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Volume 1491

Den Valdron


Moon Maid: First Edition - McClurg - J. Allen St. John DJ

The Moon Maid, a chronicle of the future stretching across centuries and ending on Earth is in many ways the least known and most depressing of Burroughs series.   Pellucidar, Barsoom and Venus are venues of adventure, full of exotic life.   The subtext of the Moon series, cannibalism, a world which has destroyed its own wildlife, the decline of civilization and triumph of barbarism, the relentless conquest of barbarians and the slow struggle to regain humanity leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

Argosy May 5, 1923:  Art by P.J. MonahanMoon Men: Argosy February 21, 1925 - Pt. 1/4 - Stockton Mulford coverThe Red Hawk: Argosy September 5, 1925 - Pt. 1/3 - Modest Stein cover
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 conquests.

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.

Moon Maid Newspaper Serial Illustration June 14, 1926 (Evening Public Ledger-Philadelphia)   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 Carson on Venus, and Caprona's 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 not?

Another Hollow World?

Hollow Earth   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.

   Like 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 man. 

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 earthly life.

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 Moon's Far Side   "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...." (Chapter Two)

"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," (Chapter Two)

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."   (Chapter Two)

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 work.

 “The secondary source was sunlight....”

   A 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 weather:

 "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 superheated,"

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?

  Here's 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 eat.

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 systems.]

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

Moon Soil   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, Earth's gravity.

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 the 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 miles.

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 feet.

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 her.

 "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.

Ball Lightning   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 observations.

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.  Simple, non?

Finally, the Hoos

Lunar South Pole   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 finally stilled.

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 more merit.

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 Earth again). 

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 errors.

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 civilization.

~ Den Valdron

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