pm »

Maracot shook his head to show that we were nonplussed. So was the old
man for a moment. An idea struck him, however, and he pointed to his
own figure. Then he turned towards the screen, fixed his eyes upon it,
and seemed to concentrate his attention. In an instant a reflection of
himself appeared on the screen before us. Then he pointed to us, and a
moment later our own little group took the place of his image. It was
not particularly like us. Scanlan looked like a comic Chinaman and
Maracot like a decayed corpse, but it was clearly meant to be
ourselves as we appeared in the eyes of the operator.

'It's a reflection of thought,' I cried.

'Exactly,' said Maracot. 'This is certainly a most marvellous
invention, and yet it is but a combination of such telepathy and
television as we dimly comprehend upon earth.'

'I never thought I'd live to see myself on the movies, if that
cheese-faced Chink is really meant for me,' said Scanlan. 'Say, if we
could get all this news to the editor of the Ledger he'd cough up
enough to keep me for life. We've sure got the goods if we could
deliver them.'

'That's the trouble,' said I. 'By George, we could stir the whole
world if we could only get back to it. But what is he beckoning
about?'

'The old guy wants you to try your hand at it, Doc.'

Maracot took the place indicated, and his strong, clear-cut brain
focused his picture to perfection. We saw an image of Manda, and then
another one of the _Stratford_ as we had left her.

Both Manda and the old scientist nodded their great approval at the
sight of the ship, and Manda made a sweeping gesture with his hands,
pointing first to us and then to the screen.

'To tell them all about it--that's the idea,' I cried. 'They want to
know in pictures who we are, and how we got here.'

Maracot nodded to Manda to show that he understood, and had begun to
throw an image of our voyage, when Manda held up his hand and stopped
him. At an order the attendants removed the screen, and the two
Atlanteans beckoned that we should follow them.

It was a huge building, and we proceeded down corridor after corridor
until we came at last to a large hall with seats arranged in tiers
like a lecture room. At one side was a broad screen of the same nature
as that which we had seen. Facing it there was assembled an audience
of at least a thousand people, who set up a murmur of welcome as we
entered. They were of both sexes and of all ages, the men dark and
bearded, the women beautiful in youth and dignified in age. We had
little time to observe them, for we were led to seats in the front
row, and Maracot was then placed on a stand opposite the screen, the
lights were in some fashion turned down, and he had the signal to
begin.

And excellently well he played his part. We first saw our vessel
sailing forth from the Thames, and a buzz of excitement went up from
the tense audience at this authentic glimpse of a real modern city.
Then a map appeared which marked her course. Then was seen the steel
shell with its fittings, which was greeted with a murmur of
recognition. We saw ourselves once more descending, and reaching the
edge of the abyss. Then came the appearance of the monster who had
wrecked us. 'Marax! Marax!' cried the people, as the beast appeared.
It was clear that they had learned to know and to fear it. There was a
terrified hush as the creature fumbled with our hawser, and a groan of
horror as the wires parted and we dropped into the gulf. In a month of
explanation we could not have made our plight so clear as in that
half-hour of visible demonstration.

As the audience broke up they showered every sign of sympathy upon us,
crowding round us and patting our backs to show that we were welcome.
We were presented in turn to some of the chiefs, but the chieftainship
seemed to lie in wisdom alone, for all appeared to be on the same
social scale, and were dressed in much the same way. The men wore
tunics of a saffron colour coming down to the knees, with belts and
high boots of a scaly tough material which must have been the hide of
some sea beast. The women were beautifully draped in classical style,
their flowing robes of every tint of pink and blue and green,
ornamented with clusters of pearl or opalescent sheets of shell. Many
of them were lovely beyond any earthly comparison. There was one--but
why should I mix my private feelings up with this public narrative?
Let me say only that Mona is the only daughter of Manda, one of the
leaders of the people, and that from that first day of meeting I read
in her dark eyes a message of sympathy and of understanding which went
home to my heart, as my gratitude and admiration may have gone to
hers. I need not say more at present about this exquisite lady.
Suffice it that a new and strong influence had come into my life. When
I saw Maracot gesticulating with unwonted animation to one kindly
lady, while Scanlan stood conveying his admiration in pantomime in the
centre of a group of laughing girls, I realized that my companions
also had begun to find that there was a lighter side to our tragic
position. If we were dead to the world we had at least found a life
beyond, which promised some compensation for what we had lost.

Later in the day we were guided by Manda and other friends round some
portions of the immense building. It had been so embedded in the
sea-floor by the accumulations of ages that it was only through the
roof that it could be entered, and from this point the passages led
down and down until the floor level was reached several hundred feet
below the entrance chamber. The floor in turn had been excavated, and
we saw in all directions passages which sloped downwards into the
bowels of the earth. We were shown the air-making apparatus with the
pumps which circulated it through the building. Maracot pointed out
with wonder and admiration that not only was the oxygen united with
the nitrogen, but that smaller retorts supplied other gases which
could only be the argon, neon, and other little-known constituents of
the atmosphere which we are only just beginning to understand. The
distilling vats for making fresh water and the enormous electrical
instalments were other objects of interest, but much of the machinery
was so intricate that it was difficult for us to follow the details. I
can only say that I saw with my own eyes, and tested with my own
palate, that chemicals in gaseous and liquid forms were poured into
various machines, that they were treated by heat, by pressure, and by
electricity, and that flour, tea, coffee, or wine was collected as the
product.
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« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2007, 02:45:11 pm »

There was one consideration which was very quickly forced upon us by
our examination, on various occasions, of as much of this building as
was open to our inspection. This was that the exposure to the sea had
been foreseen and the protection against the inrush of the water had
been prepared long before the land sank beneath the waves. Of course,
it stood to reason, and needed no proof, that such precautions could
not have been taken after the event, but we were witnesses now of the
signs that the whole great building had from the first been
constructed with the one idea of being an enduring ark of refuge. The
huge retorts and vats in which the air, the food, the distilled water,
and the other necessary products were made were all built into the
walls, and were evidently integral parts of the original construction.
So, too, with the exit chambers, the silica works where the vitrine
bells were constructed, and the huge pumps which controlled the water.
Every one of these things had been prepared by the skill and the
foresight of that wonderful far-away people who seemed, from what we
could learn, to have thrown out one arm to Central America and one to
Egypt, and so left traces of themselves even upon this earth when
their own land went down into the Atlantic. As to these, their
descendants, we judged that they had probably degenerated, as was but
natural, and that at the most they had been stagnant and only
preserved some of the science and knowledge of their ancestors without
having the energy to add to it. They possessed wonderful powers and
yet seemed to us to be strangely wanting in initiative, and had added
nothing to that wonderful legacy which they had inherited. I am sure
that Maracot, using this knowledge, would very soon have attained
greater results. As to Scanlan, with his quick brain and mechanical
skill, he was continually putting in touches which probably seemed as
remarkable to them as their powers to us. He had a beloved mouth-organ
in his coat-pocket when we made our descent, and his use of this was a
perpetual joy to our companions, who sat around in entranced groups,
as we might listen to a Mozart, while he handed out to them the
crooning coon songs of his native land.

I have said that the whole building was not open to our inspection,
and I might give a little further detail upon that subject. There was
one well-worn corridor down which we saw folk continually passing, but
which was always avoided by our guides in our excursions. As was
natural our curiosity was aroused, and we determined one evening that
we would take a chance and do a little exploring upon our own account.
We slipped out of our room, therefore, and made our way to the unknown
quarter at a time when few people were about.

The passage led us to a high arched door, which appeared to be made of
solid gold. When we pushed it open we found ourselves in a huge room,
forming a square of not less than two hundred feet. All around, the
walls were painted with vivid colours and adorned with extraordinary
pictures and statues of grotesque creatures with enormous
head-dresses, like the full dress regalia of our American Indians. At
the end of this great hall there was one huge seated figure, the legs
crossed like a Buddha, but with none of the benignity of aspect which
is seen on the Buddha's placid features. On the contrary, this was a
creature of Wrath, open-mouthed and fierce-eyed, the latter being red,
and their effect exaggerated by two electric lights which shone
through them. On his lap was a great oven, which we observed, as we
approached it, to be filled with ashes.

'Moloch!' said Maracot. 'Moloch or Baal--the old god of the
Phoenician races.'

'Good heavens!' I cried, with recollections of old Carthage before me.
'Don't tell me that these gentle folk could go in for human
sacrifice.'

'Look it here, Bo!' said Scanlan, anxiously. 'I hope they keep it in
the family, anyhow. We don't want them to pull no such dope on us.'

'No, I guess they have learned their lesson,' said I. 'It's misfortune
that teaches folk to have pity for others.'

'That's right,' Maracot remarked, poking about among the ashes, 'it is
the old hereditary god, but it is surely a gentler cult. These are
burned loaves and the like. But perhaps there was a time--'

But our speculations were interrupted by a stern voice at our elbow,
and we found several men in yellow garments and high hats, who were
clearly the priests of the Temple. From the expression on their faces
I should judge that we were very near to being the last victims to
Baal, and one of them had actually drawn a knife from his girdle. With
fierce gestures and cries they drove us roughly out of their sacred
shrine.

'By gosh!' cried Scanlan, 'I'll sock that duck if he keeps crowding
me! Look it here, you Bindlestiff, keep your hands off my coat.'

For a moment I feared that we should have had what Scanlan called a
'rough house' within the sacred precincts. However, we got the angry
mechanic away without blows and regained the shelter of our room, but
we could tell from the demeanour of Manda and others of our friends
that our escapade was known and resented.

But there was another shrine which was freely shown to us and which
had a very unexpected result, for it opened up a slow and imperfect
method of communication between our companions and ourselves. This was
a room in the lower quarter of the Temple, with no decorations or
distinction save that at one end there stood a statue of ivory yellow
with age, representing a woman holding a spear, with an owl perched
upon her shoulder. A very old man was the guardian of the room, and in
spite of his age it was clear to us that he was of a very different
race, and one of a finer, larger type than the men of the Temple. As
we stood gazing at the ivory statue, Maracot and I, both wondering
where we had seen something like it, the old man addressed us.

'Thea,' said he, pointing to the figure.

'By George!' I cried, 'he is speaking Greek.'

'Thea! Athena!' repeated the man.

There was not a doubt of it. 'Goddess--Athena,' the words were
unmistakable. Maracot, whose wonderful brain had absorbed something
from every branch of human knowledge, began at once to ask questions
in Classical Greek which were only partly understood and were answered
in a dialect so archaic that it was almost incomprehensible. Still, he
acquired some knowledge, and he found an intermediary through whom he
could dimly convey something to our companions.

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« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2007, 02:45:52 pm »

'It is a remarkable proof,' said Maracot that evening, in his high
neighing voice and in the tones of one addressing a large class, 'of
the reliability of legend. There is always a basis of fact even if in
the course of the years it should become distorted. You are aware--or
probably you are not aware'--('Bet your life!' from Scanlan)--'that
a war was going on between the primitive Greeks and, the Atlanteans at
the time of the destruction of the great island. The fact is recorded
in Solon's description of what he learned from the priests of Sais. We
may conjecture that there were Greek prisoners in the hands of the
Atlanteans at the time, that some of them were in the service of the
Temple, and that they carried their own religion with them. That man
was, so far as I could understand, the old hereditary priest of the
cult, and perhaps when we know more we shall see something of these
ancient people.'

'Well, I hand it to them for good sense,' said Scanlan. 'I guess if
you want a plaster god it is better to have a fine woman than that
blatherskite with the red eyes and the coal-bunker on his knees.'

'Lucky they can't understand your views,' I remarked. 'If they did you
might end up as a Christian martyr.'

'Not so long as I can play them jazz,' he answered, 'I guess they've
got used to me now, and they couldn't do without me.'

They were a cheerful crowd, and it was a happy life, but there were
and are times when one's whole heart goes out to the homelands which
we have lost, and visions of the dear old quadrangles of Oxford, or of
the ancient elms and the familiar campus of Harvard, came up before my
mind. In those early days they seemed as far from me as some landscape
in the moon, and only now in a dim uncertain fashion does the hope of
seeing them once more begin to grow in my soul.

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« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2007, 02:47:40 pm »

Chapter 4

It was a few days after our arrival that our hosts or our captors--we
were dubious sometimes as to which to call them--took us out for an
expedition upon the bottom of the ocean. Six of them came with us,
including Manda, the chief. We assembled in the same exit chamber in
which we had originally been received, and we were now in a condition
to examine it a little more closely. It was a very large place, at
least a hundred feet each way, and its low walls and ceiling were
green with marine growths and dripping with moisture. A long row of
pegs, with marks which I presume were numbers, ran round the whole
room, and on each was hung one of the semi-transparent bells of
vitrine and a pair of the shoulder batteries which ensured
respiration. The floor was of flagged stone worn into concavities, the
footsteps of many generations, these hollows now lying as pools of
shallow water. The whole was highly illuminated by fluor tubes round
the cornice. We were fastened into our vitrine coverings, and a stout
pointed staff made of some light metal was handed to each of us. Then,
by signals, Manda ordered us to take a grip of a rail which ran round
the room, he and his friends setting us an example. The object of this
soon became evident, for as the outer door swung slowly open the sea
water came pouring in with such force that we should have been swept
from our feet but for this precaution. It rose rapidly, however, to
above the level of our heads, and the pressure upon us was eased.
Manda led the way to the door, and an instant afterwards we were out
on the ocean bed once more, leaving the portal open behind us ready
for our return.

Looking round us in the cold, flickering, spectral light which
illuminates the bathybian plain, we could see for a radius of at least
a quarter of a mile in every direction.

What amazed us was to observe, on the very limit of what was visible,
a very brilliant glow of radiance. It was towards this that our leader
turned his steps, our party walking in single file behind him. It was
slow going, for there was the resistance of the water, and our feet
were buried deeply in the soft slush with every step; but soon we were
able to see clearly what the beacon was which had attracted us. It was
our own shell, our last reminder of terrestrial life, which lay tilted
upon one of the cupolas of the far-flung building, with all its lights
still blazing. It was three-quarters full of water, but the imprisoned
air still preserved that portion in which our electric instalment lay.
It was strange indeed as we gazed into it to see the familiar interior
with our settees and instruments still in position, while several
good-sized fish like minnows in a bottle swam round and round inside
it. One after the other our party clambered in through the open flap,
Maracot to rescue a book of notes which floated on the surface,
Scanlan and I to pick up some personal belongings. Manda came also
with one or two of his comrades, examining with the greatest interest
the bathometer and thermometer with the other instruments which were
attached to the wall. The latter we detached and took away with us. It
may interest scientists to know that forty degrees Fahrenheit
represents the temperature at the greatest sea depths to which man has
ever descended, and that it is higher, on account of the chemical
decomposition of the ooze, than the upper strata of the sea.

Our little expedition had, it seems, a definite object besides that of
allowing us a little exercise upon the bed of the ocean. We were
hunting for food. Every now and then I saw our comrades strike sharply
down with their pointed sticks, impaling each time a large brown flat
fish, not unlike a turbot, which was numerous, but lay so closely in
the ooze that it took practised eyes to detect it. Soon each of the
little men had two or three of these dangling at his side. Scanlan and
I soon got the knack of it, and captured a couple each, but Maracot
walked as one in a dream, quite lost in his wonder at the ocean
beauties around him and making long and excited speeches which were
lost to the ear, but visible to the eyes from the contortion of his
features.

Our first impression had been one of monotony, but we soon found that
the grey plains were broken up into varied formations by the action of
the deep-sea currents which flowed like submarine rivers across them.
These streams cut channels in the soft slime and exposed the beds
which lay beneath. The floor of these banks consisted of red clay
which forms the base of all things on the surface of the bed of the
ocean, and they were thickly studded with white objects which I
imagined to be shells, but which proved, when we examined them, to be
the ear bones of whales and the teeth of sharks and the other sea
monsters. One of these teeth which I picked up was fifteen inches
long, and we could but be thankful that so fearful a monster
frequented the higher levels of ocean. It belonged, according to
Maracot, to a giant-killing grampus or Orca gladiator. It recalled the
observation of Mitchell Hedges that even the most terrible sharks that
he had caught bore upon their bodies the marks which showed that they
had encountered creatures larger and more formidable than themselves.

There was one peculiarity of the ocean depths which impresses itself
upon the observer. There is, as I have said, a constant cold light
rising up from the slow phosphorescent decay of the great masses of
organic matter. But above, all is black as night. The effect is that
of a dim winter day, with a heavy black thundercloud lying low above
the earth. Out of this black canopy there falls slowly an incessant
snowstorm of tiny white flakes, which glimmer against the sombre
background. These are the shells of sea snails and other small
creatures who live and die in the five miles of water which separate
us from the surface, and though many of these are dissolved as they
fall and add to the lime salts in the ocean, the rest go in the course
of ages to form that deposit which had entombed the great city in the
upper part of which we now dwelt.

Leaving our last link with earth beneath us, we pushed on into the
gloom of the submarine world and soon we were met by a completely new
development. A moving patch appeared in front of us, which broke up as
we approached it into a crowd of men, each in his vitrine envelope,
who were dragging behind them broad sledges heaped with coal. It was
heavy work, and the poor devils were bending and straining, tugging
hard at the sharkskin ropes which served as traces. With each gang of
men there was one who appeared to be in authority, and it interested
us to see that the leaders and the workers were clearly of a different
race. The latter were tall men, fair, with blue eyes and powerful
bodies. The others were, as already described, dark and almost
negroid, with squat, broad frames. We could not inquire into the
mystery at that moment, but the impression was left upon my mind that
the one race represented the hereditary slaves of the other, and
Maracot was of the opinion that they may have been the descendants of
those Greek prisoners whose goddess we had seen in the Temple.

Several droves of these men, each drawing its load of coal, were met
by us before we came to the mine itself. At this point the deep-sea
deposits and the sandy formations which lay beneath them had been cut
away, and a great pit exposed, which consisted of alternate layers of
clay and coal, representing strata in the old perished world of long
ago which now lay at the bottom of the Atlantic. At the various levels
of this huge excavation we could see gangs of men at work hewing the
coal, while others gathered it into loads and placed it in baskets, by
means of which it was hoisted up to the level above. The whole mine
was on so vast a scale that we could not see the other side of the
enormous pit which so many generations of workers had scooped in the
bed of the ocean. This, then, transmuted into electric force, was the
source of the motive power by which the whole machinery of Atlantis
was run. It is interesting, by the way, to record that the name of the
old city had been correctly preserved in the legends, for when we had
mentioned it to Manda and others they first looked greatly surprised
that we should know it, and then nodded their heads vigorously to show
that they understood.

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