New Lands

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





PATCHED by a blue inundation that had never been seen before — this earth, early in the 60's of the 19th century. Then faintly, from far away, this new appearance is seen to be enveloped with volumes of gray. Flashes like lightning, and faintest of rumbling sounds — then cloud-like envelopments roll away, and a blue formation shines in the sun. Meteorologists upon the moon take notes.

But year after year there are appearances, as seen from the moon, that are so characterized that they may not be meteorologic phenomena upon this earth: changing compositions wrought with elements of blue and of gray; it is like conflict between Synthesis and Dissolution: straight lines that fade into scrawls, but that re-form into seeming moving symbols: circles and squares and triangles abound.

Having had no mean experience with interpretations as products of desires, given that upon the moon communication with this earth should be desired, it seems likely to me that the struggles of hosts of Americans, early in the 60's of the 19th century, were given thought by some lunarians to be manoeuvres directed to them, or attempts to attract their attention. However, having had many impressions upon the resistance that new delusions encounter, so that, at least upon this earth, some benightments have had to wait centuries before finally imposing themselves generally, I'd think of considerable time elapsing before the coming of a general conviction upon the moon that, by means of living symbols, and the firing of explosives, terrestrians were trying to communicate.

Beacon-like lights that have been seen upon the moon. The lights have been desultory. The latest of which I have record was back in the year 1847. But now, if beginning in the early 60's, though not coinciding with the beginning of unusual and tremendous manifestations upon this earth, we have data as if of greatly stimulated attempts to communicate from the moon — [130/131] why one assimilates one's impressions of such great increase with this or with that, all according to what one's dominant thoughts may be, and calls the product a logical conclusion. Upon the night of May 15, 1864, Herbert Ingall, of Camberwell, saw a little to the west of the lunar crater Picard, in the Mare Crisium, a remarkably bright spot (Astro. Reg., 2-264).(1)

Oct. 24, 1864 — period of nearest approach by Mars — red lights upon opposite parts of Mars (C.R., 85-538).(2) Upon Oct. 16, Ingall had again seen the light west of Picard.(3) Jan. 1, 1865 — a small speck of light, in darkness, under the east foot of the lunar Alps, shining like a small star, watched half an hour by Charles Grover (Astro. Reg., 3-255).(4) Jan. 3, 1865 — again the red lights of Mars (C.R., 85-538).(5) A thread of data appears, as an offshoot from a main streak, but it can not sustain itself. Lights on the moon and lights on Mars, but I have nothing more that seems to signify both signals and responses between these two worlds.

April 10, 1865 — west of Picard, according to Ingall — "a most minute point of light, glittering like a star" (Astro. Reg., 3-189).(6)

Sept. 5, 1865 — a conspicuous bright spot west of Picard (Astro. Reg., 3-252).(7) It was seen again by Ingall. He saw it again upon the 7th, but upon the 8th it had gone, and there was a cloud-like effect where the light had been.

Nov. 24, 1865 — a speck of light that was seen by the Rev. W.O. Williams, shining like a small star in the lunar crater Carlini (Intel. Obs., 11-58).(8)

June 10, 1866 — the star-like light in Aristarchus; reported by Tempel (Denning, Telescopic Work, p. 121).(9)

Astronomically and seleno-meteorologically, nothing that I know of has ever been done with these data. I think well of taking up the subject theologically. We are approaching accounts of a different kind of changes upon the moon. There will be data seeming so to indicate not only persistence but devotedness upon the moon that I incline to think not only of devotedness but of devotions. Upon the 16th of October, 1866, the astronomer Schmidt, of the land of Socrates, announced that the isolated object, in the eastern part of the Mare Serenitatis, known as Linné, had changed. Linné stands out in a blank area like the Pyramid [131/132] of Cheops in its desert. If changes did occur upon Linné, the conspicuous position seems to indicate selection. Before October, 1866, Linné was well-known as a dark object. Something was whitening an object that had been black.

A hitherto unpublished episode in the history of theologies:

The new prophet who had appeared upon the moon —

Faint perceptions of moving formations, often almost rigorously geometric, upon one part of this earth, and perhaps faintest of signal-like sounds that reached the moon — the new prophet — and that he preached the old lunar doctrine that there is no god but the Earth-god, but exhorted his hearers to forsake their altars upon which had burned unheeded lights, and to build a temple upon which might be recited a litany of lights and shades.

We are only now realizing how the Earth-god looks to the beings of the moon — who know that this earth is dominant; who see it frilled with the loops of the major planets; its Elizabethan ruff wrought by the complications of the asteroids; the busy little sun that brushes off the dark.

God of the moon, when mists make it expressionless — a vast, bland, silvery Buddha.

God of the moon, when seeing it clear — when the disguise is off — when, at night, from pointed white peaks drip the fluctuating red lights of a volcano, this earth is the appalling god of carnivorousness.

Sometimes the great roundish earth, with the heavens behind it broken by refraction, looks like something thrust into a shell from external existence — clouds of tornadoes as if in its grasp — and it looks like the fist of God, clutching rags of ultimate fire and confusion.

That a new prophet had appeared upon the moon, and had excited new hope of evoking response from the bland and shining Stupidity that has so often been mistaken for God, or from the Appalling that is so identified with Divinity — from the clutched and menacing fist that has so often been worshipped.

There is no intelligence except era-intelligence. Suppose the whole geo-system be a super-embryonic thing. Then, by the law of the embryo, its parts cannot organize until comes scheduled time. So there are local congeries of development of a chick in [132/133] an egg, but these local centers can not more than faintly sketch out relations with one another, until comes the time when they may definitely integrate. Suppose that far back in the 19th century there were attempts to communicate from the moon; but suppose that they were premature: then we suppose the fate of the protoplasmic threads that feel out too soon from one part of an egg to another. In October, 1866, Schmidt, of Athens, saw and reported in terms of the concepts of his era, and described in conventional selenographic language. See Rept. B.A., 1867.(10)

Upon December 14, 16, 25, 27, 1866, Linné was seen as a white spot.(11) But there was something that had the seeming more of a design, or of a pattern, an elaboration upon the mere turning to white of something that had been black — a fine, black spot upon Linné; by Schmidt and Buckingham, in December, 1866 (The Student, 1-261).(12) The most important consideration of all is reviewed by Schmidt in the Rept. B.A., 1867-22 — that sunlight and changes of sunlight had nothing to do with the changing appearances of Linné.(13) Jan. 14, 1867 — the white covering, or, at least, seeming of covering, of Linné, had seemingly disappeared — Knott's impression of Linné as a dark spot, but "definition" was poor. Jan. 16 — Knott's very strong impression, which, however, he says may have been an illusion, of a small central dark spot upon Linné. Dawes' observation, of March 15, 1867 — "an excessively minute black dot in the middle of Linné."

A geometric figure that was white-bordered and centered with black, formed and dissolved and formed again.

I have an impression of spectacles that were common in the United States, during the War: hosts of persons arranging themselves in living patterns: flags, crosses, and in one instance, in which thousands were engaged, in the representation of an enormous Liberty Bell. Astronomers have thought of trying to communicate with Mars or the moon by means of great geometric constructions placed conspicuously, but there is nothing so attractive to attention as change, and a formation that could appear and disappear would enchance the geometric with the dynamic. That the units of the changing compositions that covered Linné were the lunarians themselves — that Linné was terraced — hosts of the inhabitants of the moon standing upon ridges of their Cheops of [133/134] the Serene Sea, some of them dressed in white and standing in a border, and some of them dressed in black, centering upon the apex, or the dark material of the apex left clear for the contrast, all of them unified in a hope of conveying an impression of the geometric, as the product of design, and distinguishable from the topographic, to the shining god that makes the stars of their heaven marginal.

It is a period of great activity — or of conflicting ideas and purposes — upon the moon: new and experimental demonstrations, but also, of course, the persistence of the old. In the Astronomical Register, 5-114, Thomas G. Elger writes that upon the 9th of April, 1867, he was surprised to see, upon the dark part of the moon, a light like a star of the 7th magnitude, at 7.30 P.M.(14) It became fainter, and looked almost extinguished at 9 o'clock. Mr. Elger had seen lights upon the moon before, but never before a light so clear — "too bright to be overlooked by the most careless observer." May 7, 1867 — the beacon-like light of Aristarchus — observed by Tempel, of Marseilles, when Aristarchus was upon the dark side of the moon (Astro. Reg., 5-220).(15) Upon the night of June 10, 1867, Dawes saw three distinct, roundish, black spots near Sulpicius Gallus, which is near Linné; when looked for upon the 13th, they had disappeared (The Student, 1-261).(16)

August 6, 1867 —

And this earth in the sky of the moon — smooth and bland and featureless earth — or one of the scenes that make it divine and appalling — jaws of this earth, as seem to be the rims of more or less parallel mountain ranges, still shining in sunlight, but surrounded by darkness —

And, upon the moon, the assembling of the Chiaroscuroans, or the lunar communicationists who seek to be intelligible to this earth by means of lights and shades, patterned upon Linné by their own forms and costumes. The Great Pyramid of Linné, at night upon the moon — it stands out in bold triangularity pointing to this earth. It slowly suffuses white — the upward drift of white-clad forms, upon the slopes of the Pyramid. The jaws of this earth seem to munch, in variable light. There is no other response. Devotions are the food of the gods.

Upon August 6, 1867, Buckingham saw upon Linné, which [134/135] was in darkness, "a rising oval spot" (Rept. B.A., 1867-7). In October, 1867, Linné was seen as a convex white spot (Rept. B.A., 1867-8).(17)

*  *  *

Also it may be that the moon is not inhabited, and is not habitable. There are many astronomers who say that the moon has virtually no atmosphere, because when a star is passed over by the moon, the star is not refracted, according to them. See Clerke's History of Astronomy, p. 264 — that, basing his calculations upon the fact that a star is never refracted out of place when occulted by the moon, Prof. Comstock, of Washburn Observatory, had determined that this earth's atmosphere is 5,000 times as dense as the moon's.(18)

I did think that in this secondary survey of ours we had pretty well shaken off our old opposition, the astronomers; however, with something of the kindliness that one feels for renewed meeting with the familiar, here we are at home with the same old kind of demonstrations: the basing of laborious calculations upon something that is not so —

See index of the Monthly Notices, R.A.S. — many instances of stars that have been refracted out of place when occulted by the moon.(19) See the Observatory, 24-210, 313, 315, 345, 414; English Mechanic, 23-197, 279; 26-229; 52 — index, under "atmosphere;" 81-60; 84-161; 85-108.(20)

In the year 1821, Gruithuisen announced that he had discovered a city of the moon. He described its main thoroughfare and branching streets. In 1826, he announced that there had been considerable building, and that he had seen new streets. This formation, which is north of the crater Schroeter, has often been examined by disagreeing astronomers: for a sketch of it, in which a central line and radiating lines are shown, see the English Mechanic, 18-638.(21) There is one especial object upon the moon that has been described and photographed and sketched so often that I shall not go into the subject. For many records of observations, see the English Mechanic and L'Astronomie.(22) It is an object shaped like a sword, near the crater Birt. Anyone with an impression of the transept of a cathedral, may see the architectural here. Or it may be a mound similar to the mounds of [135/136] North America that have so logically been attributed to the Mound Builders. In a letter, published in the Astronomical Register, 20-167, Mr. Birmingham calls attention to a formation that suggests the architectural upon the moon — "a group of three hills in a slightly acute-angled triangle, and connected by three lower embankments."(23) There is a geometric object, or marking, shaped like an "X," in the crater Eratosthenes (Sci. Amer. Sup., 59-24, 469); striking symbolic-looking thing or sign, or attempt by means of something obviously not topographic, to attract attention upon this earth, in the crater Plinius (Eng. Mec., 35-34); reticulations, like those of a city's squares, in Plato (Eng. Mec., 64-253; and there is a structural-looking composition of angular lines in Gassendi (Eng. Mec., 101-466).(24) Upon the floor of Littrow are six or seven spots arranged in the form of the Greek letter Gamma (Eng. Mec., 101-47).(25) This arrangement may be of recent origin, having been discovered Jan. 31, 1915. The Greek letter makes difficulty only for those who do not want to think easily upon this subject. For a representation of something that looked like a curved wall upon the moon, see L'Astronomie, 1888-110.(26) As to appearances like viaducts, see L'Astronomie, 1885-213.(27) The lunar craters are not in all instances the simple cirques that they are commonly supposed to be. I have many different impressions of some of them: I remember one sketch that looked like an owl with a napkin tucked under his beak. However, it may be that the general style of architecture upon the moon is Byzantine, very likely, or not so likely, domed with glass, giving the dome-effect that has so often been commented upon.

So then the little nearby moon — it is populated by Lilliputians. However, our experience with agreeing ideas having been what it has been, we suspect that the lunarians are giants. Having reasonably determined that the moon is one hundred miles in diameter, we suppose it is considerably more or less.

*  *  *

A group of astronomers had been observing extraordinary lights in the lunar crater Plato. The lights had definite arrangement. They were so individualized that Birt and Elger, and the other selenographers, who had combined to study them, had charted and [136/137] numbered them. They were fixed in position, but rose and fell in intensity.

It does seem to me that we have data of one school of communicationists after another coming into control of efforts upon the moon. At first our data related to single lights. They were extraordinary, and they seem to me to have been signals, but there seemed to be nothing of the organization that now does seem to be creeping into the fragmentary material that is the best that we can find. The grouped lights in Plato were so distinctive, so clear and even brilliant, that if such lights had ever shone before, it seems that they must have been seen by the Schroeters, Gruithuisens, Beers and Mädlers, who had studied and charted the features of the moon. For several of Gledhill's observations, from which I derive my impressions of these lights, see Rept. B.A., 1871-80 — "I can only liken them to the small discs of stars, seen in the transit-instrument;" "just like small stars in the transit instrument, upon a windy night!"(28)

In August and September, 1869, occurred a notable illumination of the spots in Group I. It was accompanied by a single light upon a distant spot.

February and March, 1870 — illumination of another group.

April 17, 1870 — another illumination in Plato, but back to the first group.

As to his observations of May 10-12, 1870, Birt gives his opinion that the lights of Plato were not effects of sunlight.(29)

Upon the 13th of May, 1870, there was an "extraordinary display," according to Birt: 27 lights were seen by Pratt, and 28 by Elger, but only 4 by Gledhill, in Brighton. Atmospheric conditions may have made this difference, or the lights may have run up and down a scale from 4 to 28. As to independence of sunlight, Pratt says (Rept. B.A., 1871-88), at to this display, that only the fixed, charted points so shone, and that other parts of the crater were not illuminated, as they would have been to an incidence common throughout.(30) In Pratt's opinion, and, I think, in the opinion of the other observers, these lights were volcanic.(31) It seems to me that this opinion arose from a feeling that there should be something of an opinion: the idea that the lights might have been signals was not expressed by any of these astronomers [137/138] that I know of. I note that, though many observers were, at this time, concentrating upon this one crater, there are no records findable by me of such disturbance of detail as might be supposed to accompany volcanic action. The clear little lights seem to me to have been anything but volcanic.

The play of these lights of Plato — their modulations and their combinations — like luminous music — or a composition of signals in a code that even in this late day may be deciphered. It was like orchestration — and that something like a baton gave direction to Light 22, upon August 12, 1870, to shine a leading part — "remarkable increase of brightness." No. 22 subsided, and the leading part shone out in No. 14. It, too, subsided, and No. 16 brightened.

Perhaps there were definite messages in a Morse-like code. There is a chance for the electricity in somebody's imagination to start crackling. Up to April, 1871, the selenographers had recorded 1,600 observations upon the fluctuations of the lights of Plato, and had drawn 37 graphs of individual lights. All graphs and other records were deposited by W.R. Birt in the Library of the Royal Astronomical Society, where presumably they are to this day. A Champollion may some day decipher hieroglyphics that may have been flashed from one world to another.


1. Herbert Ingall. "Bright spot on the Moon." Astronomical Register, 2, 264.

2. Ch. Lamey. "Observations tendant à faire admettre l'existence d'un anneau d'astéroïdes, autour de la planète Mars." Comptes Rendus, 85 (September 10, 1877): 538-9.

3. Herbert Ignall. "Bright spot on the Moon." Astronomical Register, 2, 264.

4. Charles Gower. "Jupiter's satellites: Bright spots on the Moon." Astronomical Register, 3, 253.

5. Ch. Lamey. "Observations tendant à faire admettre l'existence d'un anneau d'astéroïdes, autour de la planète Mars." Comptes Rendus, 85 (September 10, 1877): 538-9. Lamey thought that these red lights seen on each side of Mars might indicate the existence of a ring of asteroids in orbit about Mars, similar to the rings found around Saturn; and, Hall's discovery of the Martian satellites prompted his recollection of these past observations and his request that observers look for such a ring of asteroids.

6. Herbert Ignall. "The Mare Crisium." Astronomical Register, 3, 189-90.

7. Herbert Ignall. "Mare Crisium." Astronomical Register, 3, 252. There is no mention of observations on September 8, which is the date of Ignall's letter.

8. Thomas William Webb. "Light spots in the lunar night. — The crater Linne. — Occultations." Intellectual Observer, 11 (1867): 51-60, at 58.

9. William Frederick Denning. Telescopic Work for Starlight Evenings. London: Taylor and Francis, 1891, 120-1.

10. "Report of the Lunar Committee for mapping the surface of the Moon." Annual Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1867, 1-24, at 6-7.

11. "Report of the Lunar Committee for mapping the surface of the Moon." Annual Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1867, 1-24, at 7. Schmidt also observed Linné as a light-spot on December 15, 1866.

12. W.R. Birt. "Has the surface of the Moon attained its final condition?" Student and Intellectual Observer, 1 (1868): 261-8, at 261, 266-7.

13. "Report of the Lunar Committee for mapping the surface of the Moon...." Annual Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1867, 1-24, at 22.

14. Thomas Gwyn Elger. "Bright spot on the Moon." Astronomical Register, 5, 114. Correct quote: " was so conspicuous that it not possibly have been overlooked...."

15. "The crater Linné." Astronomical Register, 5, 218-20, at 220.

16. W.R. Birt. "Has the surface of the Moon attained its final condition?" Student and Intellectual Observer, 1 (1868): 261-8, at 261.

17. "Report of the Lunar Committee for mapping the surface of the Moon." Annual Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1867, 1-24, at 7-8. Buckingham noted the "white spot to be convex," on October 18, 1867. Correct quote: " oval spot rise gradually out of the dark part of the moon...."

18. Agnes Mary Clerke. Popular History of Astronomy, 264.

19. Baden-Powell. "On optical phenomena in occultations." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 17 (March 1857): 143-6. This first article relates primarily to projections of Jupiter upon the moon on January 2, 1857, as seen by several observers. Baden-Powell. "Note to the paper on optical phenomena in the preceding number." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 17 (April 1857): 176. G.B. Airy. "On the apparent projection of stars upon the Moon's disk in occultations." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 19 (April 1859): 208-11. W.H.M. Christie. "Note on a phenomenon seen in the occultation of a star at the Moon's bright limb." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 39 (January 1879): 198. George Davidson. "The apparent projection of stars upon the bright limb of the Moon at occultation, and similar phenomena." Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 50 (May 1890): 385-8. For a more detailed account of the last article: George Davidson. "The apparent projection of stars...." Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences, s. 3, 1 (December 1, 1900): 63-102.

20. The following articles include the beginnings of series of articles as well as an example of an earlier observation of the phenomenon involving Antares: "Occultation of Antares." Observatory, 3 (1879-1880): 84-6. "Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society. Friday, 1901 April 12." Observatory, 24 (1901); 181-7, at 185-6. "Anomalous occultations." Observatory, 24 (1901): 210. "Anomalous occultations." Observatory, 24 (1901): 313-6. Agnes Mary Clerke. "Anomalous occultations." Observatory, 24 (1901): 345-6. Herman S. Davis. "Anomalous occultations." Observatory, 24 (1901): 417-8. "Letters to the editor." English Mechanic, 23 (May 5, 1876): 197. F.W.M. "Projection of star upon the Moon's disc." English Mechanic, 23 (May 26, 1876): 279. "Evidences of a lunar atmosphere." English Mechanic, 26 (November 16, 1877): 229. "Letters to the editor." English Mechanic, 52 (October 3, 1890): 120-1. A. Cowper Ranyard. "The height of the Moon's atmosphere." English Mechanic, 52 (January 16, 1891): 440-1. H.P. Hollis. "Anomalous occultations." English Mechanic, 81 (February 24, 1905): 60. "Occultation of Aldebaran, Sept 10." English Mechanic, 84 (September 21, 1906): 161.

21. C. Gaudibert. "Curious lunar mountains." English Mechanic, 18 (March 13, 1874): 638.

22. "Une épée dans la lune." Astronomie, 9 (1890): 75.

23. W.J.B. Richards. "Lunar work for July, 1882." Astronomical Register, 20 (1882): 167.

24. William H. Pickering. "Changes upon the Moon's surface." Scientific American Supplement, 59 (April 8, 1905): 24468-70, at 24469-70. W.H. Pickering. "Changes upon the Moon's surface." Nature, 71 (January 5, 1905): 226-30, at 229. Thomas Gwyn Elger. "Plinius." English Mechanic, 35 (March 17, 1882): 34. Thomas Gwyn Elger. "Plato and Brenner's Rill." English Mechanic, 64 (October 30, 1896): 252-3. William Porthouse. "Gassendi." English Mechanic, 101 (June 25, 1915): 464, 466.

25. "Close double stars — The `Monthly Notes' — Lunar observations." English Mechanic, 101 (February 12, 1915): 46-7. The Greek letter" gamma" would only consist of two perpendicular lines.

26. C. Gaudibert. "Observations lunaire." Astronomie, 7 (1888): 110-1.

27. Perrotin. "Les canaux de Mars." Astronomie, 7 (1888): 213-5. The "viaducts," described in this article, are upon Mars and not upon the Moon.

28. T.W. Webb, and, Edward Crossley. "Report of the committee for discussing observations of lunar objects suspected of change." Annual Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1871, 60-97, at 79-80. Correct quotes: "..small round disks of bright stars seen...," and, "...the transit-instrument on a windy night."

29. "Selenographical." English Mechanic, 14 (November 10, 1871): 194-5, c.v. "W.R. Birt."

30. "Report of the committee for discussing observations of lunar objects...." Annual Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1871, 60-97, at 88.

31. "Report of the committee for discussing observations of lunar objects...." Annual Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1871, 60-97, at 89.

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