Through the Earth/Chapter I

THROUGH THE EARTH!


CHAPTER I

A NOVEL SCHEME

"WHAT do I think of it? Why, doctor, the whole scheme is impossible from beginning to end, and I am surprised that a scientist of your standing should entertain it for a single moment."

"But, James, you surely cannot understand my plan fully, or you would see that, so far from being impossible, it is most feasible if I can only secure the necessary capital."

"Either I must be dreaming, doctor, or else I do not altogether understand you. From what you tell me, I gather that your idea is to open a rapid-transit line between Australia and the United States. You propose to bore a hole through the center of the earth, this hole to terminate at the city of New York. Am I right thus far?"

"Perfectly."

"Into this hole you intend to drop merchandise, baggage, and what not, and let them fall through to the antipodes. This, at least, is the way I understand the matter."

"Yes," said Dr. Giles, tranquilly, "that is my idea in a nutshell. Now tell me what objections you find to it."

"What objections? Only one, namely, that the entire plan is utterly impossible," replied James, conclusively.

"My dear friend," said the doctor, "do you know what the word 'impossible' means? It means simply something that has not yet been done. Everything is impossible until some one does it, and then it becomes, on the contrary, astonishingly easy. If we take any other definition for this word, we must admit that there is only one thing that is impossible."

"And that is?"

"And that is, to know that anything is impossible. But tell me, James, what it is you find difficult in my plan."

"Certainly, if you wish it. In the first place, perhaps you will be kind enough to tell me how you are going to make your tunnel through the earth. It strikes me that the man who undertakes that job will have a pretty big contract on his hands. Possibly, however, you may not yet have thought about this matter."

Dr. Giles laughed. "If you can find any feature of the whole scheme that I have n't studied over for months," he said, "you will deserve a gold medal. And as, of course, the most important part of the undertaking consists precisely in the boring of the hole through the earth, it is this subject which has received my most careful consideration."

"Then you actually mean to say that you think it will be possible to dig a tunnel through the center of the earth?"

"Most certainly I do."

"But how will you set about it?"

"Just as I should set about digging a well," replied the doctor. "But, to expedite matters, I shall be obliged to devise special machinery that will do the work of hundreds of picks and shovels."

"I should think you would indeed need special machinery," returned James Curtis, the first speaker. "But machinery is n't everything. Of course I won't deny that you could dig a well a few thousand feet deep; but all efforts to go much beyond this depth would be unavailing, since the walls would continually cave in, burying your workmen under an enormous mass of earth and stones."

"And so you suppose that I would stand by with folded arms, and allow the walls to cave in, do you?"

"I don't see how you could help yourself."

"Nothing will be easier. As fast as I dig, I shall have a stout metal tube cast, of the size of my well, and let it down to support the walls. In that way all danger of caving in will be avoided."

"Well, admitting, for the sake of argument, that you can make machinery powerful enough to dig through miles of solid rock, and allowing that you could prevent the walls from caving in, even so, I hardly see that you would be very much more advanced than you were before."

"And why not, pray!"

"Because you seem to forget that the earth, at the center, is one mass of liquid fire. So that, even if you succeeded in boring down through the solid portions of the external crust, you would be brought to a complete standstill as soon as you reached the red-hot fluid portions in the center. All your machinery, including your metal tube, would melt like wax, while your workmen could not live a single instant in the stifling, scorching heat!"