The Moon Maid was written in 1923, the Moon
Men and Red Hawk shortly thereafter by 1926, yet in its bleak
picture of ecological devastation, a society where even the civilized accepted
cannibalism, and the barbarism that overtook all seem oddly prescient of
future dystopias and barren worlds. We can look at places like
the Congo, North Korea, Somalia and Ethiopia and see the shapes of Burroughs
devastated lunar society. He anticipated the Ukrainian famine, which
featured reports of misery and cannibalism, by ten years. He
seemed to anticipate the rise of Hitler and the repudiation of intellect
in favour of brute strength of the Nazis, the ineffectiveness of their
political opposition, as well as their seemingly unstoppable string of
Perhaps for this reason, Burroughs dragged his story into the future.
While Barsoom, Venus, Tarzan, Pellucidar and even Caprona were set loosely
in and around his contemporary day, the Moon stories stretch from the 21st
century to the 25th.
However, the Moon stories are also tightly woven into his other chronicles.
John Carter appears by reference, and the space travel efforts of both
Barsoom and Earth are chronicled. Earth's ship is actually called
the Barsoom. The Martian tales in their turn establish
that communication between the two worlds is effected by the Gridley Wave,
a technology originating in the Pellucidar
series of books, and Pellucidar
itself appears in the Tarzan
series. Meanwhile, another effort to reach Barsoom lands
on Venus, and
bizarre collection of flora and fauna are aped by Pal
Ul Don in Tarzan, and by Pellucidar as well. So, it's all
part of Burroughs shared universe.
That said, it's a damned contrary and sloppy pseudoscientific Universe,
and the Moon tales match even Caprona for the sheer loopiness and implausibility
of the setting. Burroughs Moon, as described by Julian, makes
no sense at all, even for Burroughs universe.
Thus, as archeologists of unreality, we take the game up once again,
and try to pull the wool over your eyes by making sense out of nonsense.
I'll guarantee you, Burroughs himself never thought of this stuff, or perhaps
he didn't think it all the way through, or didn't think it carefully.
But if we can pound it until it all fits together, well then... Why
Another Hollow World?
Like Earth/Pellucidar, the Moon turns out to be a hollow world.
According to Julian, the protagonist of the Moon Maid:
“I can only account for it,” I replied,
“upon a single and rather preposterous hypothesis, which is that the moon
is a hollow sphere, with a solid crust some two hundred and fifty miles
in thickness...” (Chapter 2)
Given that the existence of Pellucidar must have been well known to
scientists and explorers by the end of the 20th century, I can't understand
Julian's reticence at the theory. However, it gives us something
to work with.
Assuming that the outer moon is similar in size to our own, approximately
two thousand miles in diameter, its surface area is about sixteen million
square miles, or approximately the same space as Asia. Meanwhile,
the two hundred and fifty mile crust on either side would mean that the
inner moon's diameter is about fifteen hundred miles, with a surface area
of only about eight million. Roughly the size of North America.
For comparison, Earth's total surface area is approximately two hundred
million square miles, including about fifty million square miles of land.
our Moon, Burroughs moon appears to be tidal locked, showing only one face
to the Earth. A tidal lock is caused by the drag of the Earth on
the near side of the rotating moon. Over millions, or perhaps billions
of years, this drag steals away energy of rotation, until eventually, the
moon rotated so slowly that its rotation and revolution matched, and it
always had the same face to Earth. Julian refers to two fifths,
the so called ‘dark side’ or ‘far side’ having never before been seen by
Unlike our Moon, Julian reports both life and a tenuous atmosphere on
the surface. And of course, it is a hollow world, as strange
as Pellucidar. But if anything, the Moon's peculiarities are even
more dramatic than those of Earth. Consider this:
“There is an atmosphere surrounding the moon.
It is extremely tenuous, but yet it was recorded by our Barometers at an
altitude of about fifteen hundred feet above the highest peak we crossed.
Doubtless in the valleys and deep ravines where the vegetation thrived
it is denser. But that I do not know, since we never landed upon
the surface of the Moon.” (Chapter 2)
“We were descending now.... the barometer
recording a steadily increasing atmospheric pressure, though nothing approximating
that necessary to the support of life upon Earth.” (Chapter 2)
Unlike our Moon, the Moon of Burroughs universe actually does have an
external atmosphere, although this seems tenuous and wispy.
At one point Julian writes that there is no wind upon the surface of the
Moon, which suggests that the atmosphere is too thin to even sustain winds.
Julian is probably wrong about that. But the bottom line is that
apart from deep valleys and ravines, the surface is incapable of sustaining
But then, consider the inside world, Va-Nah, where Julian discovers:
“It (the barometer) is registering pressure equivalent
to that at the Earth's surface.” (Chapter 2)
And here we begin the first of Julian's many lunar paradoxes.
Why is the interior lunar atmosphere so much thicker than the exterior?
If we look at Earth and Pellucidar, the indications are that both interior
and exterior atmosphere composition and pressure are identical to all intents
and purposes. So why is the moon so different?
Is gravity greater on the inside? There is no support for
this at all:
“In response to my command, he gave a slight
leap to clear the bush and to our amazement as well as to his own
consternation, rose fully eighteen feet into the air, cleared a space of
fully thirty-five feet and lit in the river.... to clear forty
feet at a jump was nothing. (Chapter 3)
In short, although Julian never visited the surface, it still appears
that the interior of the Moon's gravity is one sixth of Earth's.
Julian and his companions apparently bound about at ease. At one
point, Julian refers directly to one sixth gravity.
Indeed, in physics the center of gravity would be midway between inner
and outer shells. The gravity on both inside and outside should
be identical. So this does not explain the heavier gravity.
Perhaps the interior world is sealed in? On Earth, there
are permanent openings at the poles, and perhaps temporary openings or
points of contact elsewhere that would tend to ensure equalized pressure
and atmospheres. A sealed world could have a greater air pressure
inside than outside.
Unfortunately, this is not to be the case:
"The secondary source was sunlight which penetrated to the interior of
the Moon through hundreds of thousands of huge craters penetrating the
lunar crust. It was this sunlight which carried heat to the inner
world, maintaining a constant temperature of about eighty degrees Fahrenheit...."
"There are, however, periodic wind storms which
recur with greater or less regularity once each sidereal month, due, I
imagine to the unequal distribution of crater openings through the crust
of the Moon.... The natural circulation of the lunar atmosphere affected
as it is by the constantly changing volume and direction of the sun's rays,"
In fact, Julian's ship, the Barsoom enters through one of these great
holes, called Hoos, and the local native civilization acknowledges the
existence of many of these holes. The holes themselves appear
to be wide open, or Julian's ship could not pass. Sunlight
and heat get in, so they are clearly unobstructed. Essentially,
the planet is made of swiss cheese.
Julian goes on to shoot himself in the foot on this issue:
"Centrifugal force, in combination with
the gravity of the Moon's crust, confined the internal lunar atmosphere
to a blanket which we estimated at about fifty miles in thickness over
the inner surface of this buried world." (Chapter Two)
Ahhh. So if Centrifugal force is partly responsible for
the Moon's thick inner atmosphere, then why isn't it forcing that atmosphere
out the Hoos to equalize with the outer atmosphere? And what
centrifugal force anyway? The moon has a 28 day rotation, and
only a quarter of Earth's diameter, it's as slow as molasses!
So, how is it that the Moon's inner atmosphere does not escape through
these holes and equalize with the outer atmosphere? Julian
never gets around to explaining this.
Here's another puzzle. Where does the inner Moon's light and
heat come from. Earth's Pellucidar has its convenient sun,
an object which in another paper, I've speculated is actually a dwarf black
hole. But the Moon....
"Above us were banks of fleecy clouds, the under
surfaces of which appeared to be lighted from beneath, while through breaks
in the cloud banks we could discern a luminous firmament beyond, though
nowhere was there any suggestion of a central incandescent orb radiating
light and heat as does our sun. The clouds themselves cast
no shadows upon the ground, nor, in fact, were there any well-defined shadows
even directly beneath the hull of the ship or surrounding forest areas."
So, no sun apparent, and no indication of a direct source of light that
would support a sun. Why not? If Pellucidar has
a sun, why not the Moon? And if the Moon doesn't, why does
Pellucidar have one?
Of course, it gets worse:
"This peculiar lunar light interested us profoundly,
but it was some time before we discovered the true explanation of its origin.
It was of two kinds, emanating from widely different sources, the chief
of which was due to the considerable radium content of the internal lunar
soil and principally of the rock forming the loftier mountain ranges, the
radium being so combined as to diffuse a gentle perpetual light which pervaded
the entire interior of the moon." (Chapter Two)
Look, I don't want to be a knit picker, but if there's enough radium
on the inside to light up the entire interior of the world to ‘hazy earth’
levels... Then there's enough free radiation floating around
that the people are going to glow in the dark, its enough to sterilize
every living thing in there a hundred times over, its enough to give a
Barsoomian a twenty minute life span, its going to be like getting five
hundred X-rays a day.. Sorry, but that's just not going to
“The secondary source was sunlight....”
quote you've already seen. Let me take a moment to point out
that any sunlight is passing through a comparatively narrow (one to ten
mile wide) 250 mile deep hole. This means that the only time
significant light or heat is going to pass through is when the sun is shining
down directly, or at a very steep angle. At best, a Hoos may only
provide light for a day or two.
There are attendant problems here. If a Hoos is the source
of heat, then there have to be a lot of them in order for significant quantities
of heat to be delivered through the lunar month.
And if a Hoos is at even a slight angle, then its likely that the sun
is warming the air inside the Hoos, but not the inner world itself.
Hot air rises, so actually, the heated expanding air should be moving upward,
escaping into the lower pressure areas of the surface. Which
means that the Hoos should actually be pumping Va-Nah’s air out onto the
surface? Why isn't this happening?
The only conclusion is that even by the fairly relaxed standards of
Burroughs Pellucidar, the Moon's inner world makes no sense at all.
It doesn't work, it can't work, so what's going on?
Towards A Possible Explanation
for Va-Nah's Paradoxes
Taken literally, Va-Nah is unworkable and impossible, even within the
rules Burroughs established for himself. But there are solutions.
The temptation is to go back to the Moon Maid and start throwing
things out. Hoos are obviously impossible, get rid of them!
Except that Hoos are well established by the objective experiences of many
observers, including the natives, and by Julian's own entry to the inner
world. We can't get rid of Hoos.
Instead, we have to take a disciplined approach to the facts and theories
presented to us by Julian and his companions in the Moon Maid adventure.
This means, occasionally, swallowing facts that it would be much easier
to live without. But it also means rejecting ideas which are
unworkable and replacing them with more coherent explanations.
At the outset, we must acknowledge that Julian may have gotten some
things wrong. In fact, Julian on several occasions acknowledges
that he is taking wild guesses:
"Doubtless in the valleys and deep ravines
where the vegetation thrived it is denser. But that I do not know,
since we never landed upon the surface of the Moon." (Chapter 2)
So, with respect to the surface of the Moon, Julian cautiously acknowledges
having observed it at a distance, but is generous to reveal that some of
his statements are mere suppositions. Julian actually guesses a lot.
His theory of a hollow world, though correct, is merely a guess at the
time he makes it. He speculates on the origin of the
"There are, however, periodic wind storms
which recur with greater or less regularity once each sidereal month, due,
I imagine to the unequal distribution of crater openings."
He goes on to make suppositions about the persistence of the inner atmosphere
and its composition:
"Centrifugal force, in combination with the gravity
of the Moon's crust, confined the internal lunar atmosphere to a blanket
which we estimated at about fifty miles in thickness over the inner surface
of this buried world."
Does Julian have a basis for this estimate? I’m afraid not.
The Barsoom took readings of air pressure from the upper levels
of the outer surface, all the way to the surface of the inner world.
There is no indication, during Julian's time on the Barsoom, that the disabled
ship ever ascended to the upper atmosphere of the inner world.
Hence, his estimate is simply a guess, a theory.
But, I don't want to be harsh on Julian. He is not a stupid
man and his intent is not to confuse or mislead us. When he
discusses the thickness of the inner atmosphere blanket, he goes on to
justify his conclusion:
"This atmosphere rarefies rapidly as one ascends
the higher peaks with the result that these are constantly covered with
perpetual snow and ice, sending great glaciers down mighty gorges toward
the central seas. It is this condition which has probably prevented
the atmosphere, confined as it is within an almost solid sphere, from becoming
In short, we can follow Julian’s logic. On Earth, as you
go higher, the atmosphere becomes thinner and preserves less heat from
the sun. Therefore it gets colder and mountains glaciate. Julian
has taken his experience on Earth and applied it here, trying to come up
with a workable theory as to why the inner surface has not been cooked
by cumulative build up of heat. When Julian is speculating
that there is an unequal distribution of craters, he's trying to explain
another observable phenomena, the winds.
In short, Julian is a not unintelligent man who has a very limited base
of information and theory to work from. Remember, no one contemplated
the moon being hollow, so no one contemplated or speculated as to what
conditions might be like there. Julian's flying by the seat of his
pants. Further, he's working from an extremely restricted set of
observations... He doesn't have the opportunity to spend fifteen
years flying around. At best, he's got some hasty observations
from his ship, while slowly waiting to crash to his death, followed by
a few days of wandering around near the base camp, before he's captured.
His impressions are necessarily subjective, and Julian is generous enough
to let us know that he's frequently guessing. But, I would
argue, he's frequently wrong.
So, what is really going on? I have a few ideas which may
ultimately fit the observed phenomena better than Julian's.
The Hidden Sun of Va Nah
In “Next Stop, Pellucidar”
and “Star of Pellucidar”
(go read them now), I speculated at length about the dynamics which would
create a hollow world.
In fact, hollow worlds are allowed for in our own astrophysics.
A German scientist named Weizsäcker (whose name I have doubtless spelled
incorrectly) worked out the mathematics for stable toroidal cosmic bodies.
A toroid is essentially a donut shape. A hollow world like
Earth/Pellucidar or the Moon/Va-Nah is essentially a distorted toroid.
To simplify things, a rapidly spinning disk of planetary matter, may
if moving rapidly enough, wind up ejecting all of the material from its
core. If it spins too fast, it simply flies apart. Too
slowly, and the material returns to the core. At just the right
speed, however, the evicted material stabilizes in a ring or circle around
the core and your planet stabilizes in a very strange shape.
With respect to Pellucidar, I speculated that one of the reasons for
its genesis was the impact of a small, dwarf black hole into the center
of the protoplanet. It was probably not a big black hole, its
mass microscopically less than that of a star, possibly less than a planet,
and its existence may not technically be allowed for in our physics (although
our physics has predicted even smaller quantum black holes).
The shock wave of this dwarf impact disrupted the core, blowing core
material out towards the edges, while at the same time accelerating and
stabilizing spin. The core material was driven out to form
a kind of crust or empty ring or globe around which the planet was shaped
surrounding the inner singularity.
This small singularity, then eventually became the genesis of Pellucidar’s
strange little sun. How? Because, as it absorbed matter
over its event horizon, that absorption was accompanied by the release
of massive amounts of cherenkov radiation. Further, being a
very tiny black hole, it had a likewise tiny event horizon.
Matter has to cross the event horizon to vanish, but the gravity was such
that the press of matter formed an outer shell around the event horizon,
resulting perhaps, in low level fusion. The shell of matter
absorbed most of the radiation, releasing its energy as heat and light.
Thus, we have Pellucidar's sun.
Except that Va-Nah does not have a sun. Or does it?
Well, okay. Va-Nah does not have an actual sun. There is
no central body radiating heat and light. But what about gravity,
and anomalies of gravity, like the unaccountably thicker atmosphere?
the solution: Like Pellucidar, Vah-Nah has a dwarf black
hole at its centre. This dwarf may be even smaller than Pellucidar's.
Like Pellucidar's dwarf, this black hole has a tiny event horizon and mass
packs tightly around it waiting to be drawn in. However,
eventually, the pressure of gravity around the shell surrounding the event
horizon becomes so great that the shell effectively crystallizes.
Nothing is drawn in. The black hole, after devouring all stray
particles within the shell is left trapped in a vacuum with nothing to
Vah-Nah’s ‘proto-sun’ goes dark. Without energy being released
by pressure or particles crossing the event horizon, the shell is not heated
up, does not discharge light or heat. Instead, it merely sits
up there floating in the centre of the moon, largely invisible and dark.
[I should take this moment as an aside, to comment on the implausibility
of coincidence that the Earth and Moon should both be hollow worlds.
We can accept that by freak of chance, one or the other might be a hollow
world. But the fact that both are suggests that there is more than
meets the eye. Rather, the conditions that lead to toroid formation
of worlds must be relatively common and far easier in Burroughs universe.
In fact, it is possible and even likely that the natural process for forming
Earth or Moon sized worlds results in toroids, and that other ‘small planet’
worlds in the Solar System, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Ganymede, Io, Europa,
Callisto, Triton, Titan and Pluto may all be similarly hollow. It
may be the ‘solid’ small world that is the exception to the rule.
It may also be quite possible, even likely, that the ‘dwarf singularities’
that we see in both the Earth and the Moon, are common, and pivotal in
the mysterious formation of the smaller earth sized worlds of the solar
But even if the lunar sun produces no light or heat, that's not the
end of the story. Because there is still one force that the black
hole continues to exert, and one force that reaches beyond the level of
the shell: Gravity. It is the accumulated gravity
of the singularity in its shell that wraps it in an immensely thick blanket
of atmosphere. Further away from the singularity and its shell, the
atmosphere thins. By the time its within the area of the inner lunar
surface, it is roughly the thickness of Earth's atmosphere, but diminishing
fast. By the area of the Lunar surface, it is extremely thin.
In short, the Lunar atmosphere inside and outside is not the property
of the Moon, or it would be equal on inner and outer layers.
It is the property of the singularity at the centre. Literally,
we have two systems superimposed one on the other. We have
the singularity and its immense envelope of atmosphere, and we have the
lunar toroid sitting within and at the outer edges of that envelope.
Julian was wrong when he guessed that the atmosphere extended only fifty
miles, and that it would become more rarefied the higher one climbed mountains.
He was merely extrapolating from Earth experience without actually verifying.
In fact, the lunar atmosphere become thicker the higher you go.
Its composition may well change at higher levels. The heavier
gases and elements are more likely to be held close by the singularities
gravity. The lighter elements like hydrogen and oxygen are
more likely to escape to the outer regions of the envelope.
And in fact, there is support for this in Julian's visual observations:
"Above us were banks of fleecy clouds, the
under surfaces of which appeared to be lighted from beneath, while through
breaks in the cloud banks we could discern a luminous firmament beyond."
Notice that although it is only about fifteen hundred miles, Julian
cannot see through to the other side of the moon. Yes, the
Lunar atmosphere is in his way, but through the terrestrial atmosphere
which extends for several thousand miles, we can see the moon, the sun,
stars and planets. Julian sees nothing but clouds, and
beyond the clouds, a luminous haze. This tells us that the
atmosphere is getting thicker, not thinner all the way through.
The clouds, and the continuos cover of clouds (our impression from Julian
is that clouds are a near constant shroud with only occasional breaks)
suggests an interface area, where weather takes place and where the composition
of the atmosphere may well begin to change.
What's another feature of this hidden singularity? Gravity
storms, or perhaps Tidal storms. The lunar atmosphere
is fluid, it is in relatively constant motion. The lunar surface,
both inside and out, however, exerts its own slight gravity.
On the outer surface, this gravity's effect on the atmosphere is negligible,
it's simply added to the existing pull of the singularity.
On the inner surface, however, this slight lunar gravity locally counteracts
the gravity of the singularity. This is why people and rocks
aren't falling off the inner surface towards the hidden core.
The local weak gravity is greater than the diffuse and distant stronger
gravity. You would only start to fall towards the core if you
were able to get a few dozen miles up out of the local gravity.
However, the local gravity pulls at the atmosphere, and pulls in a tug
of war with the singularity gravity at the shifting currents of the atmosphere.
It is at this point in the atmosphere, where the two gravities compete,
at the outer edges of the inner surface's effective gravitational range,
where you will get turbulence. Which is also where, as a result
of turbulence, you will get cloud formation. And it is in these
areas that clouds and currents will occasionally become volatile, creating
super-storms far more powerful and dangerous than those seen on Earth.
In fact, Julian has seen these super-storms and experienced them first
hand. Not being aware of the singularity, he has tried to explain
them as being the result of sunlight and heat pouring in from the Hoos
in erratic ways. Julian is probably partially correct in that
the beams of heat and light coming in from Hoos do contribute to or trigger
such storms. But these storms are not permanent constant features
as the number of Hoos would indicate. They are phenomena triggered
by the tidal flux.
Of course, being a dark starved boy surrounded by an impermeable shell,
the singularity of Va-Nah produces neither heat nor light.
So it should be cold and dark in this inner world.
Let There Be Light
Julian guessed that the source of light, absent any kind of cosmic motor
or residual core heat, could only be from the surface and soil of the planet
itself. In this he was correct. But lacking an
understanding of the planet's gravity mechanics, he could only fall back
on the notion of radioactive decay, and assumed it was radium.
However, there's no evidence that Julian or anyone else actually verified
this conclusion. He never went wandering around with a geiger counter,
for example. So in fact, he got it wrong.
Where's the light coming from?
Piezo-electrics. Here is a fairly little known fact.
If you hit a piece of quartz with a hammer, it will discharge sparks.
If you run an electrical current through a piece of quartz, it will vibrate.
Essentially, for quartz and certain other crystals, pressure causes it
to release electrical energy, while electrical energy will cause it to
vibrate. Piezo-electrics are well established and you can look
it up for itself. Among other things, these odd physical properties
have been used in electronics. Your quartz crystal watch, for example,
keeps time by applying a tiny electrical current to a tiny piece of quartz
and measuring its vibrations.
So, quartz crystals under stress will release light and electrons.
Now normally, this is not a very visible phenomena on Earth.
There have been some suggestions that during Earthquakes, the discharge
of geological energy stresses quartz within the Earth causing changes in
electrical and magnetic fields that animals can detect. There
are even suggestions that quartz stress during or before Earthquakes may
create visible light displays in the sky, as reported by many observers.
But apart from that, Earth is pretty quiet and stable.
The inside of the moon, on the other hand, in some ways, it not quiet
or stable. Specifically, the inside of the moon is in a mild
state of flux between four gravity fields: The singularity
at the centre, the moon shell's own gravity, the sun's gravity and of course,
With respect to Earth's gravity, it is worth noting that the moon, a
body with only 1/64 Earth's volume and 1/80 Earth's mass is capable of
raising tides of eight feet on Earth's oceans against Earth's own gravity.
So imagine the sort of tidal stresses imposed by a body 80 times more massive,
against the Moon's own frail local gravity.
Of course, this doesn't mean that moon rocks will be swept up and drawn
to Earth of their own accord. It doesn't work that way, the
local gravity dominates. It doesn't even mean that the Moon
will experience tides, as Earth does. The Earth rotates, the
Moon always keeps the same face to us.
But tidal effects are subtle. Remember that tidal effects slowed
moon's rotation by exerting more gravity on the near side of the moon than
the far side, until the rotation effectively stopped, leaving the same
side facing us? The Earth's tidal effects on the moon are subtle
but constant: Specifically, the Earth's gravity effect on the surface of
the moon facing us is greater than its effect on the surface facing away
from us, and both of these are different on the inside with the near and
far sides as well. Essentially, the moon's surfaces are experiencing
four different degrees of gravitational and tidal forces at different points
(more complicated than that, but I'm simplifying). Thus, Earth's
gravity is always working to deform the shape of the moon, much like the
Moon's gravity deforms the oceans.
Opposed to the Earth's gravity are the Moon's own gravity, the centrifugal
forces of its rotation and revolution, which work to shape the moon as
a hollow sphere, and even the gravity of the singularity at the centre.
Meanwhile, the singularity adds its own tidal stress because its tidal
gravity upon the inner surface is stronger than its tidal gravity upon
the outer surface of the moon.
And of course, the Sun's gravity, powerful enough to produce small tides
on Earth, produces its own tidal effects as the moon revolves around the
Earth, moving closer and then further from the sun by a half a million
In short, there are a lot of subtle but profound and powerful gravitational
stresses at work. The impact of such stresses can be formidable.
Io, a satellite of Jupiter, has near constant volcanic interruptions because
of the immense stresses caused by Jupiter's tides. Burroughs's
Moon, like our own, appears to be geologically dead, but it is clear from
Julian's descriptions that there was at least as much, and possibly much
more, volcanic and earthquake activity in the moon of his universe.
Of course, for the most part, these endless tidal stresses are not noticeable
to the simple observer standing on or inside of the moon, any more than
we notice lunar tides or the movement of geological plates beneath our
However, the accumulated and constantly shifting stress would cause
quartz or other crystals lining the inner surface to light up like a christmas
tree. Again, the effect is subtle. Stand next to one,
you'd never notice. But cumulatively, over the whole of the interior,
the effect would be dramatic. Thus the source of Va-Nah’s light.
And the source of something else as well. Remember when
I said that quartz discharged electrons or electricity under pressure,
not just light....
"Why is everyone so terrified?" I asked
"It is Zo-al," she whispered, fearfully.
"He is angry."
It was at that instant that there broke upon my ears the most terrific
detonation I have ever heard. So terrific was it that I thought my
ear drums had burst, and simultaneously, a great ball of fire seemed to
come rolling down from the mountain heights above us.
"The light that devours!" she cried.
The ground shook to the terrifying noise, and though the ball of fire did
not pass close to us, still I could feel the heat of it even as it went
by at a distance, leaving a trail of blackened and smoking vegetation in
its rear. It must have travelled about ten miles down towards the
sea when suddenly it burst, the explosion being followed by a report infinitely
louder than that which I had first heard.
I had witnessed my first lunar electrical
storm. (Chapter Five, abridged)
The storm comes upon Julian by surprise. Despite his theories
as to the origins of lunar weather, it catches him unawares, suggesting
that it was not directly connected with turbulence from the Hoos, which
he could have observed and noted. Julian is in fact quite at
a loss for an explanation for this phenomenon, he doesn't even try.
He merely reports it.
We, on the other hand, now knowing that the piezoelectric crystals are
constantly discharging electrical potential into the lower atmosphere,
which is surely the source of the terrible electrical storms and gigantic
ball lightning that so astonished Julian. It also accounts
for the pre-eminence of
electricity and electrical driven communication, transportation and devices
in the history of Vah-Nah’s human civilization, as we see here:
"The more recent history of Va-nah is one of a
singular race of people. All of Va-nah was populated, and they had ships
on all three of its oceans. They also had ships of land (trains) which
were electrically driven and connected all of the cities. In addition,
great carriers flew through the air from city to city. Communication was
by means of electrical energy." (George
McWhorter and Duane Adams, Glossary of the Moon, 1999)
The piezo-electric discharge of light, of course, would be reflected
by the perennial cloud cover, a feature which Julian noted early.
The piezo-electrics would probably also add their own unearthly luminescence,
as static electricity glows around the masts of ships at sea, a phenomenon
known as St. Elmo's fire. Thus, Vah-Nah is brightly lit, but
it is a strange and peculiar lighting, as noted by Julian in his initial
And of course, we can use the piezo-electric discharge to answer another
fascinating question: The unearthly hues of the plant life:
"There were forests, too - strange forests, of
strange trees, so unearthly in appearance as to suggest the weird phantasmagoria
of a dream.... The ground about us was covered with rank vegetation
of pale hues - lavenders, violets, pinks and yellows predominating.
Pink grasses which became distinctly flesh coloured at maturity grew in
abundance, and the stalks of most of the flowering plants were of this
same peculiar hue. The flowers themselves were often of highly complex
form, of pale shades, of great size and beauty. There were low shrubs
that bore a berry like fruit and many of the trees of the forest carried
fruit of considerable size and a variety of colours." (Chapter Three)
On Earth, with only the exception of some purple plankton, all photosynthesis
is carried out by chlorophyll molecules, which absorb all light except
green. On Barsoom, reds and purples predominate. But here on
the Moon, plants appear in a variety of pale hues, including pinks and
yellows, which means that they must be reflecting almost all the light
hitting them. Obviously, they can't possibly be conducting photosynthesis,
not with this assortment of colours and hues.
What's going on? Rather than photosynthesizing light, they
are electrosynthesizing. Their energy is not from light, but from
the inherent static electricity of their environment. The plants
are powering their chemical reactions by devouring or making use of the
electrical potential discharged by the piezo-electrics that pervade the
environment. The flowers may not even be true flowers, but
rather, subtle shapes or organs to maximize their static electric collection.
We now turn to the ‘Hoos’ or holes, which much as I hate to admit it, undoubtedly
exist. Julian and his spaceship, the Barsoom, pass through
one such Hoos to the inner world. It is not located at the
pole, as in Earth's entrances, so we must assume it is somewhere beyond
the polar regions. We are told by Julian and we are assured
by the U-Gah that there are many such holes.
Julian assumes that such holes, in fact, are caused by the impacts of
asteroids and comets. Personally, I am skeptical.
It strikes me that any asteroid or comet hitting hard enough to bore through
two hundred and fifty miles of planetary crust would probably create a
shockwave large enough to destroy the delicate shell utterly.
The more likely explanation is that Hoos are the geological leftovers
of the Moon's active phase, when it's internal areas where still heated
and flowed like geologically slow liquid. Earth's phase continues.
The Moon has cooled and solidified.
During this active phase, like Earth, the moon's interior material was
in motion, slow motion, but motion, and experienced eddies, tides and turbulence,
probably exacerbated by the various interplay of tidal gravity.
Within such tidal gravities, circular currents would occur regularly, leading
to tiny ‘whirlpools’ or Vortex's opening between inner and outer worlds.
With far less gravity and a thinner crust, the Vortex's would be much smaller
than Earth's and quicker to form. But the moon was a much smaller world
than Earth's and had much less mass. A vortex, once opened,
would tend to cool, and thus freeze in place. Thus, over time,
the Moon accumulated a series of Voos or Vortice holes before its activities
The presence of so many ‘fossil’ holes between the inner and outer world's
on the Moon suggests that on Earth, these vortex’ or holes are still actively
opening and closing, resulting in hidden features like Skull Island or
Caprona in the Pacific, or in strange geological and biological mystery
areas like Maple White Land in South America or Pal Ul Don in Africa.
Although Julian had to guess at the origins of the Hoos, and likely
got it wrong, I am happy to say that his observations and theories of the
effect of the Hoos on the Moon's inner atmosphere and weather had substantially
It is likely that radiant energy, heat and light from the sun, are allowed
into the inner world through the Hoos on a regular but intermittent and
erratic basis, thus contributing to the interior's accumulated heat and
warmth particularly along the inner surface. They also probably
fuel or create storms, and are partly responsible for the changes of weather
and mild changes of apparent season (although its unlikely the the interior
of the moon actually has seasons in any real sense, Julian is simply projecting
If anything, Julian has probably underestimated the effect of the Hoos
on the local atmospheres of the inner and outer surfaces.
When the sun shines directly through, it is likely that the effect on the
inside is of suddenly standing next to a blast furnace. Light and
heat are discharged incandescently, creating a pillar of fire and a swirling
vortex. It's likely that cloud and atmosphere cover conceals the
true ferocity of the effect. Sidelong sunlight heats the atmosphere
within the Hoos, causing superheated gases to come boiling out both ends.
Eventually, this will result in a heat pump sucking atmosphere from the
interior to the outer surface, this feeds the very thin atmosphere of the
surface. On the surface, the heated gases attenuate spreading
energetically and providing a rare medium to sustain the marginal plant
life. Gravity continually draws the heated gases to lower points
however, and the heated gases sink to low points on the surface like deep
valleys and ravines, and particularly, they sink into ‘dark Hoos’ where
they are drawn back into the interior. Eventually, however, shadows
grow long and the condensing atmosphere is entirely drawn back to the inner
world through Hoos on the dark side or in shadows.
Thus, the outer surface atmosphere, while extremely thin, is also active.
The moon experiences a complex cycle of air movements.
Julian, who never visited the surface of the moon, is once again incorrect,
when he says that the Moon's surface is without wind.
Like so many of Burroughs' heroes, Julian is not a scientist.
Rather, he is an explorer, a gentleman, an intelligent observer of things
and events, and a skillful engineer.
He was also the discoverer and explorer of a wondrous new world unsuspected
by the most brilliant minds of his day. Trapped on this world
by a series of accidents, with only limited observations and his own native
intelligence, it is unsurprising that Julian got things wrong. You
or I would do so in his place, making the same or other or even greater
That said, we hope that you have enjoyed this little excursion into
Unreal Archeology, in which we discover the dark sun at the centre of Vah
Nah, the reason for its strange anomalies of atmosphere, the source of
its light and even the fundamental energies that powered its biology and
~ Den Valdron