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TARZAN AT THE EARTH’S CORE
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
THE SUSTAINED IMAGINATION
Not only did ERB write stories for people with imaginations, he wrote special stories for those gifted with what I will call sustained imaginations. This kind of imagination takes a volitional effort to maintain a certain visual perspective while you are reading. The two best examples of what I mean by sustained imagination are the nakedness on Mars and the inner curvature of the earth in Pellucidar, the inner world inside the earth beginning 500 miles below the earth's surface.
It’s hard to maintain in the imagination the fact that everyone is naked on Mars and if your mind loses sight of this fact while you are getting carried away with the danger, suspense, and excitement that makes up an ERB adventure, you lose sight of important aspects of the story, especially those concerning physical contact. For those gifted with sustained imaginations, however, ERB’s Barsoomian Mythos, where everyone is naked, is nothing but exceptional soft pornography. (See “Nakedness on Mars,” ERBzine 3177.) The shock value of this is often lost with those not gifted with sustained imaginations because the natural inclination of the average reader is to imagine characters with clothes on. It was from the sustained imagination perspective of people with dirty minds in the second decade of the 20th Century that led to accusations against ERB that he was a hack writer of pulp fiction who wrote “dirty books.”
The second example is less dirty, so to speak. It is almost impossible to maintain a sustained imagination in regards to Pellucidar, for the premise is so fantastic that as far as I have been able to tell, only one ERB artist has managed to capture this feat. I was fortunate when I first got turned on to Tarzan to make sure I bought a copy of Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, following the specific recommendation of my Vietnam vet next door neighbor, an avid ERB fan who got me into the series. The edition currently in print back in the day I bought my copy was the Ballantine Twelfth edition issued in 1988, with the cover art by Neal Adams. (See ERBzine 0721: scroll down to the “U.S. Paperback Cover” section; it is the last one from the left, on the far right; or google “neal adams tarzan at the earth’s core” to view full size, detailed copies of this masterpiece on many web sites.)
It took me years to realize that Adams had captured the inner curvature in his depiction of Tarzan in the clutches of a Thipdar. What I thought to be clouds and atmosphere in the background was actually a mountain range and oceans curving away into the distant heights. Even after getting this accurate Pellucidarian depiction correct in my mind, I still find it almost impossible to maintain the perspective when I am reading the story.
So, without further ado, let us all test our minds to the limits of their sustained imaginations as we peruse ERB's greatest, and as far as I can tell, his only, crossover novel.
THE GRIDLEY WAVE
Like I said, Tarzan at the Earth’s Core is a crossover novel, combining two of his successful series: Tarzan and Pellucidar. Tarzan at the Earth’s Core is the thirteenth novel in the Tarzan series, while it also comprises the fourth novel in the Pellucidar series. I will now list the prior novels in each of these series and the years in which he wrote them, with the ERBzine Collector’s Hypertexted and Annotated Storehouse of Encyclopedic Resources (CHASER) number following, where they can easily be accessed.
1. Tarzan of the Apes (1911: 0438)
2. The Return of Tarzan (1912: 0484)
3. The Beasts of Tarzan (1914: 0485)
4. The Son of Tarzan (1915: 0487)
5. Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar (1915: 0490)
6. Jungle Tales of Tarzan (1916: 0492
7. Tarzan the Untamed (1918: 0493)
8. Tarzan the Terrible (1920: 0494)
9. Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1922: 0485)
10. Tarzan and the Ant Men (1923: 0497)
11. Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle (1927: 0499)
12. Tarzan and the Lost Empire (1928: 0720)
13. Tarzan at the Earth’s Core (1928: 0721)
1. At the Earth’s Core (1913: 0741)
2. Pellucidar (1914: 0742)
3. Tanar of Pellucidar (1928: 0743)
4. Tarzan at the Earth’s Core (1928: 0721)
There were two juvenile novels also written between 1926 and 1928, The Tarzan Twins and Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins with Jad Bal Ja, the Golden Lion (both listed as CHASER 0498), which are not officially listed as part of the Ballantine series. Other than that, ERB would go on to write 11 more Tarzan novels in the official series (I am following the numbering system in the Ballantine series, but take note that they are not always in the order they were written, followed by the CHASER number): (14) Tarzan the Invincible [1930: 0722]; (15) Tarzan Triumphant [1931: 0723]; (16) Tarzan and the City of Gold [1931: 0725]; (17) Tarzan and the Lion Man [1933: 0726]; (18) Tarzan and the Leopard Men [1931: 0724]; (19) Tarzan’s Quest [1934: 0727]; (20) Tarzan and the Forbidden City [1937: 0729]; (21) Tarzan the Magnificent [1935: 0728]; (21) Tarzan and the Foreign Legion [1944: 0732]; (22) Tarzan and the Madman [1940: 0731]; (24) Tarzan and the Castaways [1939: 0730]; and 3 more novels about Pellucidar: (5) Back to the Stone Age [1935: 0745]; (6) Land of Terror [1938: 0746]; (7) Savage Pellucidar [1940: 0747].
As we can see from the list above, ERB maintained a good output of the Tarzan series from 1911 to 1928, a period of 17 years, whereas he slacked off on the inner world of Pellucidar for 14 years, from 1914 to 1928. What brought him back to the Earth’s Core?
It is my belief that it was the invention of the Gridley Wave by ERB’s neighbor in Tarzana, Jason Gridley, that made this return possible. (Yes, I know Jason Gridley is a fictional character, but since he calls ERB the “Admiral”, he may provide some biographical information.) This story is best told at the beginning of Tanar of Pellucidar, where I will now reproduce the “Prolog” word for word. It must be noted that ERB has introduced himself specifically in this Prolog as the real, although fictional, Edgar Rice Burroughs. In The Land that Time Forgot trilogy, his fictional presence was only suggested as an unknown narrator. (See “ERB’s Embryonic Journey,” ERBzine 3692.) The “Prolog” begins after a brief introduction of Jason Gridley – who is not a major character in this novel, although he is a major player in Tarzan at the Earth’s Core – and a fictional ERB, as they sit in Jason’s experimental laboratory in Tarzana in 1928:Jason Gridley is a radio bug. Had he not been, this story never would have been written. Jason is twenty-three and is scandalously good looking – too good looking to be a bug of any sort. As a matter of fact, he does not seem buggish at all – just a normal, sane, young American, who knows a great deal about many things in addition to radio; aeronautics, for example, and golf, and tennis, and polo.Wow, the Gridley Wave predates the NSA spying on all electronic devices in the world, how amazing it that?
But this is not Jason’s story – he is only an incident – an important incident in my life that made this story possible, and so, with a few minor words of explanation, we shall leave Jason to his tubes and waves and amplifiers, concerning which he knows everything and I nothing.
Jason is an orphan with an income, and after he graduated from Stanford, he came down and bought a couple of acres at Tarzana, and that is how and when I met him.
While he was building he made my office his headquarters and was often in my study and afterward I returned the compliment by visiting him in his new “lab,” as he calls it – a quite large room at the rear of his home, a quiet, restful room in a quiet, restful house of the Spanish-American farm type – or we rode together in the Santa Monica Mountains in the cool air of early morning.
Jason is experimenting with some new principle of radio concerning which the less I say the better it will be for my reputation, since I know nothing whatsoever about it and am likely never to.
Perhaps I am too old, perhaps I am too dumb, perhaps I am just not interested – I prefer to ascribe my abysmal and persistent ignorance of all things pertaining to radio to the last state; that of disinterestedness; it salves my pride.
I do know this, however, because Jason has told me, that the idea he is playing with suggests an entirely new and unsuspected – well, let us call it a wave.
He says the idea was suggested to him by the vagaries of static and in groping around in search of some device to eliminate this he discovered in the ether an undercurrent that operated according to no previously known scientific laws.
At his Tarzana home he had erected a station and a few miles away, at the back of my ranch, another. Between these stations we talk to one another through some strange, ethereal medium that seems to pass through all other waves and all other stations, unsuspected and entirely harmless – so harmless is it that it has not the slightest effect upon Jason’s regular set, standing in the same room and receiving over the same aerial.But this, which is not very interesting to anyone except Jason, is all by the way of getting to the beginning of the amazing narrative of the adventures of Tanar of Pellucidar.Here is ERB’s sly humor in action. As a fictional character in his own novel, he mocks previous novels he has written about Mars and Pelllucidar. He would deal with Venus in an upcoming series featuring Carson Napier starting in 1931. (See Pirates of Venus, CHASER 0748.)
Jason and I were sitting in his “lab” one evening discussing, as we often did, innumerable subjects from “cabbages to kings,” and coming back, as Jason usually did, to the Gridley wave, which is what we have named it.
Much of the time Jason kept on his ear phones, than which there is no greater discourager of conversation. But this does not irk me as much as most of the conversations one has to listen to through life. I like long silences and my own thoughts.
Presently, Jason removed the headpiece. “It is enough to drive a fellow to drink!” he exclaimed.
“What?” I asked.
“I am getting that same stuff again,” he said. “I can hear voices, very faintly, but, unmistakably, human voices. They are speaking a language unknown to man. It is maddening.”
“Mars, perhaps,” I suggested, “or Venus.”
He knitted his brows and then suddenly smiled one of his quick smiles. “Or Pellucidar.”
I shrugged.“Do you know, Admiral,” he said (he calls me Admiral because of a yachting cap I wear at the beach), “that when I was a kid I used to believe every word of those crazy stories of yours about Mars and Pellucidar. The inner world at the earth’s core was as real to me as the High Sierras, the San Joaquin Valley, or the Golden Gate, and I felt that I knew the twin cities of Helium better than I did Los Angeles.Which would make Jason nine in 1914. ERB appealed to readers of all ages, but especially to young boys immersed in the stories of Edgar Allen Poe, Jules Verne, H.G. Well, and H.Rider Haggard. These young boys would have been, of course, too naive to understand the more adult “read between the lines” soft porn in most of the adventures – since ERB, unlike Verne, always had a damsel in distress. I mean, how many near rape scenes are there in Verne? But, as his adult readers would attest, it was clearly there on the page if you knew what you were looking for: a conspiracy of sorts between writer and reader to put one over on the nanny censors.
“I saw nothing improbable at all in that trip of David Innes and old man Perry through the earth’s crust to Pellucidar. Yes, sir, that was all gospel to me when I was a kid.”
“And now you are twenty-three and know that it can’t be true,” I said, with a smile.“You are not trying to tell me it is true, are you?” he demanded, laughing.Of course, today we have much more knowledge of things like the existence of previously unknown ocean currents, the jet stream, global warming, solar flares and the electromagnetic field around our planet generated by the molten iron-nickel central core. But remember, it has only been in the last few decades that a total understanding of the northern lights has been revealed. Don’t forget that ERB was writing in 1928.
“I never have told any one that it is true,” I replied. “I let people think what they think, but I reserve the right to do likewise.”
“Why, you know perfectly well that it would be impossible for that iron mole of Perry’s to have penetrated five hundred miles of the earth’s crust, you know there is no inner world peopled by strange reptiles and men of the stone age, you know there is no Emperor of Pellucidar.” Jason was becoming excited, but his sense of humor came to our rescue and he laughed.
“I like to believe that there is a Dian the Beautiful,” I said.
“Yes,” he agreed, “but I am sorry you killed off Hooja the Sly One. He was a corking villain.”
“There are always plenty of villains,” I reminded him.
“They help the girls to keep their ‘figgers’ and their school girl complexions.”
“How?” I asked.
“The exercise they get from being pursued.”
“You are making fun of me,” I reproached him, “but remember, please, that I am but a simple historian. If damsels flee and villains pursue I must truthfully record the fact.”
“Baloney!” he exclaimed in the pure university English of America.
Jason replaced his headpiece and I returned to the perusal of the narrative of an ancient liar, who should have made a fortune out of the credulity of book readers, but seems not to have. Thus we sat for some time.
Presently Jason removed his head phones and turned toward me. “I was getting music,” he said; “strange, weird music, and then suddenly there came loud shouts and it seemed that I could hear blows struck and there were screams and the sound of shots.”
“Perry, you know, was experimenting with gunpowder down there below, in Pellucidar,” I reminded Jason, with a grin; but he was inclined to be serious and did not respond in kind.
“You know, of course,” he said, “that there really has been a theory of an inner world for many years.”
“Yes,” I replied, “I have read works expounding and defending such a theory.”
“It supposes polar openings leading into the interior of the earth,” said Jason.
“And it is substantiated by many seemingly irrefutable scientific facts,” I reminded him – “open polar sea, warmer water farthest north, tropical vegetation floating southward from the polar regions, the northern lights, the magnetic pole, the persistent stories of the Eskimos that they are descended from a race that came from a warm country far to the north.”“I’d like to make a try for one of the polar openings,” mused Jason as he replaced the ear phones.Wow, reading that is like an acid trip with a fictional character confirming the existence of his creator by asking him a question only he would know. What a mind, what a mind. Anyway, that message received via the Gridley wave is the text of Tanar of Pellucidar, the novel that ERB wrote prior to Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. In fact, the transition between the two novels is almost seamless.
Again there was a long silence, broken at last by a sharp exclamation from Jason. He pushed an extra head piece toward me.
“Listen!” he exclaimed.
As I adjusted the ear phones I heard that which we had never before received on the Gridley wave – code! No wonder that Jason Gridley was excited, since there was no station on earth, other than his own, attuned to the Gridley wave.
Code! What could it mean? I was torn by conflicting emotions – to tear off the ear phones and discuss this amazing thing with Jason, and to keep them on and listen.
I am not what one might call an expert in the intricacies of code, but I had no difficulty in understanding the simple signal of two letters, repeated in groups of three, with a pause after each group: “D.I., D.I., D.I.,” pause; “D.I., D.I., D.I.,” pause.
I glanced up at Jason.
His eyes, filled with puzzled questioning, met mine, as though to ask, what does it mean?
The signals ceased and Jason touched his own key, sending his initials, “J.G., J.G., J.G.,” in the same grouping that we had received the D.I. signal. Almost instantly he was interrupted – you could feel the excitement of the sender.
“D.I., D.I., D.I., Pellucidar,” rattled against our ear drums like machine gun fire. Jason and I sat in dumb amazement, staring at one another.
“It is a hoax!” I exclaimed, and Jason, reading my lips, shook his head.
“How can it be a hoax?” he asked. “There is no other station on earth equipped to send or to receive over the Gridley wave, so there can be no means of perpetrating such a hoax.”
Our mysterious station was on the air again: “If you get this, repeat my signal,” and he signed off with “D.I., D.I., D.I.”
“That would be David Innes,” mused Jason.
“Emperor of Pellucidar,” I added.
Jason sent the message, “D.I., D.I., D.I.,” followed by, “what station is this,” and “who is sending?”
“This is the Imperial Observatory of Greenwich, Pellucidar; Abner Perry sending. Who are you?”
“This is the private experimental laboratory of Jason Gridley, Tarzana, California; Gridley sending,” replied Jason.
“I want to get into communication with Edgar Rice Burroughs; do you know him?”
“He is sitting here, listening with me,” replied Jason.
“Thank God, if that is true, but how am I to know that it is true?” demanded Perrry.
I hastily scribbled a note to Jason: “Ask him if he recalls the fire in his first gunpowder factory and that the building would have been destroyed had they not extinguished the fire by shoveling his gunpowder onto it?”
Jason grinned as he read the note, and sent it.
“It was unkind of David to tell of that,” came back the reply, “but now I know that Burroughs is indeed there, as only he could have known of that incident. I have a long message for him. Are you ready?”
“Yes,” replied Jason.
And this is the message that Abner Perry sent from the bowels of the earth; from the Empire of Pellucidar.
The only real thing of importance is a portion of the text that appears to confirm the theory of the existence of a northern polar opening as David Innes explores uncharted territory in Pellucidar. Remember, don’t forget to maintain your sustained imagination while reading, especially the fact that Pellucidar is illuminated by a small central sun at the very core itself that perpetually shines a high noon light down upon its inhabitants, making it impossible to tell time:The forest changed to pine and cedar and there were windswept wastes dotted with gnarled and stunted trees. The air was cooler than they had ever known in their native land, and when the wind blew from the north they shivered around roaring camp fires. The animals they met were scarcer and bore heavier fur, and nowhere was there sign of man.The Korsars were the descendants of pirates that were sucked down the vortex of the polar openings and are not part of the indigenous population of Pellucidar, which mainly consists of Stone Age people. In the final three Pellucidar novels, ERB used the place for social commentary, peopling it with bizarre creatures, even suggesting that one part of the underground world was the Christian hell. Anyway, one must imagine them gradually leaving the inner world behind as they enter the northern polar opening from the Pellucidar perspective:
Upon one occasion when they stopped to camp Tanar pointed at the ground before him. “Look!” he cried to David. “My shadow is no longer beneath me,” and then, looking up, “the sun is not above us.”
“I have noticed that,” replied David, “and I am trying to understand the reason for it, and perhaps I shall with the aid of the legends of the Korsars.”As they proceeded their shadows grew longer and longer and the light and heat of the sun diminished until they traveled in a semi-twilight that was always cold.All of the volcanic magma of the Pellucidarian planet exists in the thin crust of the earth between the outer and inner worlds, which only comprises 500 miles. Thus, at the middle of the crust, 250 miles down, it is quite hot. The narrative also gives the reader a hint at how large this polar opening must be.
Long since they had been forced to fashion warmer garments from the pelts of the beasts they had killed. Tanar and Ja wanted to turn back toward the southeast, for their strange homing instinct drew them in that direction toward their own country, but David asked them to accompany him yet a little further for his mind had evolved a strange and wonderful theory and he wished to press on yet a little further to obtain still stronger proof of its correctness.
When they slept they rested beside roaring fires and once, when they awoke, they were covered in a light mantle of a cold, white substance that frightened the Pellucidarians, but that David knew was snow. And the air was full of whirling particles and the wind bit those portions of their faces that were exposed, for now they wore fur caps and hoods and their hands were covered with warm mittens.
“We cannot go much further in this direction,” said Ja, “or we shall all perish.”
“Perhaps you are right,” said David. “You four turn back to the southeast and I will go yet a little further to the north and overtake you when I have satisfied myself that a thing that I believe is true.”
“No,” cried Tanar, “we shall remain together. Where you go we shall go.”
“Yes,” said Ja, “we shall not abandon you.”
“Just a little further north, then,” said David, “and I shall be ready to turn back with you,” and so they forged ahead over snow covered ground into the deepening gloom that filled the souls of the Pellucidarians with terror. But after a while the wind changed and blew from the south and the snow melted and the air became balmy again, and still further on the twilight slowly lifted and the light increased, though the midday sun of Pellucidar was now scarcely visible behind them.“I cannot understand it,” said Ja. “Why should it become lighter again, although the sun is ever further away behind us?”Yes, I know, it is all rather mind-blowing to imagine this scene accurately, but it is important to remember as we return to Jason Gridley’s experimental laboratory at the end of the message:
“I do not know,” said Tanar. “Ask David.”
“I can only guess,” said David, “and my guess seems so preposterous that I dare not voice it.”
“Look!” cried Stellara, pointing ahead. “It is the sea.”
“Yes,” said Gura, “a gray sea; it does not look like water.”
“And what is that” cried Tanar. “There is a great fire upon the sea.”
“And the sea does not curve upward in the distance,” cried Stellara. “Everything is wrong in this country and I am afraid.”
David had stopped in his tracks and was staring at the deep red glow ahead. The others gathered around him and watched it, too.
“What is it?” demanded Ja.
“As there is a God in heaven it can be but one thing,” replied David; “and yet I know that it cannot be that thing. The very idea is ridiculous. It is impossible and outlandish.”
“But what might it be?” demanded Stellara.
“The sun,” replied David.
“But the sun is almost out of sight behind us,” Gura reminded him.
“I do not mean the sun of Pellucidar,” replied David; “but the sun of the outer world, the world from which I came.”
The others stood in silent awe, watching the edge of a blood red disc that seemed to be floating upon a gray ocean across whose reddened surface a brilliant pathway of red and gold led from the shoreline to the blazing orb, where the sea and sky seemed to meet.As Perry neared the end of the story of Tanar of Pellucidar, the sending became weaker and weaker until it died out entirely, and Jason Gridley could bear no more.And thus ends Tanar of Pellucidar, suggesting the beginning of Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, which ERB must have started immediately after finishing this last page from Tanar. But before we start this Tarzan adventure, we must first catch up to speed on the status of Tarzan.
He turned to me. “I think Perry had something more to say,” he said. “He was trying to tell us something. He was trying to ask something.”
“Jason,” I said, reproachfully, “didn’t you tell me that the story of the inner world is perfectly ridiculous; that there could be no such place peopled by strange reptiles and men of the stone age? Didn’t you insist that there is no Emperor of Pellucidar?”
“Tut-tut,” he said. “I apologize. I am sorry. But that is past. The question now is what can we do?”
“About what?” I asked.
“Do you not realize that David Innes lies a prisoner in a dark dungeon beneath the palace of The Cid of the Korsars?” he demanded with more excitement than I have ever known Jason Gridley to exhibit.
“Well, what of it?” I demanded. “I am sorry, of course, but what in the world can we do to help him?”
“We can do a lot,” said Jason Gridley, determinedly.
I must confess that as I looked at him I felt considerably solicitude for the state of his mind for he was evidently laboring under great excitement.
“Think of it!” he cried. “Think of that poor devil buried there in utter darkness, silence, solitude – and with those snakes! God!” he shuddered. “Snakes crawling all over him, winding about his arms and his legs and his body, creeping across his face as he sleeps, and nothing else to break the monotony – no human voice, the song of no bird, no ray of sunlight. Something must be done. He might be saved.”
“But who is going to do it?” I asked.
“I am!” replied Jason Gridley.
As you may recall if you are a Tarzan fan, Tarzan is the son of an aristocratic British family, the Greystokes, marooned in Equatorial Africa. The parents both die from wild animals and Tarzan is reared by Kala, a female Great Ape, who raises Tarzan (white-skin) as a mighty hunter and mighty killer. When he is a young man he saves Jane Porter – the daughter of an American professor from Baltimore, both of whom are also marooned in the same place – from a rival great ape and they have an affair. He ends up, of course, marrying Jane, after leaving Africa with a French officer. Although he taught himself how to read and write English from grammars left behind by his parents, the first civilized language he learns to speak is not English, but French, and the first civilized city he learns first hand is Paris.
Anyway, Tarzan leaves the European good life for mainly a life in the jungle as its Lord. He can talk to most of the animal kingdom and he moves supernaturally through the trees whenever he encounters a forest. He thinks mainly like a jungle beast, but is brilliant as well in the ways of man. Tarzan first comes across Dr. Karl von Harben, a German missionary from the Urambi territory, in the juvenile novel, Tarzan and the Tarzan Twins with Jad Bal Ja, the Golden Lion, when his 12-year-old daughter, Gretchen, is kidnapped by a rogue tribe from the Lost City of Opar, a colony of Atlantis. The Tarzan Twins save her with the last minute aid of Jad Bal Ja, a golden lion raised since a cub by Tarzan who brought him back from Pal-Ul-Don, an exotic Jurassic Park hidden in central Africa.
We learn from that story that Dr. Harben also has two sons, one of whom we are introduced to in Tarzan and the Lost Empire. This son, Erich von Harben, is a scientist and explorer and gets captured by one of the two neo-Roman empires, Castrum Mare, in the Wiramwazi Mountains, which he was exploring hoping to find one of the Lost Tribes of the Bible. He falls in love with the stunning Favonia, the daughter of a prominent family and after Tarzan rescues everyone in the end, he ends up marrying her. As we shall see, Erich is also the discoverer of Harbenite, a metal light as cork but strong as steel, which he discovered in the Wiramwazi Mountains, which are also rich in gold and silver.
Harbenite, like Back to the Future's time machine flux capacitor, makes the 0-220 – the vacuum dirigible – possible. I had an almost impossible time trying to understand the principles involved with the 0-220 and realized I was wasting my time without an engineering background. Faced with this dilemma, I emailed by old accomplice in the Gatholian Gambit, Rick Johnson (see ERBzine 3314), and asked him if he could write a paper on the mechanics of the airship. I told him to write it as if he was writing to a bunch of idiots when it came to the science. As you can see for yourself in Rick’s accompanying article he has done a brilliant job of explaining this science to the layman. (ERBzine 5128)
By the way, ERB got the name/number for his massive air ship by looking at the dial of his telephone in his office at ERB Inc., where the number was listed as “0-220.” Well, the Magical Mystery Tour is about to begin: what are we waiting for!
FOREWORDPellucidar, as every schoolboy knows, is a world within a world, lying, as it does, upon the inner surface of the hollow sphere, which is the Earth.The main cause of concern when suspending your disbelief when reading about Pellucidar is why the law of gravity breaks down 500 miles beneath the earth? Must we imagine a 500 mile crust so full of mass that it reverses the gravity? I don’t think there’s an adquate answer to this.
It was discovered by David Innes and Abner Perry upon the occasion when they made the trial trip upon the mechanical prospector invented by Perry, wherewith they hoped to locate new beds of anthracite coal. Owing, however, to their inability to deflect the nose of the prospector, after it had started downward into the Earth’s crust, they bored straight through for five hundred miles, and upon the third day, when Perry was already unconscious owing to the consumption of their stock of oxygen, and David was fast losing consciousness, the nose of the prospector broke through the crust of the inner world and the cabin was filled with fresh air.In the years that have intervened, weird adventures have befallen these two explorers. Perry has never returned to the outer crust, and Innes but once – upon that occasion when he made the difficult and dangerous return trip in the prospector for the purpose of bringing back to the empire he had founded in the inner world the means to bestow upon the primitive people of the stone age the civilization of the twentieth century.Some day I am going to buy a globe and cut it in half and paint the inside the opposite colors as the ones on the outside. Blue where the land is on the outside and brown where the oceans are. The danger of traveling between the outer and inner surfaces is obvious with such a model. If you are boring a hole through the surface five hundred miles down and if you start on land you could end up very well end up at the bottom of an ocean in Pellucidar; and vice versa. Of course, because of the five hundred miles difference, the surface area is not quite the same, which allows for some variances, which was the case of the iron mole “Prospector” Abner Perry invented. They started on land somewhere back in New England and because they descended at an angle, ended up on land once they bored through to Pellucidar. A map of Pellucidar and depictions of the iron mole can be found at ERBzine 0741.
But what with battles with primitive men and still more primitive beasts and reptiles, the advance of the empire of Pellucidar toward civilization has been small; and in so far as the great area of the inner world is concerned, or the countless millions of its teeming life of another age than ours, David Innes and Abner Perry might never have existed.
When one considers that these land and water areas upon the surface of Pellucidar are in opposite relationship to the same areas upon the outer crust, some slight conception of the vast extent of this mighty world within a world may be dreamed.
The land areas of the outer world comprises some fifty-three million square miles, or one-quarter of the total area of the earth’s surface; while within Pellucidar three-quarters of the surface is land, so that jungle, mountains, forest and plain stretch interminably over 124,110,000 square miles; nor are the oceans with their area of 41,370,000 square miles of any mean or niggardly extent.
A few years ago a college professor was dismissed from his position because he used the word “niggardly” in his classroom. Some black people got excited and accused him of racism because he used the N-word, and he lost his job. No one even bothered to look up the actual word. It has nothing to do with black people, but comes from a Scandinavian word meaning a stingy or miserly person. Oh well, that’s another word removed from Orwell’s Newspeak Dictionary.Thus, considering the land area only, we have the strange anomaly of a larger world within a smaller one, but then Pelllucidar is a world of deviation from what we of the outer crust have come to accept as unalterable laws of nature.The original story, At the Earth's Core, is very similar in several ways to H.G. Wells' First Men in the Moon, with the invention of the anti-gravity reflecting Cavorite and the giving of gunpowder to the native moon beings, leading to the first Lunar wars.
In the exact center of the earth hangs Pellucidar's sun, a tiny orb compared with ours, but sufficient to illuminate Pellucidar and flood her teeming jungles with warmth and life-giving rays. Her sun hanging thus perpetually at zenith, there is no night upon Pellucidar, but always an endless eternity of noon.
There being no stars and no apparent movement of the sun, Pellucidar has no points of compass; nor has she any horizon since her surface curves always upward in all directions from the observer, so that far above one’s line of vision, plain or sea or distant mountain range go onward and upward until lost in the haze of the distance. And again, in a world where there is no sun, no stars and no moon, such as we know, there can be no such thing as time, as we know it. And so, in Pellucidar, we have a timeless world which must necessarily be free from those pests who are constantly calling our attention to “the busy little bee” and to the fact that “time is money.” While time may be “the soul of this world” and the “essence of contracts,” in the beatific existence of Pellucidar it is nothing and less than nothing.
Thrice in the past have we of the outer world received communication from Pellucidar. We know that Perry’s first great gift of civilization to the stone age was gunpowder. We know that he followed this with repeating rifles, small ships of war upon which were mounted guns of no great caliber, and finally we know that he perfected a radio.Knowing Perry as something of a empiric, we were not surprised to learn that his radio could not be tuned in upon any known wave or wave length of the outer world, and it remained for young Jason Gridley of Tarzana, experimenting with is newly discovered Gridley Wave, to pick up the first message from Pellucidar.Okay, with that great ERB introduction out of the way, let us proceed with our adventure.
The last word that we received from Perry before his messages faltered and died out was to the effect that David Innes, first Emperor of Pellucidar, was languishing in a dark dungeon in the land of the Korsars, far across continent and ocean from his beloved land of Sari, which lies upon a great plateau not far inland from the Lural Az.
I. THE 0-220Tarzan of the Apes paused to listen and to sniff the air. Had you been there you could not have heard what he heard, or had you you could not have interpreted it. You would have smelled nothing but the mustiness of decaying vegetation, which blended with the aroma of growing things.Yes, I am sure Tarzan knows who Edgar Rice Burroughs is. Again, the subtle joke about creators and creations.
The sounds that Tarzan heard came from a great distance and were faint even to his ears; nor at first could he definitely ascribe them to their true source, though he conceived the impression that they heralded the coming of a party of men.
Buto the rhinoceros, Tantor the elephant or Numa the lion might come out and go through the forest without arousing more than the indifferent interest of the Lord of the Jungle, but when man came Tarzan investigated, for man alone of all creatures brings change and dissension and strife wheresoever he first sets foot.
Reared to manhood among the great apes without knowledge of the existence of any other creatures like himself, Tarzan had since learned to anticipate with concern each fresh invasion of his jungle by these two-faced harbingers of strife. Among many races of men he had found friends, but this did not prevent him from questioning the purposes and the motives of whosoever entered his domain. And so today he moved silently through the middle terrace of his leafy way in the direction of the sounds that he had heard.
As the distance closed between him and those he went to investigate, his keen ears cataloged the sound of padding, naked feet and the song of native carriers as they swung along beneath their heavy burdens. And then to his nostrils came the scent spoor of black men and with it, faintly, the suggestion of another scent, and Tarzan knew that a white man was on safari before the head of the column came in view along the wide, well marked game trail, above which the Lord of the Jungle waited.
Near the head of the column marched a young white man, and when Tarzan’s eyes had rested upon him for a moment as he swung along the trail they impressed their stamp of approval of the stranger within the ape-man’s brain, for in common with many savage beasts and primitive men Tarzan possessed an uncanny instinct in judging aright the characters of strangers whom he met.
Turning about, Tarzan moved swiftly and silently through the trees until he was some little distance ahead of the marching safari, then he dropped down into the trail and awaited its coming.
Rounding a curve in the trail the leading askari came in sight of him and when they saw him they halted and commenced to jabber excitedly, for these were men recruited in another district – men who did not know Tarzan of the Apes by sight.
“I am Tarzan,” announced the ape-man. “What do you in Tarzan’s country?”
Immediately the young man, who had halted abreast of his askari, advanced toward the ape-man. There was a smile upon his eager face. “You are Lord Greystoke?” he asked.
“Here, I am Tarzan of the Apes,” replied the foster son of Kala.
“Then luck is certainly with me,” said the young man, “for I have come all the way from Southern California to find you.”
“Who are you,” demanded the ape-man, “and what do you want of Tarzan of the Apes?”
“My name is Jason Gridley,” replied the other. “And what I have come to talk to you about will make a long story. I hope that you can find the time to accompany me to our next camp and the patience to listen to me there until I have explained my mission.”
Tarzan nodded. “In the jungle,” he said, “we are not often pressed for time. Where do you intend making camp?”
“The guide that I obtained in the last village complained of being ill and turned back an hour ago, and as none of my own men is familiar with this country we do not know whether there is a suitable camp-site within one mile or ten.”
“There is one within half a mile,” replied Tarzan, “and with good water.”
“Good,” said Gridley; and the safari resumed its way, the porters laughing and singing at the prospect of an early camp.
It was not until Jason and Tarzan were enjoying their coffee that evening that the ape-man reverted to the subject of the American’s visit.
“And now,” he said, “what has brought you all the way from Southern California to the heart of Africa?”
Gridley smiled. “Now that I am actually here,” he said, “and face to face with you, I am suddenly confronted with the conviction that after you have heard my story it is going to be difficult to convince you that I am not crazy, and yet in my own mind I am so thoroughly convinced of the truth of what I am going to tell you that I have already invested a considerable amount of money and time to place my plan before you for the purpose of enlisting your personal and financial support, and I am ready and willing to invest still more money and all of my time. Unfortunately I cannot wholly finance the expedition that I have in mind from my personal resources, but that is not primarily my reason for coming to you. Doubtless I could have raised the necessary money elsewhere, but I believe that you are peculiarly fitted to lead such a venture as I have in mind.”
“Whatever the expedition may be that you are contemplating,” said Tarzan, “the potential profits must be great indeed if you are willing to risk so much of your own money.”
“On the contrary,” replied Gridley, “there will be no financial profit for anyone concerned in so far as I now know.”
“And you are an American?” asked Tarzan, smiling.
“We are not all money mad,” replied Gridley.
“Then what is the incentive? Explain the whole proposition to me.”
“Have you ever heard of the theory that the earth is a hollow sphere, containing a a habitable world within its interior?”
“The theory that has been definitely refuted by scientific investigation?” replied the ape-man.
“But has it been refuted satisfactorily?” asked Gridley.
“To the satisfaction of the scientists,” replied Tarzan.
“And to my satisfaction, too,” replied the American, “until I recently received a message direct from the inner world.”
“You surprise me,” said the ape-man.
“And I, too, was surprised, but the fact remains that I have been in radio communication with Abner Perry in that inner world of Pellucidar and I have brought a copy of that message with me and also an affidavit of its authenticity from a man with whose name you are familiar and who was with me when I received the message; in fact, he was listening in at the same time with me. Here they are.”From a portfolio he took a letter which he handed to Tarzan and a bulky manuscript bound in board covers.This is important to keep in mind when our expedition discovers the opening for it is so large that you don’t even know that you are in it until it is too late.
“I shall not take the time to read you all of the story of Tanar of Pellucidar,” said Gridley, “because there is a great deal in it that is not essential to the expedition of my plan.”
“As you will,” said Tarzan. “I am listening.”
For half an hour Jason Gridley read excerpts from the manuscript before him. “This,” he said, when he had completed the reading, “is what convinced me of the existence of Pellucidar, and it is the unfortunate situation of David Innes that impelled me to come to you with the proposal that we undertake an expedition whose first purpose shall be to rescue him from the dungeon of the Korsars.”
“And how do you think this may be done?” asked the ape-man. “Are you convinced of the correctness of Innes’ theory that there is an entrance to the inner world at each pole?”
“I am free to confess that I do not know what to believe,” replied the American. “But after I received this message from Perry I commenced to investigate and I discovered that the theory of an inhabitable world at the center of the earth with openings leading into it at the north and south poles is no new one and that there is much evidence to support it. I found a very complete exposition of the theory in a book written about 1830 and in another work of more recent time. Therein I found what seemed to be a reasonable explanation of many well known phenomena that have not been satisfactorily explained by any hypothesis endorsed by science.”
“What, for example,” asked Tarzan.
“Well, for example, warm winds and warm ocean currents coming from the north and encountered and reported by practically all arctic explorers; the presence of the limbs and branches of trees with green foliage upon them floating southward from the far north, far above the latitude where any such trees are found upon the outer crust; then there is the phenomenon of the northern lights, which in the light of David Innes’ theory may easily be explained as rays of light from the central sun of the inner world, breaking occasionally through the fog and cloud banks above the polar opening. Again there is the pollen, which often thickly covers the snow and ice in portions of the polar regions. This pollen could not come from elsewhere than the inner world. And in addition to all this is the insistence of the far northern tribes of Eskimos that their forefathers came from a country to the north.”
“Did not Amundson and Ellsworth in the Norge expedition definitely disprove the theory of a north polar opening in the earth’s crust, and have not airplane flights been made over a considerable portion of the hitherto unexplored regions near the pole?” demanded the ape-man.
“The answer to that is that the polar opening is so large that a ship, a dirigible or an airplane could dip down over the edge into it a short distance and return without ever being aware of the fact, but the most tenable theory is that in most instances explorers have merely followed around the outer rim of the orifice, which would largely explain the peculiar and mystifying action of compasses and other scientific instruments at points near the so-called north pole – matters which have greatly puzzled all arctic explorers.”“You are convinced then that there is not only an inner world but that there is an entrance to it at the north pole?” asked Tarzan.Did I mention that Tarzan is privy to the ultra secret location of the gold vaults of Opar, the Atlantean African colony? He is in fact the mega-bank of the time since the vaults hold more gold than there is in the known world. I recall one of R.E. Prindle’s articles where he compares Tarzan’s reliance on the Oparian gold vaults to ERB’s own reliance on the Tarzan franchise to provide him with an endless cash flow whenever needed.
“I am convinced that there is an inner world, but I am not convinced of the existence of a polar opening,” replied Gridley. “I can only say that I believe there is sufficient evidence to warrant the organization of an expedition such as I have suggested.”
“Assuming that a polar opening into an inner world exists, by just what means do you purpose accomplishing the discovery and exploration of it?”
“The most practical means of transportation that exists today for carrying out my plan would be a specially constructed rigid airship, built along the lines of the modern Zeppelin. Such a ship, using helium gas, would show a higher factor of safety than any other means of transportation at our disposal. I have given the matter considerable thought and I feel sure that if there is such a polar opening, the obstacles that would confront us in an attempt to enter the inner world would be far less than those encountered by the Norge in its famous trip across the pole to Alaska, for there is no question in my mind but that it made a wide detour in following the rim of the polar orifice and covered a far greater distance than we shall have to cover to reach a reasonably safe anchorage below the cold, polar sea that David Innes discovered north of the land of the Korsars before he was finally taken prisoner by them.
“The greatest risk that we would have to face would be a possible inability to return to the outer crust, owing to the depletion of our helium gas that might be made necessary by the maneuvering of the ship. But that is only the same chance of life or death that every explorer and scientific investigator must be willing to assume in the prosecution of his labors. If it were but possible to build a hull sufficiently light, and at the same time sufficiently strong, to withstand atmospheric pressure, we could dispense with both the dangerous hydrogen gas and the rare and expensive helium gas and have the assurance of the utmost safety and maximum of buoyancy in a ship supported entirely by vacuum tanks.”
“Perhaps even that is possible,” said Tarzan, who was now evidencing increasing interest in Gridley’s proposition.The American shook his head. “It may be possible some day,” he said, “but not at present with any known material. Any receptacle having sufficient strength to withstand the atmospheric pressure upon a vacuum would have a weight far too great for the vacuum to lift.”This is the secret of the way this thing works and I thank again Rick Johnson for his excellent presentation. It is great to know that the 0-220 would actually work if only Harbenite existed. Sometimes ERB's crazy science isn’t so crazy after all. We just have to wait until someone discovers or invents Harbenite, that's all.“Perhaps,” said Tarzan, “and, again, perhaps not.”Well, there you have it, three totally impossible things to digest before proceeding on an adventure of a lifetime: the Gridley Wave, Harbenite, and a vacuum airship. Oh, make that four; I forgot: Pellucidar itself.
“What do you mean?” inquired Gridley.
“What you have just said,” replied Tarzan, “reminds me of something that a young friend of mine recently told me. Erich von Harben is something of a scientist and explorer himself, and the last time I saw him he had just returned from a second expedition into the Wiramwazi Mountains, where he told me that he had discovered a lake-dwelling tribe using canoes made of metal that was apparently as light as cork and stronger than steel. He brought some samples of the metal back with him, and at the time I saw him he was conducting some experiments in a little laboratory he has rigged up his father’s mission.”
“Where is this man?” demanded Gridley.
“Dr. von Harben’s mission is in the Urambi country,” replied the ape-man, “about four marches west of where we now are.”
Far into the night the two men discussed plans for the project, for Tarzan was now thoroughly interested, and the next day they turned back toward the Urambi country and von Harben’s mission, where they arrived on the fourth day and were greeted by Dr. von Harben and his son, Erich, as well as by the latter’s wife, the beautiful Favonia of Castrum Mare.
It is not my intention to weary you with a recital of the details of the organization and equipment of the Pellucidarian expedition, although that portion of it which relates to the search and for and discovery of the native mine containing the remarkable metal now known as Harbenite, filled as it was with adventure and excitement, is well worth a volume by itself.
While Tarzan and Erich von Harben were locating the mine and transporting the metal to the seacoast, Jason Gridley was in Friedrichshafen in consultation with the engineers of the company he had chosen to construct the specially designed airship in which the attempt was to be made to reach the inner world.
Exhaustive tests were made of the samples of Harbenite brought to Friedrichshafen by Jason Gridley. Plans were drawn, and by the time the shipment of the ore arrived everything was in readiness to commence immediate construction, which was carried on secretly. And six months later, when the 0-220, as it was officially known, was ready to take the air, it was generally considered to be nothing more than a new design to be used as a common carrier upon one of the already numerous commercial airways of Europe.
The great cigar-shaped hull of the 0-220 was 997 feet in length and 150 feet in diameter. The interior of the hull was divided into six large, air tight compartments, three of which, running the full length of the ship, were above the medial line and three below. Inside the hull and running along each side of the ship, between the uppermost and lower vacuum tanks, were long corridors in which were located the engines, motors and pumps, in addition to supplies of gasoline and oil.
The internal location of the engine room was made possible by the elimination of fire risk, which is an ever present source of danger in airships which depend for their lifting power upon hydrogen gas, as well as to the absolutely fire-proof construction of the 0-220; every part of which , with for the exception of the few cabin fittings and furniture, was of Harbenite, this metal being used throughout except for certain bushings and bearings in motors, generators and propellers.
Connecting the port and starboard engine and fuel corridors were two transverse corridors, one forward and one aft, while bisecting these transverse corridors were two climbing shafts extending from the bottom of the ship to the top.
The upper end of the forward climbing shaft terminated in a small gun and observation cabin at the top of the ship, along which was a narrow walking way extending from the forward cabin to a small turret at near the tail of the ship, where provision had been made for fixing a machine gun.
The main cabin, running along the keel of the ship, was an integral part of the hull, and because of this entirely rigid construction, which eliminated the necessity for cabins suspended below the hull, the 0-220 was equipped with landing gear in the form of six, large, heavily tired wheels projecting below the bottom of the main cabin. In the extreme stern of the keel cabin a small scout monoplane was carried in such a way that it could be lowered through the bottom of the ship and launched while the 0-220 was in flight.
Eight air cooled motors drove as many propellers, which were arranged in pairs upon either side of the ship and staggered in such a manner that the air from the forward propellers would not interfere with those behind.
The engines, developing 5600 horsepower, were capable of driving the ship at a speed of 105 miles per hour.
In the 0-220 the ordinary axial wire, which passes the whole length of the ship through the center, consisted of a tubular shaft of Harbenite from which smaller tubular braces radiated, like the spokes of a wheel, to the tubular girders, to which the Harbenite plates of the outer envelope were welded.
Owing to the extreme lightness of Harbenite, the total weight of the ship was 75 tons, while the total lift of its vacuum tanks was 225 tons.
For purposes of maneuvering the ship and to facilitate landing, each of the vacuum tanks was equipped with a bank of eight air valves operated from the control cabin at the forward end of the keel; while six pumps, three in the starboard and three in the port engine corridors, were designated to expel the air from the tanks when it became necessary to renew the vacuum. Special rudders and elevators were also operated from the forward control cabin as well as from an auxiliary position aft in the port engine corridor, in the event the control cabin steering gear should break down.
In the main keel cabin were located the quarters for the officers and crew, gun and ammunition room, provision room, galley, additional gasoline and oil storage tanks, and water tanks, the latter so constructed that the contents of any of them might be emptied instantaneously in case of an emergency, while a proportion of the gasoline and oil tanks were slip tanks that might be slipped through the bottom of the ship in cases of extreme emergency when it was necessary instantaneously to reduce the weight of the load.
This, then, briefly, was the great, rigid airship in which Jason Gridley and Tarzan of the Apes hoped to discover the north polar entrance to the inner world and rescue David Innes, Emperor of Pellucidar, from the dungeons of the Korsars.
Jules Verne provided the same kinds of scientific details for Captain Nemo’s Nautilus submarine in his classic, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, providing it with chemical-electrical power, the kind used in batteries, but the kind of battery, powerful enough to propell a submarine, still only exists in the imagination.
We will tackle the next chapter in our next installment.
TARZAN AT THE EARTH'S CORE IN ERBzine C.H.A.S.E.R.
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