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presents
Volume 3308
.
THE SEVEN WONDERS OF BARSOOM SERIES
THE LIFE-SAVING PUMPING STATIONS OF MARS:
The First Wonder of Barsoom
by
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.


INTRODUCTION

The Mars of ERB is a dying planet. When the five oceans of Barsoom evaporated, life became impossible and only the innovations of Martian scientists made it possible for life to continue. In light of global warming and climate change on today’s Earth, the story of ERB's Barsoom is more relevant than ever. How do intelligent beings cope when their extinction is 
imminent?

When ERB started his Martian series of books in 1911, the idea of Earth sharing the same fate someday must have been viewed as pure fantasy. Then came the atom bomb and evidence of collisions with meteors and comets, an idea first mocked as insane when proposed by Immanuel Velikovsky in his controversial Worlds in Collision published in 1950. 

Yes, the world has changed and ERB's Martian series is just as fun to read today as it was to the less scientific sophisticated folk of his day. As we bring the Seven Wonders of Barsoom series to a close, it is no wonder that the Life-Saving Pumping Stations should receive the premier spot.


DATA


A. The Water Pumping Stations of Barsoom.

Canals of Mars from Camille Flammarion and a more recent artist  interpretation - ERBzine Mars Fever

Life is impossible without water and the Barsoomians have the black race to thank for making over half of this precious resource possible. Carter, like most of the inhabitants of the planet, had no idea of the role of the black race as the providers for most of the water in its canals that made the Red Martian civilizations possible, but that view is corrected by the black Dator Xodar in The Gods of Mars as he explains the marvels of Omean to Carter:

“Xodar was at my side as I stood looking out over the ship's rail.

“‘What course?’ I asked him.

“‘A little west of south,’ he replied. “You will see the Otz Valley directly. We shall skirt it for a few hundred miles.”

“‘The Otz Valley!’ I exclaimed; ‘but, man, is not there where lie the domains of the therns from which I but just escaped?’

“‘Yes,’ answered Xodar. ‘You crossed this ice field last night in the long chase that you led us. The Otz Valley lies in a mighty depression at the south pole. It is sunk thousands of feet below the level of the surrounding country, like a great round bowl. A hundred miles from its northern boundary rise the Otz Mountains which circle the inner Valley of Dor, in the exact center of which lies the Lost Sea of Korus. On the shore of this sea stands the Golden Temple of Issus in the Land of the First Born. It is there that we are bound.’

“As I looked I commenced to realize why it was that in all the ages only one had escaped from the Valley Dor. My only wonder was that even the one had been successful. To cross this frozen, wind-swept waste of bleak ice alone and on foot would be impossible.

“‘Only by air boat could the journey be made,’ I finished aloud.

“‘It was thus that one did escape the therns in bygone times; but none has ever escaped the First Born,’ said Xodar, with a touch of pride in his voice.

“We had now reached the southernmost extremity of the great ice barrier. It ended abruptly in a sheer wall thousands of feet high at the base of which stretched a level valley, broken here and there by low rolling hills and little clumps of forest, and with tiny rivers formed by the melting of the ice barrier at its base. 

“Once we passed far above what seemed to be a deep canyon-like rift stretching from the ice wall on the north across the valley as far as the eye could reach. ‘That is the bed of the River Iss,’ said Xodar. ‘It runs far beneath the ice field, and below the level of the Valley Otz, but its canyon is open here.’” (GM/8.)

Many artistic depictions of this area appear in wonderful maps that can be viewed at ERBzine #2807. They then view a village in the valley which Xodar explains is a village of lost souls, neutral ground where pilgrims to the Valley Dor reside who have lost their nerve and fearful of the fate they face if they return to their homes. Other inhabitants are slaves who have escaped from the therns.
“Now we swung a little north of west, leaving the valley of lost souls, and shortly I discerned over our starboard bow what appeared to be a black mountain rising from the desolate waste of ice. It was not high and seemed to have a flat top....

“As we neared the dark, truncated cone the vessel’s speed was diminished until we barely moved. Then we topped the crest of the mountain and below us I saw yawning the mouth of a huge circular well, the bottom of which was lost in inky blackness.

“The diameter of this enormous pit was fully a thousand feet. The walls were smooth and appeared to be composed of a black, basaltic rock.

“For a moment the vessel hovered motionless directly above the center of the gaping void, then slowly she began to settle into the black chasm. Lower and lower she sank until as darkness enveloped us her lights were thrown on and in the dim halo of her own radiance the monster battleship dropped on and on down into what seemed to be the very bowels of Barsoom. 

“For quite half an hour we descended and then the shaft terminated abruptly in the dome of a mighty subterranean world. Below us rose and fell the billows of a buried sea. A phosphorescent radiance illuminated the scene. Thousands of ships dotted the bosom of the ocean. Little islands rose here and there to support the strange and colorless vegetation of this strange world.” (GM/8)

They land on the water after the ship changes from air to water propellers and Carter and Phaidor marvel at all of the ships, mainly war ships, floating on the underground sea.
“‘Here is the harbour of the navy of the First Born,’ said a voice behind us, and turning we saw Xodar watching us with an amused smile on his lips.

“‘This sea,’ he continued, ‘is larger than Korus. It receives the waters of the lesser sea above it. To keep it from filling above a certain level we have four great pumping stations that force the oversupply back into reservoirs far north from which the red men draw the water that irrigates their farm lands.’

“A new light burst on me with this explanation. The red men had always considered it a miracle that caused great columns of water to spurt from the solid rock of their reservoir sides to increase the supply of the precious liquid which is so scarce in the outer world of Mars.

“Never had their learned men been able to fathom the secret of the source of this enormous volume of water. As ages passed they had simply come to accept it as a matter of course and ceased to question its origin.’” (GM/8.)

Carter learns that the sea is called Omean and that its pumping stations can bring as much harm as good when the pumps are stopped as Carter and his allies invade the First Born: 
“As we were about to leave the pool and enter the corridors, an officer called my attention to the waters upon which the submarine floated. At first they seemed to be merely agitated as from the movement of some great body beneath, and I at once conjectured that another submarine was rising to the surface in pursuit of us; but presently it became apparent that the level of the waters was rising, not with extreme rapidity, but very surely, and that soon they would overflow the sides of the pool and submerge the floor of the chamber.

“For a moment I did not fully grasp the terrible import of the slowly rising water. It was Carthoris who realized the full meaning of the thing – its cause and the reason for it.

“‘Haste!’ he cried. ‘If we delay, we all are lost. The pumps of Omean have been stopped. They would drown us like rats in a trap. We must reach the upper levels of the pits in advance of the flood or we shall never reach them. Come.’” (GM/21.)

After many harrowing episodes, they make it to the upper levels and bring the reign of Issus and the First Born to an end. But what happens to the water at the South Pole that the First Born pump to the outside world?

Carter becomes acquainted with the water-works of Barsoom as he and his faithful calot, Woola, make their way to Zodanga by searching for a canal that will lead them to it in A Princess of Mars:

“The water which supplies the farms of Mars is collected in immense underground reservoirs at either pole from the melting ice caps, and pumped through long conduits to the various populated centers. Along either side of these conduits, and extending their entire length, lie the cultivated districts. These are divided into tracts of about the same size, each tract being under the supervision of one or more government officers.

“Instead of flooding the surface of the fields, and thus wasting immense quantities of water by evaporation, the precious liquid is carried underground through a vast network of small pipes directly to the roots of the vegetation. The crops upon Mars are always uniform, for there are no droughts, no rains, no high winds, and no insects, or destroying birds.” (PM/21.)

Whelan art for Bradbury's Martian Chronicles
Bradbury's Martian Chronicles ~ © Bantam Books

B. The Atmosphere Factory.
Atmosphere Factory
From the Kurt Metz Animation Project: ERBzine 1350

The origin of the atmosphere factory, which also makes life possible on Mars, is obscure, but it appears to have been invented by the Orovars of Horz. We get this tidbit of information from Pan Dan Chee in the first installment of Llana of Gathol, as he explains the history of his race to Carter:

“‘They had reached the ultimate pinnacle of civilization and perfection when the first shadow of impending fate darkened their horizon – the seas began to recede, the atmosphere to grow more tenuous. What science had long predicted was coming to pass – a world was dying.

“‘For ages our cities followed the receding waters. Straits and bays, canals and lakes dried up. Prosperous seaports became deserted inland cities. Famine came. Hungry hordes made war upon the more fortunate. The growing hordes of wild green men overran what had once been fertile farm land, preying upon all.

“The atmosphere became so tenuous that it was difficult to breathe. Scientists were working on an atmosphere plant, but before it was completed and in successful operation all but a few of the inhabitants of Barsoom had died. Only the hardiest survived – the green men, the red men, and a few Orovars; then life became merely a battle for the survival of the fittest.’” (LG/I-4.)

By the time of Carter's advent on the red planet, the atmosphere factory is fully functional and is off limits as a trophy of war. Carter and Woola accidentally stumble upon it as they make their way to the canal that will lead them to Zodanga in A Princess of Mars:
“At daybreak of the fifteenth day of my search I was overjoyed to see the high trees that denoted the object of my search. About noon I dragged myself wearily to the portals of a huge building which covered perhaps four square miles and towered two hundred feet in the air. It showed no aperture in the mighty walls other than the tiny door at which I sank exhausted, nor was there any sign of life about it.

“I could find no bell or other method of making my presence known to the inmates of the place, unless a small round hole in the wall near the door was for that purpose. It was of about the bigness of a lead pencil and thinking that it might be in the nature of a speaking tube I put my mouth to it and was about to call into it when a voice issued from it asking whom I might be, where from, and the nature of my errand.” (PM/20.)

Carter explains his situation to the voice, who is suspicious because Carter is so different from any other race of men on Barsoom. Carter tells him he is a friend of the red men and is starving to death.
“Presently the door commenced to recede before me until it had sunk into the wall fifty feet, and then it stopped and slid easily to the left, exposing a short, narrow corridor of concrete, at the further end of which was another door, similar in every respect to the one I had just passed. No one was in sight, yet immediately we passed the first door it slid gently into place behind us and receded rapidly to its original position in the front wall of the building. As the door had slipped aside I had noted its great thickness, fully twenty feet, and as it reached its place once more after closing behind us, great cylindars of steel had dropped from the ceiling behind it and fitted their lower ends into apertures countersunk in the floor. 

“A second and third door receded before me and slipped to one side as the first, before I reached a large inner chamber where I found food and drink set out upon a great stone table. A voice directed me to satisfy my hunger and to feed my calot, and while I was thus engaged my invisible host put me through a severe and searching cross-examination.” (PM/20.)

The voice reveals himself at last after Carter passes the examination:
“Then a door opened at the far side of the chamber and a strange, dried up, little mummy of a man came toward me. He wore but a single article of clothing or adornment, a small collar of gold from which depended upon his chest a great ornament as large as a dinner plate set solid with huge diamonds, except for the exact center which was occupied by a strange stone, an inch in diameter, that scintillated nine different and distinct rays; the seven colors of our earthly prism and two beautiful rays which, to me, were new and nameless. I cannot describe them any more than you could describe red to a blind man. I only know that they were beautiful in the extreme.” (PM/20.)
Because Carter has the ability to read the unguarded Martian mind with no Martian capable of his reading his own, he learns a lot more about the atmosphere factory than the old man would have otherwise allowed.
“The building in which I found myself contained the machinery which produces the artificial atmosphere which sustains life on Mars. The secret of the entire process hinges on the use of the ninth ray, one of the beautiful scintillations which I had noted emanating from the great stone in my host’s diadem. 

“This ray is separated from the other rays of the sun by means of finely adjusted instruments placed upon the roof of the huge building, three-quarters of which is used for reservoirs in which the ninth ray is stored. This product is then treated electrically, or rather certain proportions of refined electrical vibrations are incorporated with it, and the result is then pumped to the five principal air centers of the planet where, as it is released, contact with the ether of space transforms it into atmosphere.

“There is always sufficient reserve of the ninth ray stored in the great building to maintain the present Martian atmosphere for a thousand years, and the only fear, as my new friend told me, was that some accident might befall the pumping apparatus.

“He led me to an inner chamber where I beheld a battery of twenty radium pumps any one of which was equal to the task of furnishing all Mars with the atmosphere compound. For eight hundred years, he told me, he had watched these pumps which are used alternately a day each at a stretch, or a little over twentyfour and one-half Earth hours. He has one assistant who divides the watch with him. Half a Martian year, about three hundred and forty-four of our days, each of these men spend alone in this huge, isolated plant.” (PM/20)

Carter discovers that every Martian as a child learns the principles of the manufacture of atmosphere but only two men hold the secret of ingress into the building. The factory is virtually unassailable with walls a hundred and fifty feet thick and the roof is guarded from air assault by a glass covering five feet thick. The only fear is of some demented person or by an attack by the green men, for all Barsoomians realize that their very existence hinges on the survival of the factory.

Carter also learns one fact that he is not supposed to in a moment when the old man lets down his mental guard:

“One curious fact I discovered as I watched his thoughts was that the outer doors are manipulated by telepathic means. The locks are so finely adjusted that the doors are released by the action of a certain combination of thought waves. To experiment with my new-found toy I thought to surprise him into revealing this combination and so I asked him in a casual manner how he had managed to unlock the massive doors for me from the inner chambers of the building. As quick as a flash there leaped to his mind nine Martian sounds, but as quickly faded as he answered that this was a secret that he must not divulge.” (PM/20.)
From then on the old man supects that he has given the secret away to Carter and resolves to kill Carter while he is sleeping to make sure the secret stays safe. However, Carter reads the old man's mind and escapes with Woola using the nine Martian sounds. This knowledge eventually helps Carter to save the planet when the old man and his assistant mysteriously die. 

As a last desperate act, Carter races from Helium in a flier to the atmosphere factory:

“An hour before dark the great walls of the atmosphere plant loomed suddenly before me, and with a sickening thud, I plunged to the ground before the small door which was withholding the spark of life from the inhabitants of an entire planet.

“Beside the door a great crew of men had been laboring to pierce the wall, but they had scarcely scratched the flint-like surface, and now most of them lay in the last sleep from which not even air would awaken them.
“Conditions seemed much worse here than at Helium, and it was with difficulty that I breathed at all. There were a few men still conscious, and to one of these I spoke.

“‘If I can open these doors is there a man who can start the engines?’ I asked.

“‘I can,’ he replied, ‘if you open quickly. I can last but a few moments more. But it is useless, they are both dead and no one else upon Barsoom knew the secret of these awful locks. For three days men crazed with fear have surged about this portal in vain attempts to solve its mystery.’

“I had no time to talk, I was becoming very weak and it was with difficulty that I controlled my mind at all.
“But, with a final effort, as I sank weakly to my knees I hurled the nine thought waves at that awful thing before me. The Martian had crawled to my side and with staring eyes fixed on the single panel before us we waited in the silence of death.

“Slowly, the mighty door receded before us. I attempted to rise and follow it but I was too weak.

“‘After it,’ I cried to my companion, ‘and if you reach the pump room turn loose all the pumps. It is the only chance Barsoom has to exist tomorrow!”

“From where I lay I opened the second door, and then the third, and as I saw the hope of Barsoom crawling weakly on hands and knees through the last doorway I sank unconscious upon the ground.” (PM/27.)

Carter is then astrally projected back to the Arizona cave where his adventure began and is unable to return to Mars for ten years to see if the man made it to the pumps.


ANALYSIS

To say that ERB was ahead of his time is cliche. I read somewhere that H.G. Wells said that he was mad. And no wonder. I remember when I was in the fifth grade that only about 5% of Americans thought that intelligent life existed outside of Earth. Anyone who believed we were not alone in the universe were mocked as believers “in little green men from Mars.”

I recall dreaming that I would be the first man on the moon. That was in 1957. Imagine how the Martian series must have appeared to the average educated reader in 1912 when A Princess of Mars was first published. And yet it only took twelve years since I dreamed of being the first man on the moon for Neil Armstrong to beat me to it.

I also have a theory of who killed the caretaker of the atmosphere plant and his assistant, which I think makes sense as our own world faces some of the greatest challenges to its water supply and atmosphere. I think after eight hundred years living in isolation that the old man became so paranoid that he went mad and decided to take the whole planet with him in a mass suicide.

I see the same kind of madness today with the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and an incredible amount of people actually entertaining the possibility that the world will come to an end on December 21, 2012. I don't know about you, but I intend on waking up on December 22, 2012, with a hangover and a beautiful woman who thought she would go out with a bang.

Hopefully, there are still some Orovars among us that will save our lovely paradise from ending up like Barsoom. ERB sure gave us something to think about.

And there you have it, 
ERB's Life-Saving Pumping Stations of Mars: The First Wonder of Barsoom!

THE SEVEN WONDERS OF BARSOOM SERIES
I. THE LIFE-SAVING PUMPING STATIONS OF MARS

II. THE TWIN CITIES OF HELIUM
III. THE HOTHOUSE CITIES OF OKAR
IV. KAMTOL IN THE VALLEY OF THE FIRST BORN
V. THE HIDDEN CITIES IN THE FOREST OF LOST MEN
VI. THE FIELD OF JETAN AT MANATOR
VII. THE TEMPLE OF THE SUN
RUNNERS UP
1. THE RELIGION OF ISSUS I

THE RELIGION OF ISSUS II
2. TOONOL AND PHUNDAHL
3. THE ISLAND OF MORBUS
4. KINGDOMS OF HORROR 
5. MAD SCIENTISTS OF MARS
6. THE GATHOLIAN GAMBIT IN JETAN
7. THURIA: THE LESSER MOON
MARTIAN OCEANS AND THEIR CITIES 
8. Part One: Korad, Thark, and Warhoon
Part Two: Aaanthor, Torquas, and Lothar I
Part Two: Aaanthor, Torquas, and Lothar II
Part Three: Gathol, Horz...and Opar I
Part Three: Gathol, Horz...and Opar II
9. THE ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS OF AMHOR
10. ASSASSINS OF MARS I
ASSASSINS OF MARS II
ASSASSINS OF MARS III
ASSASSINS OF MARS IV
11. THE GREEN HORDES OF MARS I
THE GREEN HORDES OF MARS II
THE GREEN HORDES OF MARS III
THE GREEN HORDES OF MARS IV
THE GREEN HORDES OF MARS V
THE GREEN HORDES OF MARS VI
THE GREEN HORDES OF MARS VII
12. WEIRD CREATURES OF MARS I: PLANT MEN
WEIRD CREATURES OF MARS II: GOOLIES
13. THE RIVER ISS
14. CANALS OF MARS
15. THE GLORY THAT WAS ONCE ZODANGA I
THE GLORY THAT WAS ONCE ZODANGA II
THE GLORY THAT WAS ONCE ZODANGA III
THE GLORY THAT WAS ONCE ZODANGA IV
THE GLORY THAT WAS ONCE ZODANGA V
THE GLORY THAT WAS ONCE ZODANGA VI
THE GLORY THAT WAS ONCE ZODANGA VII

GALLERY OF EARLY POPULAR AND SCIENTIFIC SPECULATION ON MARS CANALS
From the ERBzine Mars Fever series


19th Century map of Mars canals by Schiaparelli


Nineteenth century engineer Charles Housden described a possible outline of
the network of channels, complete with dams and pumping stations.

WEB REFS
www.johncarterofmars.ca
A Princess of Mars
Gods of Mars
Warlord of Mars
Thuvia, Maid of Mars
Chessmen of Mars
Mastermind of Mars
A Fighting Man of Mars
Swords of Mars
Synthetic Men of Mars
Llana of Gathol
Skeleton Men of Jupiter
John Carter and the Giant of Mars


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