A Journey in Other Worlds HTML version

A Jovian Niagara
Four days later, after crossing a ridge of mountains that the pressure on the aneroid
barometer showed to be about thirty-two thousand feet high, and a stretch of flat country
a few miles in width, they came to a great arm of the sea. It was about thirty miles wide at
its mouth, which was narrowed like the neck of a bottle, and farther inland was over one
hundred miles across, and though their glasses, the clear air, and the planet's size enabled
them to see nearly five hundred miles, they could not find its end. In the shallow water
along its shores, and on the islands rising but a few feet above the waves, they saw all
kinds of amphibians and sea-monsters. Many of these were almost the exact reproduction
in life of the giant plesiosaurs, dinosaurs, and elasmosaurs, whose remains are preserved
in the museums on earth. The reptilian bodies of the elasmosaurs, seventy-five feet in
length, with the forked tongues, distended jaws and fangs of a snake, were easily taken
for the often described but probably mythical sea- serpent, as partially coiled they
occasionally raised their heads twelve or fifteen feet.
"Man in his natural state," said Cortlandt, "would have but small chance of surviving long
among such neighbours. Buckland, I think, once indulged in the jeu d'esprit of supposing
an ichthyosaur lecturing on the human skull. 'You will at once perceive,' said the lecturer,
'that the skull before us belonged to one of the lower order of animals. The teeth are very
insignificant, the power of the jaws trifling, and altogether it seems wonderful how the
creature could have procured food.' Armed with modern weapons, and in this machine,
we are, of course, superior to the most powerful monster; but it is not likely that, had man
been so surrounded during the whole of his evolution, he could have reached his present
Notwithstanding the striking similarity of these creatures to their terrestrial counterparts
that existed on earth during its corresponding period, there were some interesting
modifications. The organs of locomotion in the amphibians were more developed, while
the eyes of all were larger, the former being of course necessitated by the power of
gravity, and the latter by the greater distance from the sun.
"The adaptability and economy of Nature," said Cortlandt, "have always amazed me. In
the total blackness of the Kentucky Mammoth Cave, where eyes would be of no use to
the fishes, our common mother has given them none; while if there is any light, though
not as much as we are accustomed to, she may be depended upon to rise to the occasion
by increasing the size of the pupil and the power of the eye. In the development of the
ambulatory muscles we again see her handiwork, probably brought about through the
'survival of the fittest.' The fishes and those wholly immersed need no increase in power,
for, though they weigh more than they would on earth, the weight of the water they
displace is increased at the same rate also, and their buoyancy remains unchanged. If the
development of life here so closely follows its lines on earth, with the exception of
comparatively slight modifications, which are exactly what, had we stopped to think, we
should have expected to find, may we not reasonably ask whether she will not continue
on these lines, and in time produce beings like ourselves, but with more powerful muscles