am forced into speech because men of science have refused to follow my
advice without knowing why. It is altogether against my will that
I tell my reasons for opposing this contemplated invasion of the antarctic--with
its vast fossil hunt and its wholesale boring and melting of the ancient
ice caps. And I am the more reluctant because my warning may be in
of the real facts, as I must reveal them, is inevitable; yet, if I suppressed
what will seem extravagant and incredible there would be nothing left.
The hitherto withheld photographs, both ordinary and aërial, will
count in my favor, for they are damnably vivid and graphic. Still,
they will be doubted because of the great lengths to which clever fakery
can be carried. The ink drawings, of course, will be jeered at as
obvious impostures, notwithstanding a strangeness of technique which art
experts ought to remark and puzzle over.
end I must rely on the judgement and standing of the few scientific leaders
who have, on the other hand, sufficient independence of thought to weigh
my data on its own hideously convincing merits or in the light of certain
primordial and highly baffling myth cycles; and on the other hand, sufficient
influence to deter the exploring world in general from any rash and over
ambitious program in the region of those mountains of madness. It
is an unfortunate fact that relatively obscure men like myself and my associates,
connected only with a small university, have little chance of making an
impression where matters of a wildly bizarre or highly controversial nature
further against us that we are not, in the strictest sense, specialists
in the fields which came primarily to be concerned. As a geologist,
my object in leading the Miskatonic University Expedition was wholly that
of securing deep-level specimens of rock and soil from various parts of
the antarctic continent, aided by the remarkable drill devised by Professor
Frank H. Pabodie of our engineering department. I had no wish to
be a pioneer in any other field than this. but I did hope that the use
of this new mechanical appliance at different points along previously explored
paths would bring to light materials of a sort hitherto unreached by the
ordinary methods of collection.
drilling apparatus, as the public already knows from our reports, was unique
and radical in its lightness, portability, and capacity to combine the
ordinary artesian drill principle with the principle of the small circular
rock drill in such a way as to cope quickly with strata of varying hardness.
Steel head, jointed rods, gasoline motor, collapsible wooden derrick, dynamiting
paraphernalia, cording, rubbish-removal auger, and sectional piping for
bores five inches wide and up to one thousand feet deep all formed, with
needed accessories, no greater load than three seven-dog sledges could
carry. This was made possible by the clever aluminum alloy of which
most of the metal objects were fashioned. Four large Dornier aëroplanes,
designed especially for the tremendous altitude flying necessary on the
antarctic plateau and with added fuel-warming and quick-starting devices
worked out by Pabodie, could transport our entire expedition from a base
at the edge of the great ice barrier to various suitable inland points,
and from these points a sufficient quota of dogs would serve us.
to cover as great an area as one antarctic season--or longer, if absolutely
necessary--would permit, operating mostly in the mountain ranges and on
the plateau south of Ross Sea; regions explored in varying degrees by Shackleton,
Amundsen, Scott, and Byrd. With frequent changes of camp, made by
aëroplane and involving distances to unearth a quite unprecedented
amount of material--especially in the pre-Cambrian strata of which so narrow
a range of antarctic specimens had previously been secured.
We wished also to obtain as
great as possible a variety of the upper realm of ice and death is of the
highest importance to our knowledge of the earth's past. That the
antarctic continent was once temperate and even tropical, with a teeming
vegetable and animal life of which the lichens, marine fauna, arachnida,
and penguins of the northern edge are the only survivals, is a matter of
common information; and we hoped to expand that information in variety,
accuracy, and detail. When a simple boring revealed fossiliferous
signs, we would enlarge the aperture by blasting, in order to get specimens
of suitable size and condition.
borings, of varying depth according to the promise held out by the upper
soil or rock, were to be confined to exposed, or nearly exposed, land surfaces--these
inevitably being slopes and ridges because of the mile or two-mile thickness
of solid ice overlying the lower levels. We could not afford to waste
drilling the depth of any considerable amount of mere glaciation, though
Pabodie had worked out a plan for sinking copper electrodes in thick clusters
of borings and melting off limited areas of ice with current from a gasoline-driven
dynamo. It is this plan--which we could not put into effect except
experimentally on an expedition such as ours--that the coming Starkweather-Moore
Expedition proposes to follow, despite the warnings I have issued
since our return from the antarctic.
public knows of the Miskatonic Expedition thorugh our frequent wireless
reports to the Arkham Advertiser and Associated Press, and through
later articles of Pabodie and myself. We consisted of four men from
the University--Pabodie, Lake of the biology department, Atwood of the
physics department--also a meteorologist--and myself, representing geology
and having nominal command--besides sixteen assistants: seven graduate
students from Miskatonic and nine skilled mechanics. Of these sixteen,
twelve were qualified aëroplane pilots, all but two of whom were competent
wireless operators. Eight of them understood navigation with compass
and sextant, as did Pabodie, Atwood and I. In addition, of course,
our two ships--wooden ex-whalers, reinforced for ice conditions and having
auxiliary steam--were fully manned.
Nathaniel Derby Pickman Foundation, aided by a few special contributions,
financed the expedition; hence our preparations were extremely thorough,
despite the absence of great publicity. The dogs, sledges, machines,
camp materials, and unassembled parts of our five planes were delivered
in Boston, and there our ships were loaded. We were marvelously well-equipped
for our specific purposes, and in all matters pertaining to supplies, regimen,
transportation, and camp construction we profited by the excellent example
of our many recent and exceptionally brilliant predecessors which made
our own expedition--ample though it was--so little noticed by the world
newspapers told, we sailed from Boston Harbor on September 2nd, 1930, taking
a leisurely course down the coast and through the Panama Canal, and stopped
at Samoa and Hobart, Tasmania, at which latter place we took on final supplies.
None of our exploring party had ever been in the polar regions before,
hence we all relied greatly on our ship captains--J. B. Douglas, commanding
the brig Arkham, and serving as commander of the sea party and Georg
Thorfinnssen, commanding the barque Miskatonic--both veteran whalers
in antarctic waters.
left the inhabited world behind the sun sank lower and lower in the north,
and stayed longer and longer above the horizon each day. At about
62° South Latitude we sighted our first icebergs--tablelike objects
with vertical sides--and just before reaching the antarctic circle, which
we crossed on October 20th with appropriately quaint ceremonies, we were
considerably troubled with field ice. The falling temperature bothered
me considerably after our long voyage through the tropics, but I tried
to brace up for the worse rigors to come. On many occasions the curious
atmospheric effects enchanted me vastly; these including a strikingly vivid
mirage--the first I had ever seen--in which distant bergs became the battlements
of unimaginable cosmic castles.
through the ice, which was fortunately neither extensive nor thickly packed,
we regained open water at South Latitude 67°, East Longitude 175°.
On the morning of October 26th a strong land blink appeared on the south,
and before noon we all felt a thrill of excitement at beholding a vast,
lofty, and snow-clad mountain chain which opened out and covered the whole
vista ahead. At last we had encountered an outpost of the great unknown
continent and its cryptic world of frozen death. These peaks were
obviously the Admiralty Range discovered by Ross, and it would now be our
task to round Cape Adare and sail down the east coast of Victoria Land
ot our contemplated base on the shore of McMurdo Sound, at the foot of
the volcano Erebus in South Latitude 77° 9".
last lap of the voyage was vivid and fancy-stirring. Great barren
peaks of mystery loomed up constantly against the west as the low northern
sun of noon or the still lower horizon-grazing souther sun of midnight
poured its hazy reddish rays over the white snow, bluish ice and water
lanes, and black bits of exposed granite slope. Through the desolate
summits swept raging, intermittent gusts of the terrible antarctic wind;
whose cadences sometimes held vague suggestions of a wild and half-sentient
musical piping, with notes extending over a wide range, and which for some
subconscious mnemonic reason seemed to me disquieting and even dimly terrible.
Something about the scene reminded me of the strange and disturbing Asian
paintings of Nicholas Roerich, and of the still stranger and more disturbing
descriptions of the evilly fabled plateau of Leng which occur in the dreaded
of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred. I was rather sorry, later on, that
I had ever looked into that monstrous book at the college library.
7th of November, sight of the westward range having been temporarily lost,
we passed Franklin Island; and the next day descried the cones of Mts.
Erebus and Terror on Ross Island ahead, with the long line of the Parry
Mountains beyond. There now stretched off to the east the low, white
line of the great ice barrier, rising perpendicularly to a height of two
hundred feet like the rocky cliffs of Quebec, and marking the end of southward
navigation. In the afternoon we entered McMurdo Sound and stood off
the coast in the lee of smoking Mt. Erebus. The scoriac peak towered
up some twelve thousand, seven hundred feet against the eastern sky, like
a Japanese print of the sacred Fujiama, while beyond it rose the white,
ghostlike height of Mt. Terror, ten thousand, nine hundred feet in altitude,
and now extinct as a volcano.
of smoke from Erebus came intermittently, and one of the graduate students
- a brilliant young fellow named Danforth -pointed out what looked like
lava on the snowy slope, remarking that this mountain, discovered in 1840,
had undoubtedly been the source of Poe's image when he wrote seven years
- the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole -
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.
was a great reader of bizarre material, and had talked a good deal of Poe.
I was interested myself because of the antarctic scene of Poe's only long
story - the disturbingly and enigmatical Arthur Gordon Pym." On the
barren shore, and on the lofty ice barrier in the background, myriads of
grotesque penguins squawked and flapped their fins, while many fat seals
were visible on the water, swimming or sprawling across large cakes of
slowly drifting ice.
small boats, we effected a difficult landing on Ross Island shortly after
midnight on the morning of the 9th, carrying a line of cable from each
of the ships and preparing to unload supplies by means of a breeches-buoy
arrangement. Our sensations on first reading Antarctic soil were
poignant and complex, even though at this particular point the Scott and
Shackleton expeditions had preceded us. Our camp on the frozen shore
below the volcano's slope was only a provisional one, headquarters being
kept aboard the Arkham. We landed all our drilling apparatus,
dogs, sledges, tents, provisions, gasoline tanks, experimental ice-melting
outfit, cameras, both ordinary and aërial, aëroplane parts, and
other accessories, including three small portable wireless outfits--besides
those in the planes--capable of communicating with the Arkham's
large outfit from any part of the antarctic continent that we would be
likely to visit. The ship's outfit, communicating with the outside
world, was to convey press reports to the Arkham Advertiser's powerful
wireless station on Kingsport Head, Massachusetts. We hope to complete
our work during a single antarctic summer; but is this proved impossible
we would winter on the Arkham, sending the Miskatonic north
before the freezing of the ice for another summer's supplies.
not repeat what the newspapers have already published about our early work:
of our ascent of Mt. Erebus; our successful mineral borings at several
points on Ross Island and the singular speed with which Pabodie's apparatus
accomplished them, even through solid rock layers; our provisional test
of the small ice-melting equipment; our perilous ascent of the great barrier
with sledges and supplies; and our final assembling of five huge aëroplanes
at the camp atop the barrier. The health of our land party--twenty
men and fifty-five Alaskan sledge dogs--was remarkable, though of course
we had so far encountered no really destructive temperatures or windstorms.
For the most part, the thermometer varied between zero and 20° or 25°
above, and our experience with New England winters had accustomed us to
rigors of this sort. The barrier camp was semi-permanent, and destined
to be a storage cache for gasoline, provisions, dynamite, and other supplies.
four of our planes were needed to carry the actual exploring material,
the fifth being left with a pilot and two men from the ships at the storage
cache to for a means of reaching us from the Arkham in case all
our exploring planes were lost.
Later, when not using all the
other planes for moving apparatus, we would employ one or two in a shuttle
transportation service between this cache and another permanent base o
the great plateau from six hundred to seven hundred miles southward, beyond
Beardmore Glacier. Despite the almost unanimous accounts of appalling
winds and tempests that pour down from the plateau, we determined to dispense
with intermediate bases, taking our chances in the interest of economy
and probably efficiency.
reports have spoken of the breathtaking, four-hour, non-stop flight of
our squadron on November 21st over the lofty shelf ice, with vast peaks
rising on the west, and the unfathomed silences echoing to the sound of
our engines. Wind troubled us only moderately, and our radio compasses
helped through the one opaque fog we encountered. When the vast rise
loomed ahead between Latitudes 83° and 84°, we knew we had reached
Beardmore Glacier, the largest valley glacier in the world, and that the
frozen sea was now giving place to a frowning and mountainous coast line.
At last we were truly entering the white, aeon-dead world of the ultimate
south. Even as we realized it we saw the peak of Mt. Nansen in the
eastern distance, towering up to its height of almost fifteen thousand
successful establishment of the southern base above the glacier in Latitude
86° 7', East Longitude 174° 23', and the phenomenally rapid and
effective borings and blastings made at various points reached by our sledge
trips and short aëroplane flights, are matters of history; as is the
arduous and triumphant ascent of Mt. Nansen by Pabodie and two of the graduate
students--Gedney and Carrol--on December 13-15. We were some eight
thousand, five hundred feet above sea-level and when experimental drillings
revealed solid ground only twelve feet down though the snow and ice at
certain points, we made considerable use of the small melting apparatus
and sunk bores and performed dynamiting at many places where no previous
explorer had ever thought of securing mineral specimens. The pre-Cambrian
granites and beacon sandstones thus obtained confirmed our belief that
this plateau was homogeneous, with the great bulk of the continent to the
west, but somewhat different from the parts lying eastward below South
America-- which we then thought to form a separate and smaller continent
divided from the larger one by a frozen junction of Ross and Weddell Seas,
though Byrd has since disproved the hypothesis.
of the sandstones, dynamited and chiseled after boring revealed their nature,
we found some highly interesting fossil markings and fragments; notably
ferns, seaweeds, trilobites, crinoids, and such mollusks as linguellae
and gastropods--all of which seemed of real significance in connection
with the region's primordial history. There was also a queer triangular,
striated marking, about a foot in greatest diameter, which Lake pieced
together from three fragments of slate brought up from a dep-blast aperture.
These fragments came from a point to the westward, near the Queen Alexandra
Range; and Lake, as a biologist, seemed to find their curious marking unusually
puzzling and provocative, though to my geological eye it looked not unlike
some of the ripple effects reasonably common in the sedimentary rocks.
Since slate is no more than a metamorphic formation into which a sedimentary
stratum is pressed, and since the pressure itself produces odd distorted
effects on any markings which may exist, I saw no reason for extreme wonder
over the striated depression.
6, 1931, Lake, Pabodie, Daniels, all six of the students, four mechanics
and myself flew directly over the south pole on two of the great planes,
being forced down once by a sudden high wind, which, fortunately, did not
develop into a typical storm. This was, as the papers have stated,
one of several observation flights, during others of which we tried to
discern new topographical features in areas unreached by previous explorers.
Our early flights were disappointing in this latter respect, though they
afforded us some magnificent examples of the richly fantastic and deceptive
mirages of the polar regions, of which our sea voyage had given us some
brief foretastes. Distant mountains floated in the sky like enchanted
cities, and often the whole white world would dissolve into a gold, silver,
and scarlet land of Dunsanian dreams and adventurous expectancy under the
magic of the low midnight sun. On cloudy days we had considerable
trouble flying owning the tendency of snowy earth and sky to merge into
one mystical opalescent void with no visible horizon to mark the junction
of the two.
we resolved to carry out our original plan of flying five hundred miles
eastward with all four exploring planes and establishing a fresh sub-base
at a point which would probably be on a the smaller continental division,
as we mistakenly conceived it. Geological specimens obtained there
would be desirable for purposes of comparison. Our health so far
had remained excellent--lime juice well off-setting the steady diet of
tinned and salted food, and temperatures generally above zero enabling
us to do without our thickest furs. It was now midsummer, and with
haste and care we might be able to conclude work by March and avoid a tedious
wintering through the long antarctic night. Several savage windstorms
had burst upon us from the west, but we had escaped damage through the
skill of Atwood in devising rudimentary aëroplane shelters and windbreaks
of heavy snow blocks, and reinforcing the principal camp buildings with
snow. Our good luck and efficiency had indeed been almost uncanny.
outside world knew, of course, of our program, and was told also of Lake's
strange and dogged insistence on a westward - or rather, northwestward
- prospecting trip before our radical shift to the new base. It seems
that he had pondered a great deal, and with alarmingly radical daring,
over that triangular striated marking in the slate; reading into it certain
contradictions in nature and geological period which whetted his curiosity
to the utmost, and made him avid to sink more borings and blastings in
the west-stretching formation to which the exhumed fragments evidently
belonged. He was strangely convinced that the marking was the print
of some bulky, unknown, and radically unclassifiable organism of considerably
advanced evolution, notwithstanding that the rock which bore it was of
so vastly ancient a date - Cambrian if not actually Pre-Cambrian - as to
preclude the probable existence not only of all highly evolved life, but
of any life at all above the unicellular or at most the trilobite stage.
These fragments, with their odd marking, must have been five hundred million
to a thousand million years old."
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