Jules Verne.

The Moon-Voyage online

. (page 6 of 26)
Online LibraryJules VerneThe Moon-Voyage → online text (page 6 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

again crop up between the towns of the favoured state. The rivalry will
be changed from state to city, and that is all. Now Texas contains
eleven towns with the requisite conditions that will dispute the honour
of the enterprise, and that will create fresh troubles for us, whilst
Florida has but one; therefore I decide for Tampa Town!"

The Texican deputies were thunderstruck at this decision. It put them
into a terrible rage, and they sent nominal provocations to different
members of the Gun Club. There was only one course for the magistrates
of Baltimore to take, and they took it. They had the steam of a special
train got up, packed the Texicans into it, whether they would or no, and
sent them away from the town at a speed of thirty miles an hour.

But they were not carried off too quickly to hurl a last and threatening
sarcasm at their adversaries.

Making allusion to the width of Florida, a simple peninsula between two
seas, they pretended it would not resist the shock, and would be blown
up the first time the cannon was fired.

"Very well! let it be blown up!" answered the Floridans with a laconism
worthy of ancient times.



The astronomical, mechanical, and topographical difficulties once
removed, there remained the question of money. An enormous sum was
necessary for the execution of the project. No private individual, no
single state even, could have disposed of the necessary millions.

President Barbicane had resolved - although the enterprise was
American - to make it a business of universal interest, and to ask every
nation for its financial co-operation. It was the bounded right and duty
of all the earth to interfere in the business of the satellite. The
subscription opened at Baltimore, for this end extended thence to all
the world - _urbi et orbi_.

This subscription was destined to succeed beyond all hope; yet the money
was to be given, not lent. The operation was purely disinterested, in
the literal meaning of the word, and offered no chance of gain.

But the effect of Barbicane's communication had not stopped at the
frontiers of the United States; it had crossed the Atlantic and Pacific,
had invaded both Asia and Europe, both Africa and Oceania. The
observatories of the Union were immediately put into communication with
the observatories of foreign countries; some - those of Paris, St.
Petersburg, the Cape, Berlin, Altona, Stockholm, Warsaw, Hamburg, Buda,
Bologna, Malta, Lisbon, Benares, Madras, and Pekin - sent their
compliments to the Gun Club; the others prudently awaited the result.

As to the Greenwich Observatory, seconded by the twenty-two astronomical
establishments of Great Britain, it made short work of it; it boldly
denied the possibility of success, and took up Captain Nicholl's
theories. Whilst the different scientific societies promised to send
deputies to Tampa Town, the Greenwich staff met and contemptuously
dismissed the Barbicane proposition. This was pure English jealousy and
nothing else.

Generally speaking, the effect upon the world of science was excellent,
and from thence it passed to the masses, who, in general, were greatly
interested in the question, a fact of great importance, seeing those
masses were to be called upon to subscribe a considerable capital.

On the 8th of October President Barbicane issued a manifesto, full of
enthusiasm, in which he made appeal to "all persons on the face of the
earth willing to help." This document, translated into every language,
had great success.

Subscriptions were opened in the principal towns of the Union with a
central office at the Baltimore Bank, 9, Baltimore street; then
subscriptions were opened in the different countries of the two
continents: - At Vienna, by S.M. de Rothschild; St. Petersburg, Stieglitz
and Co.; Paris, Crédit Mobilier; Stockholm, Tottie and Arfuredson;
London, N.M. de Rothschild and Son; Turin, Ardouin and Co.; Berlin,
Mendelssohn; Geneva, Lombard, Odier, and Co.; Constantinople, Ottoman
Bank; Brussels, J. Lambert; Madrid, Daniel Weisweller; Amsterdam,
Netherlands Credit Co.; Rome, Torlonia and Co.; Lisbon, Lecesne;
Copenhagen, Private Bank; Buenos Ayres, Mana Bank; Rio Janeiro, Mana
Bank; Monte Video, Mana Bank; Valparaiso, Thomas La Chambre and Co.;
Lima, Thomas La Chambre and Co.; Mexico, Martin Daran and Co.

Three days after President Barbicane's manifesto 400,000 dollars were
received in the different towns of the Union. With such a sum in hand
the Gun Club could begin at once.

But a few days later telegrams informed America that foreign
subscriptions were pouring in rapidly. Certain countries were
distinguished by their generosity; others let go their money less
easily. It was a matter of temperament.

However, figures are more eloquent than words, and the following is an
official statement of the sums paid to the credit of the Gun Club when
the subscription was closed: -

The contingent of Russia was the enormous sum of 368,733 roubles. This
need astonish no one who remembers the scientific taste of the Russians
and the impetus which they have given to astronomical studies, thanks to
their numerous observatories, the principal of which cost 2,000,000

France began by laughing at the pretensions of the Americans. The moon
served as an excuse for a thousand stale puns and a score of vaudevilles
in which bad taste contested the palm with ignorance. But, as the French
formerly paid after singing, they now paid after laughing, and
subscribed a sum of 1,258,930 francs. At that price they bought the
right to joke a little.

Austria, in the midst of her financial difficulties, was sufficiently
generous. Her part in the public subscription amounted to 216,000
florins, which were welcome.

Sweden and Norway contributed 52,000 rix-dollars. The figure was small
considering the country; but it would certainly have been higher if a
subscription had been opened at Christiania as well as at Stockholm. For
some reason or other the Norwegians do not like to send their money to

Prussia, by sending 250,000 thalers, testified her approbation of the
enterprise. Her different observatories contributed an important sum,
and were amongst the most ardent in encouraging President Barbicane.

Turkey behaved generously, but she was personally interested in the
business; the moon, in fact, rules the course of her years and her
Ramadan fast. She could do no less than give 1,372,640 piastres, and she
gave them with an ardour that betrayed, however, a certain pressure from
the Government of the Porte.

Belgium distinguished herself amongst all the second order of States by
a gift of 513,000 francs, about one penny and a fraction for each

Holland and her colonies contributed 110,000 florins, only demanding a
discount of five per cent., as she paid ready money.

Denmark, rather confined for room, gave, notwithstanding, 9,000 ducats,
proving her love for scientific experiments.

The Germanic Confederation subscribed 34,285 florins; more could not be
asked from her; besides, she would not have given more.

Although in embarrassed circumstances, Italy found 2,000,000 francs in
her children's pockets, but by turning them well inside out. If she had
then possessed Venetia she would have given more, but she did not yet
possess Venetia.

The Pontifical States thought they could not send less than 7,040 Roman
crowns, and Portugal pushed her devotion to the extent of 3,000

Mexico gent the widow's mite, 86 piastres; but empires in course of
formation are always in rather embarrassed circumstances.

Switzerland sent the modest sum of 257 francs to the American scheme. It
must be frankly stated that Switzerland only looked upon the practical
side of the operation; the action of sending a bullet to the moon did
not seem of a nature sufficient for the establishing of any
communication with the Queen of Night, so Switzerland thought it
imprudent to engage capital in an enterprise depending upon such
uncertain events. After all, Switzerland was, perhaps, right.

As to Spain, she found it impossible to get together more than 110
reals. She gave as an excuse that she had her railways to finish. The
truth is that science is not looked upon very favourably in that
country; it is still a little behindhand. And then certain Spaniards,
and not the most ignorant either, had no clear conception of the size of
the projectile compared with that of the moon; they feared it might
disturb the satellite from her orbit, and make her fall on to the
surface of the terrestrial globe. In that case it was better to have
nothing to do with it, which they carried out, with that small

England alone remained. The contemptuous antipathy with which she
received Barbicane's proposition is known. The English have but a single
mind in their 25,000,000 of bodies which Great Britain contains. They
gave it to be understood that the enterprise of the Gun Club was
contrary "to the principle of non-intervention," and they did not
subscribe a single farthing.

At this news the Gun Club contented itself with shrugging its shoulders,
and returned to its great work. When South America - that is to say,
Peru, Chili, Brazil, the provinces of La Plata and Columbia - had poured
into their hands their quota of 300,000 dollars, it found itself
possessed of a considerable capital of which the following is a
statement: -

United States subscription, 4,000,000 dollars; foreign subscriptions,
1,446,675 dollars; total, 5,446,675 dollars.

This was the large sum poured by the public into the coffers of the Gun

No one need be surprised at its importance. The work of casting, boring,
masonry, transport of workmen, and their installation in an almost
uninhabited country, the construction of furnaces and workshops, the
manufacturing tools, powder, projectile and incidental expenses would,
according to the estimates, absorb nearly the whole. Some of the
cannon-shots fired during the war cost 1,000 dollars each; that of
President Barbicane, unique in the annals of artillery, might well cost
5,000 times more.

On the 20th of October a contract was made with the Goldspring
Manufactory, New York, which during the war had furnished Parrott with
his best cast-iron guns.

It was stipulated between the contracting parties that the Goldspring
Manufactory should pledge itself to send to Tampa Town, in South
Florida, the necessary materials for the casting of the Columbiad.

This operation was to be terminated, at the latest, on the 15th of the
next October, and the cannon delivered in good condition, under penalty
of 100 dollars a day forfeit until the moon should again present herself
under the same conditions - that is to say, during eighteen years and
eleven days.

The engagement of the workmen, their pay, and the necessary transports
all to be made by the Goldspring Company.

This contract, made in duplicate, was signed by I. Barbicane, president
of the Gun Club, and J. Murphison, Manager of the Goldspring
Manufactory, who thus signed on the part of the contracting parties.



Since the choice made by the members of the Gun Club to the detriment of
Texas, every one in America - where every one knows how to read - made it
his business to study the geography of Florida. Never before had the
booksellers sold so many _Bertram's Travels in Florida_, _Roman's
Natural History of East and West Florida_, _Williams' Territory of
Florida_, and _Cleland on the Culture of the Sugar Cane in East
Florida_. New editions of these works were required. There was quite a
rage for them.

Barbicane had something better to do than to read; he wished to see with
his own eyes and choose the site of the Columbiad. Therefore, without
losing a moment, he put the funds necessary for the construction of a
telescope at the disposition of the Cambridge Observatory, and made a
contract with the firm of Breadwill and Co., of Albany, for the making
of the aluminium projectile; then he left Baltimore accompanied by J.T.
Maston, Major Elphinstone, and the manager of the Goldspring

The next day the four travelling companions reached New Orleans. There
they embarked on board the _Tampico_, a despatch-boat belonging to the
Federal Navy, which the Government had placed at their disposal, and,
with all steam on, they quickly lost sight of the shores of Louisiana.

The passage was not a long one; two days after its departure the
_Tampico_, having made four hundred and eighty miles, sighted the
Floridian coast. As it approached, Barbicane saw a low, flat coast,
looking rather unfertile. After coasting a series of creeks rich in
oysters and lobsters, the _Tampico_ entered the Bay of Espiritu-Santo.

This bay is divided into two long roadsteads, those of Tampa and
Hillisboro, the narrow entrance to which the steamer soon cleared. A
short time afterwards the batteries of Fort Brooke rose above the waves
and the town of Tampa appeared, carelessly lying on a little natural
harbour formed by the mouth of the river Hillisboro.

There the _Tampico_ anchored on October 22nd, at seven p.m.; the four
passengers landed immediately.

Barbicane felt his heart beat violently as he set foot on Floridian
soil; he seemed to feel it with his feet like an architect trying the
solidity of a house. J.T. Maston scratched the ground with his steel

"Gentlemen," then said Barbicane, "we have no time to lose, and we will
set off on horseback to-morrow to survey the country."

The minute Barbicane landed the three thousand inhabitants of Tampa Town
went out to meet him, an honour quite due to the president of the Gun
Club, who had decided in their favour. They received him with formidable
exclamations, but Barbicane escaped an ovation by shutting himself up in
his room at the Franklin Hotel and refusing to see any one.

The next day, October 23rd, small horses of Spanish race, full of fire
and vigour, pawed the ground under his windows. But, instead of four,
there were fifty, with their riders. Barbicane went down accompanied by
his three companions, who were at first astonished to find themselves in
the midst of such a cavalcade. He remarked besides that each horseman
carried a carbine slung across his shoulders and pistols in his
holsters. The reason for such a display of force was immediately given
him by a young Floridian, who said to him -

"Sir, the Seminoles are there."

"What Seminoles?"

"Savages who frequent the prairies, and we deemed it prudent to give you
an escort."

"Pooh!" exclaimed J.T. Maston as he mounted his steed.

"It is well to be on the safe side," answered the Floridian.

"Gentlemen," replied Barbicane, "I thank you for your attention, and now
let us be off."

The little troop set out immediately, and disappeared in a cloud of
dust. It was five a.m.; the sun shone brilliantly already, and the
thermometer indicated 84°, but fresh sea breezes moderated this
excessive heat.

Barbicane, on leaving Tampa Town, went down south and followed the coast
to Alifia Creek. This small river falls into Hillisboro Bay, twelve
miles below Tampa Town. Barbicane and his escort followed its right bank
going up towards the east. The waves of the bay disappeared behind an
inequality in the ground, and the Floridian country was alone in sight.

Florida is divided into two parts; the one to the north, more populous
and less abandoned, has Tallahassee for capital, and Pensacola, one of
the principal marine arsenals of the United States; the other, lying
between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, is only a narrow peninsula,
eaten away by the current of the Gulf Stream - a little tongue of land
lost amidst a small archipelago, which the numerous vessels of the
Bahama Channel double continually. It is the advanced sentinel of the
gulf of great tempests. The superficial area of this state measures
38,033,267 acres, amongst which one had to be chosen situated beyond the
28th parallel and suitable for the enterprise. As Barbicane rode along
he attentively examined the configuration of the ground and its
particular distribution.

Florida, discovered by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1512, on Palm Sunday, was
first of all named _Pascha Florida_. It was well worthy of that
designation with its dry and arid coasts. But a few miles from the shore
the nature of the ground gradually changed, and the country showed
itself worthy of its name; the soil was cut up by a network of creeks,
rivers, watercourses, ponds, and small lakes; it might have been
mistaken for Holland or Guiana; but the ground gradually rose and soon
showed its cultivated plains, where all the vegetables of the North and
South grow in perfection, its immense fields, where a tropical sun and
the water conserved in its clayey texture do all the work of
cultivating, and lastly its prairies of pineapples, yams, tobacco, rice,
cotton, and sugarcanes, which extended as far as the eye could reach,
spreading out their riches with careless prodigality.

Barbicane appeared greatly satisfied on finding the progressive
elevation of the ground, and when J.T. Maston questioned him on the

"My worthy friend," said he, "it is greatly to our interest to cast our
Columbiad on elevated ground."

"In order to be nearer the moon?" exclaimed the secretary of the Gun

"No," answered Barbicane, smiling. "What can a few yards more or less
matter? No, but on elevated ground our work can be accomplished more
easily; we shall not have to struggle against water, which will save us
long and expensive tubings, and that has to be taken into consideration
when a well 900 feet deep has to be sunk."

"You are right," said Murchison, the engineer; "we must, as much as
possible, avoid watercourses during the casting; but if we meet with
springs they will not matter much; we can exhaust them with our machines
or divert them from their course. Here we have not to work at an
artesian well, narrow and dark, where all the boring implements have to
work in the dark. No; we can work under the open sky, with spade and
pickaxe, and, by the help of blasting, our work will not take long."

"Still," resumed Barbicane, "if by the elevation of the ground or its
nature we can avoid a struggle with subterranean waters, we can do our
work more rapidly and perfectly; we must, therefore, make our cutting in
ground situated some thousands of feet above the level of the sea."

"You are right, Mr. Barbicane, and, if I am not mistaken, we shall soon
find a suitable spot."

"I should like to see the first spadeful turned up," said the president.

"And I the last!" exclaimed J.T. Maston.

"We shall manage it, gentlemen," answered the engineer; "and, believe
me, the Goldspring Company will not have to pay you any forfeit for

"Faith! it had better not," replied J.T. Maston; "a hundred dollars a
day till the moon presents herself in the same conditions - that is to
say, for eighteen years and eleven days - do you know that would make
658,000 dollars?"

"No, sir, we do not know, and we shall not need to learn."

About ten a.m. the little troop had journeyed about twelve miles; to the
fertile country succeeded a forest region. There were the most varied
perfumes in tropical profusion. The almost impenetrable forests were
made up of pomegranates, orange, citron, fig, olive, and apricot trees,
bananas, huge vines, the blossoms and fruit of which rivalled each other
in colour and perfume. Under the perfumed shade of these magnificent
trees sang and fluttered a world of brilliantly-coloured birds, amongst
which the crab-eater deserved a jewel casket, worthy of its feathered
gems, for a nest.

J.T. Maston and the major could not pass through such opulent nature
without admiring its splendid beauty.

But President Barbicane, who thought little of these marvels, was in a
hurry to hasten onwards; this country, so fertile, displeased him by its
very fertility; without being otherwise hydropical, he felt water under
his feet, and sought in vain the signs of incontestable aridity.

In the meantime they journeyed on. They were obliged to ford several
rivers, and not without danger, for they were infested with alligators
from fifteen to eighteen feet long. J.T. Maston threatened them boldly
with his formidable hook, but he only succeeded in frightening the
pelicans, phaetons, and teals that frequented the banks, while the red
flamingoes looked on with a stupid stare.

At last these inhabitants of humid countries disappeared in their turn.
The trees became smaller and more thinly scattered in smaller woods;
some isolated groups stood amidst immense plains where ranged herds of
startled deer.

"At last!" exclaimed Barbicane, rising in his stirrups. "Here is the
region of pines."

"And savages," answered the major.

In fact, a few Seminoles appeared on the horizon. They moved about
backwards and forwards on their fleet horses, brandishing long lances or
firing their guns with a dull report. However, they confined themselves
to these hostile demonstrations, which had no effect on Barbicane and
his companions.

They were then in the middle of a rocky plain, a vast open space of
several acres in extent which the sun covered with burning rays. It was
formed by a wide elevation of the soil, and seemed to offer to the
members of the Gun Club all the required conditions for the construction
of their Columbiad.

"Halt!" cried Barbicane, stopping. "Has this place any name?"

"It is called Stony Hill," answered the Floridians.

Barbicane, without saying a word, dismounted, took his instruments, and
began to fix his position with extreme precision. The little troop drawn
up around him watched him in profound silence.

At that moment the sun passed the meridian. Barbicane, after an
interval, rapidly noted the result of his observation, and said -

"This place is situated 1,800 feet above the sea level in lat. 27° 7'
and West long. 5° 7' by the Washington meridian. It appears to me by its
barren and rocky nature to offer every condition favourable to our
enterprise; we will therefore raise our magazines, workshops, furnaces,
and workmen's huts here, and it is from this very spot," said he,
stamping upon it with his foot, "the summit of Stony Hill, that our
projectile will start for the regions of the solar world!"



That same evening Barbicane and his companions returned to Tampa Town,
and Murchison, the engineer, re-embarked on board the _Tampico_ for New
Orleans. He was to engage an army of workmen to bring back the greater
part of the working-stock. The members of the Gun Club remained at Tampa
Town in order to set on foot the preliminary work with the assistance of
the inhabitants of the country.

Eight days after its departure the _Tampico_ returned to the
Espiritu-Santo Bay with a fleet of steamboats. Murchison had succeeded
in getting together 1,500 workmen. In the evil days of slavery he would
have lost his time and trouble; but since America, the land of liberty,
has only contained freemen, they flock wherever they can get good pay.
Now money was not wanting to the Gun Club; it offered a high rate of
wages with considerable and proportionate perquisites. The workman
enlisted for Florida could, once the work finished, depend upon a
capital placed in his name in the bank of Baltimore.

Murchison had therefore only to pick and choose, and could be severe
about the intelligence and skill of his workmen. He enrolled in his
working legion the pick of mechanics, stokers, iron-founders,
lime-burners, miners, brickmakers, and artisans of every sort, white or
black without distinction of colour. Many of them brought their families
with them. It was quite an emigration.

On the 31st of October, at 10 a.m., this troop landed on the quays of
Tampa Town. The movement and activity which reigned in the little town
that had thus doubled its population in a single day may be imagined. In
fact, Tampa Town was enormously benefited by this enterprise of the Gun
Club, not by the number of workmen who were immediately drafted to Stony
Hill, but by the influx of curious idlers who converged by degrees from
all points of the globe towards the Floridian peninsula.

During the first few days they were occupied in unloading the flotilla
of the tools, machines, provisions, and a large number of plate iron
houses made in pieces separately pieced and numbered. At the same time
Barbicane laid the first sleepers of a railway fifteen miles long that
was destined to unite Stony Hill and Tampa Town.

Online LibraryJules VerneThe Moon-Voyage → online text (page 6 of 26)