New Lands

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





OUR data indicate that the planets are circulating adjacencies. Almost do we now conceive of a difficulty of the future as being not how to reach the planets, but how to dodge them. Especially do we warn aviators away from that rhinoceros of the skies, Mercury. I have a note somewhere upon one of the wickedest-looking horns in existence, sticking out far from Mercury. I think it was Mr. Whitmell who made this observation.(1) I'd like to hear Andrew Barclay's opinion on that. I'd like to hear Capt. Noble's.

If sometimes does the planet Mars almost graze this earth, as is not told by the great telescopes, which are only millionaire's memorials, or, at least, which reveal but little more than did the little spy glasses used by Burnham and Williams and Beer and Mädler — but if periodically the planet Mars comes very close to this earth, and, if Mars, an island with perhaps no more surface-area than has England, but likely enough inhabited, like England —

June 19, 1875 — opposition of Mars.

Flashes that were seen in the sky upon the 25th of June, 1875, by Charles Gape, of Scole, Norfolk (Eng. Mec., 21-488).(2) The Editor of Symons' Met. Mag. (see vol. 10-116), was interested, and sent Mr. Gape some questions, receiving answers that nothing had appeared in the local newspapers upon the subject, and that nothing could be learned of a display of fireworks, at the time.(3) To Mr. Gape the appearances seemed to be meteoric.

The year 1877 — climacteric opposition of Mars.

There were some discoveries.

We have at times wondered how astronomers spend their nights. Of course, according to many of his writings upon the subject, Richard Proctor had an excellent knowledge of whist.(4) But in the year 1877, two astronomers looked up at the sky, and one of them discovered the moons of Mars, and the other called atten- [139/140] tion to lines on Mars — and, if for centuries, the moons of Mars could so remain unknown to all inhabitants of this earth except, as it were, Dean Swift — why, it is no wonder that we so respectfully heed some of the Dean's other intuitions, and think that there may be Lilliputians, or Brobdingnagians, and other forms not conventionally supposed to be. As to our own fields of data, I have a striking number of notes upon signal-like appearances upon the moon, in the year 1877, but have notes upon only one occurrence that, in our interests, may relate to Mars. The occurrence is like that of July 31, 1813 and June 19, 1875.

Sept. 5, 1877 — opposition of Mars.

Sept. 7, 1877 — lights appeared in the sky of Bloomington, Indiana. They were supposed to be meteoric. They appeared and disappeared, at intervals of three or four seconds; darkness for several minutes; then a final flash of light. See Sci. Amer., 37-193.(5)

*  *  *

That all luminous objects that are seen in the sky when the planet Venus is nearest may not be Venus; may not be fire-balloons:

In the Dundee Advertiser, Dec. 22, 1882, it is said that, between 10 and 11 A.M., Dec. 21, at Broughty Ferry, Scotland, a correspondent had seen an unknown luminous body near and a little above the sun.(6) In the Advertiser, Dec. 25, is published a letter from someone who says that this object had been seen at Dundee, also; that quite certainly it was the planet Venus and "no other."(7) In Knowledge, 2-489, this story is told by a writer who says that undoubtedly the object was Venus.(8) But in Knowledge, 3-13, the astronomer J.E. Gore writes that the object could not have been Venus, which upon this date was 1 h. 33 m., R. A., west of the sun.(9) The observation is reviewed in L'Astronomie, 1883-109.(10) Here it is said that the position of Mercury accorded better. Reasonably this object could not have been Mercury: several objections are comprehended in the statement that superior conjunction of Mercury had occurred upon December 16.(11)

Upon Feb. 3, 1884, M. Staevert, of the Brussels Observatory, saw, upon the disc of Venus, an extremely brilliant point (Ciel et Terre, 5-127).(12) Nine days later, Niesten saw just such a point [140/141] of light as this, but at a distance from the planet. If no one had ever heard that such things can not be, one might think that these two observations were upon something that had been seen leaving Venus and had then been seen farther along. Upon the 3rd of July, 1884, a luminous object was seen moving slowly in the sky of Norwood, N.Y. It had features that suggest the structural: a globe the size of the moon, surrounded by a ring; two dark lines crossing the nucleus (Science Monthly, 2-136).(13) Upon the 26th of July, 1884, a luminous globe, size of the moon, was seen at Cologne; it seemed to be moving upward from this earth, then was stationary "some minutes," and then continued upward until it disappeared (Nature, 30-360).(14)

And in the English Mechanic, 40-130, it is not said that a luminous vessel that had sailed out from Venus, in February, visiting this earth, where it was seen in several places, was seen upon its return to the planet, but it is said that an observer in Rochester, N.Y., had, upon August 17, seen a brilliant point upon Venus.(15)


1. "Transit of Mercury." English Mechanic, 100 (November 20, 1914): 364. Whitmell writes: "Just after first external contact, and visible for some time after (when the planet was fully on the sun), there appeared a little black horn of length equal to the planet's diameter. This horn was projecting from the side of the planet towards the sun's centre, and therefore had nothing to do with the `black drop,' which I did not see. The horn was a very curious feature, and was seen by my wife as well as by myself. It was, of course, an optical illusion. I shall be grateful for an explanation of it."

2. Charles Gape. "A singular phenomenon." English Mechanic, 21 (July 23, 1875): 488.

3. Charles Gape. "A singular phenomenon." Symons' Meteorological Magazine, 10 (August 1875): 116.

4. "Five of Clubs," (Richard Anthony Proctor). Home Whist: An Easy Guide to Correct Play. London, 1883. Richard Anthony Proctor. How to Play Whist. London: Longmans & Co., 1885.

5. Daniel Kirkwood. "Stationary meteors." Scientific American, n.s., 37 (September 29, 1877): 193.

6. "Strange phenomenon." Dundee Advertiser, December 22, 1882, p. 5 c. 5.

7. "The peculiar phenomenon in the heavens." Dundee Advertiser, December 25, 1882, p. 7 c. 4.

8. "Science and art gossip." Knowledge, 2 (December 29, 1882): 489. The story is repeated in Knowledge, but no mention is made of Venus.

9. John Ellard Gore. "Bright star near the sun." Knowledge, 3 (January 5, 1883): 13. Gore states: "The object could not have been the planet Venus, which was situated about 23 west of the sun on the day in question."

10. "Vénus visible près du Soleil." Astronomie, 2 (1883): 108-9.

11. The American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac for the Year 1882. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Navigation, 1880, 483. On December 21, 1882, several people in Broughty Ferry, Scotland, reported a "strange phenomenon," according to the Dundee Advertiser. Their correspondent wrote: "Yesterday forenoon, between ten and eleven o'clock, the attention of several persons in Broughty Ferry was directed for a time to a somewhat unusual sight in the heavens. The sun at the same time was shining brightly, being about due south, when a star was seen in close proximity to it. The star was a little above the sun's path, and the peculiar phenomenon was seen by various persons, who had their attention directed to it. Being daytime, the star did not have the brilliant luminous radiance stars exhibit at night, but was of a milky white appearance, and seemed, when seen through a glass, to be of a crescent shape. Being on a light blue ground, and lying between two white clouds, it was seen to great advantage". Fort's doubts were prompted by alternative explanations given by the astronomers reporting on this event. The Advertiser article of December 22nd was repeated in Knowledge, without an attempt at identification; but, John Ellard Gore wrote a letter, disputing Venus as a possible explanation, offering two stars in Sagittarius as possible explanations, (though Kaus Australis never would have risen above the horizon on that date in this location), but suggesting a flaring up of "Kepler's celebrated 'Nova,' of 1604." The French publication Astronomie further complicated the issue by disputing Venus and suggesting that Mercury was a better (closer) candidate for an explanation. However, Mercury would have been south (below) the sun and too close for observation. The explanations offered by the astronomers ignored Mars, which would have been close to the sun and to the west of it; but, the identification of Venus was made by another correspondent in the Dundee Advertiser, (December 25, 1882). This latter correspondent wrote: "The description which he gives of it makes it quite certain that it was the planet Venus, and no other. It is at present a little to the west of the sun, and above it," and, "....At present it is of a crescent shape...." A daytime sighting of Venus appears to be the most likely explanation.

12. J.C.Houzeau. "Le satellite problématique de Vénus." Ciel et Terre, 5, 121-9, at 127-8. The observer was Stuyvaert, not Staevert.

13. Illustrated Science Monthly, 2, 136.

14. W.M. Flinders Petrie. "Fireballs." Nature, 30 (August 14, 1884): 360. The observation was made at Brühl, near Cologne.

15. "Is there a snow cap on Venus?" English Mechanic, 40 (October 10, 1884): 129-30.

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