Through the Earth/Chapter VI

CHAPTER VI

IN WHICH JAMES CURTIS IS SURPRISED

THE morning following the conversation above recorded, the whole civilized world was startled by the announcement that its foremost scientist, Dr. Joshua Giles, was planning to construct a tunnel through the center of the earth, for the transportation of merchandise to and from the antipodes, and that he required a hundred million dollars for the undertaking.

To the surprise of everybody, the project was received with general favor, and the capital came pouring in, so that in an incredibly short space of time the immense sum required for this strange enterprise was more than subscribed.

Of course a large number of the capitalists looked upon their money as entirely lost, and gave merely in the interests of science, but there were many who gave with the confident hope that the enterprise would prove a profitable investment.

As for the doctor, he rubbed his hands gleefully at the thought that before long the products of the United States would reach Australia on the very day of their manufacture, and vice versa. Surely this would be the grandest achievement science had yet witnessed!

The great, and in fact the only, difficulty toward putting the plan in operation was the boring of the hole. Imagine digging a well eight thousand miles deep! It was no easy task under any circumstances, and was rendered doubly difficult when the internal heat of the earth had to be taken into consideration.

But, perplexing as the problem was, Dr. Giles was the man to solve it, though it had required all his ingenuity to devise a machine that would do the work expeditiously and well. He had carefully prepared his plans and patterns beforehand; and as soon as the capital began to come in, he set about having the necessary machinery constructed.

The first question to be considered was, of course, the selection of a site for the tunnel. Dr. Giles, although living in Australia, was a native American, and accordingly wished one end of the tunnel to terminate at or near the city of New York. The opposite end of the tunnel would thus, curiously enough, come within the Australian dominions.

It was while the doctor was considering this problem of a site for the tunnel that he had another conversation with Mr. Curtis, a conversation which ended in a fresh surprise for the latter gentleman.

"Well, doctor," said Mr. Curtis, bursting into our friend's study one afternoon, "how is your tunnel getting along?"

"Famously," replied Dr. Giles. "I've got the most important part finished."

"Indeed! and, pray, what may that be?"

"The securing of the capital," said the doctor, with a merry twinkle in his eye. "Not only has all the stock been sold, but the shares of the company are already seventeen per cent, above par. I could at this moment, if I wished, sell out all the shares I have received for my services, and be a rich man, although the whole scheme exists only on paper as yet."

"Then how is it you don't do it?" asked Mr. Curtis.

"Simply because I hardly think it would be right," answered Dr. Giles. "Besides, if, as I am fully convinced, the operation succeeds, I shall make far more profit by keeping the shares than by selling them. Moreover, you must remember that I did not start on this undertaking with any idea of making money out of it, although I shall, of course, gladly accept any profit that may fall to my share. But it was principally in the interests of science and humanity that I took up this work, and I shall feel amply repaid if I succeed in carrying it through successfully, even though I do not make a single cent out of the operation."

"Well, doctor," said Mr. Curtis, heartily, "I am glad for your sake that the financial part of the enterprise has succeeded so well, because, the more I think over the scheme, the more I am convinced that it will prove a complete fiasco in practice. And that reminds me that there is one question which I wish to ask you."

"Ask away," said Dr. Giles, resignedly.

"I am curious to know what you are going to do with all the earth you take out of the tunnel."

"What I am going to do with it!" repeated Dr. Giles, surprised; "why, dump it anywhere where it will be out of the way."

"H'm!" said Mr. Curtis, "that does sound like an easy way of getting rid of it. But have you calculated what an enormous amount of earth you will have to remove from this tunnel,—thousands upon thousands of cubic miles,—a regular mountain of matter, some of it perhaps in a red-hot condition?"

Dr. Giles could not repress a hearty laugh at this vivid picture. "Why, James, where in the world did you get your figures?" he asked. "The tube will be only thirty feet in diameter, internally."

"Yes; but it will be eight thousand miles long."

"True; and do you know how much matter a hole eight thousand miles deep and thirty feet in diameter will contain? It is a very simple calculation; with a pencil and a scrap of paper you can figure out the result for yourself in a few minutes."

"I suppose, then, that you have calculated this amount exactly?"

"Certainly; and the total quantity of materials we shall have to remove in digging our tunnel will not be much more than about one fifth of a cubic mile."

"Only one fifth of a cubic mile!" echoed Mr. Curtis.

"That's all, and it's plenty, let me assure you. It represents a pile of earth one mile square and one fifth of a mile deep—quite a neat little heap, as you will admit. Of course half of this earth will be taken out on the New York side; here in Australia we shall have only one tenth of a cubic mile of materials to dispose of."

"Bless my heart!" exclaimed Mr. Curtis, "I should never have imagined it possible that so long a tunnel would contain such a comparatively small amount of matter. Nevertheless, it will be no small job to get rid of all this waste matter."

"I shall not have the slightest trouble on that score," said Dr. Giles, cheerfully, "because, both on the New York and the Australian side of the tube, I shall begin digging my hole at the bottom of the ocean."

"Dig your hole at the bottom of the ocean!" cried Mr. Curtis, in amazement.

"Yes," said Dr. Giles, calmly, "it is my intention to begin my tunnel under water."