Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/576

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

with no tools except his hands, without a chance of seeing daylight until he reached it on the New York side, and with the added conditions that all the excavated earth should be carried out at the eastern opening of the tunnel, and finally that he should obliterate all marks of his work and, as he retreated into his tunnel, pack the exit shaft above him so tightly and so deftly that it is impossible to trace its course!

How our little fur-coated engineer solves all these problems is as yet a mystery. We only know that he does it. He has a steam engine in his shoulders and shovels for hands, but his exact methods of using them is as yet largely a matter of conjecture. Only two plans of operation would seem to be possible. One would be for the "salamander" to first carry the excavated earth all to the rear into some portion of his already finished tunnel, and finally, when the outward exit is completed, to carry it back again and deposit it on the surface. This, of course, involves a double transfer of all the earth removed. It is more likely that the "salamander" first forces a narrow passageway along the line of his future tunnel in a way similar to that pursued by the mole. The latter animal has the advantage of working near the surface, and the earth always yields along the line of least resistance, which of course is upward. Four or five feet down there is no such line, and the amount of force required to push the ground aside must be something enormous. When the "salamander" comes to the upper air the work of excavation and enlargement begins. He then piles upon the surface all the earth that he can not use in obliterating his upward passageway. As the writer has frequently observed fresh sand mounds hundreds of feet from any others, he is inclined to believe that this is the real method pursued.

The exceeding care which the "salamander" takes to leave no opening into his subterranean home arises, no doubt, from his horror of snakes. In this respect no woman can surpass him. His antipathies to reptiles are probably the accumulated embodiment of hundreds of centuries of ancestral experience. He is aware that these hereditary enemies of his race are of a very investigating turn of mind, and put in a good deal of spare time when awake in crawling into and exploring any tempting hole they may discover. And so Mr. Geomys, like the sensible fellow that he is, not only takes good care to shut and lock his front gate every time he is compelled to go through it, but he blocks up the whole passageway and does his best to convince trespassers that it is all a mistake to suppose that there ever has been any roadway leading to his underground home.