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Volume 5111

Anomalies in the Barsoom Paradigm
Part II

(and possible solutions)
By Oberon Zell

PART II: Areology
Magnetic Pole

Several times in the Chronicles, reference is made to the Magnetic field of Barsoom:

I afterward learned that the shaft rests directly over the magnetic pole of Mars, but whether this adds in any way to its incalculable power of attraction I do not know.28

It was this type of motor with which my scout flier was equipped—a seemingly fuelless motor, since it derived its invisible and imponderable energy from the inexhaustible and illimitable magnetic field of the planet.29

Earth has a liquid interior which allows our planet’s iron core to spin at a different rate than the outer crust, generating Earth’s magnetic field and protective Van Allen Belts which shield us from deadly cosmic radiation.

Unfortunately for this narrative, Mars has no liquid interior, therefore no magnetic field, and thus no magnetic poles. This also means that Mars has no radiation belt, nor polar auroras. This does not bode well for any future prospects of human colonization, as, with no such protection, the planet is constantly bathed in lethal cosmic rays. All this, however, was not known or even suspected in Burroughs’ time, but was only discovered by the NASA Viking missions in the early 1970s. But perhaps at the time of those stories (1914-1928) Mars still had a magnetic field, which somehow disappeared over the next 40 years…

Climate and Water

“The inhabitants of Horz are, as far as we know, the sole remaining remnant of the once dominant race of Barsoom, the Orovars. A million years ago our ships ranged the five great oceans, which we ruled. The city of Horz was not only the capital of a great empire, it was the seat of learning and culture of the most glorious race of human beings a world has ever known. Our empire spread from pole to pole…
“They had reached the ultimate pinnacle of civilization and perfection when the first shadow of impending fate darkened their horizon—the seas began to recede, the atmosphere to grow more tenuous. What science had long predicted was coming to pass—a world was dying.
“For ages our cities followed the receding waters. Straits and bays, canals and lakes dried up. Prosperous seaports became deserted inland cities. Famine came. Hungry hordes made war upon the more fortunate. The growing hordes of green men overran what had once been fertile farm land, preying upon all.”30
According to soil analyses obtained by our most recent rovers, the waters of present-day Mars aren’t really gone so much as frozen beneath the desert sands. The dilemma here in reconciling this with Barsoom is that Barsoom has a rather pleasant tropical temperature—so much so that Martians of all races go pretty much naked except in the Arctic. So it’s a problem to then have all that ice beneath the surface, and explaining the disappearance of the Barsoomian oceans by evaporation alone is incompatible with the fact of the frozen waters of Mars.

Perhaps we can propose a “weird science” factor to reconcile these matters. I am recalling the Kurt Vonnegot novel, Cat's Cradle, which introduced the idea of what Vonnegut called “Ice-9;” an isotopic crystalline form of heavier water along the lines of deuterium and tritium that has a higher freezing point—and most importantly for Barsoom—a more conventional property of shrinking when it freezes rather than expanding (as does normal water). This would allow the oceans of Barsoom to diminish by gradual freezing from the bottom up, as the new artificial isotope not only crystalizes and settles to the bottom, but also seeds the normal water with the same heavy high-temp crystal form. This, combined with the increased evaporation as the atmosphere thins, would cause the gradual disappearance of the Martian seas.

If we can have 8th and 9th rays for aircraft buoyancy and atmosphere production; “radium” as the component of proximity-detecting guidance systems, explosive projectiles and lighting; transplanting of brains into other bodies (even across species); shrinking of spacecraft and people travelling from Barsoom to the moon Thuria; embalming techniques that freeze living people into statues; cloning to produce monstrous beings; oviparous and marsupial humans; invisibility pills and paints; solid and permanent objects and people created by psychic projection, etc.—then the development of a high-temp ice crystal that shrinks upon freezing wouldn’t be too far out there. And postulating it would ingeniously solve the problem of the diminishing oceans of Barsoom.

But given the story line, I think a more likely hypothesis for the loss of Barsoom’s mighty oceans may relate to efforts to replace the thinning atmosphere:

Realizing that the planet’s oxygen was becoming bound into the soil and rocks due to oxidation, the ancient scientists sought ways to release it back in to the atmosphere. The transportation and processing of sufficient oxidized soil to make any difference proved logistically impossible, so they turned to another process—the electrolysis of water.

Situating a mighty electrolysis plant along a critical waterway—the straits connecting the southernmost extension of the Toonolian Ocean with the Warhoon Expanse—ensured a permanent flow of water as the ocean gradually retreated to become the Toonolian Marshes, and the rest of the waterway eventually dwindled to become the River Iss. Meanwhile another atmosphere plant was built in secret by the Okarians deep within the north polar icecap, where it derived its H2O from ice. The southern atmosphere plant was four miles across and 100 feet in depth, with 20-foot-thick telepathically-operated steel doors.

But on Mars, electrolysis is a one-way process. For it breaks H2O molecules down into their constituent oxygen and hydrogen, but with the red planet’s low gravity, the hydrogen immediately escapes into space and can never be recombined to make water. So over hundreds of thousands of years, the surface waters of Mars were consumed by the atmosphere plant, while the oxygen released by the electrolysis continued to be converted to ozone (O2) by solar radiation, and eventually ended up in the soil, which turned progressively redder with ferric oxide (Fe2O3) over the millennia. The ultimate Doom of Barsoom was thus inevitable.31

Anomalies of Barsoom Footnotes for Part II

28. Warlord of Mars, op cit. ch. 9, p. 174.
29. A Fighting Man of Mars, op cit. ch. 2, p. 163.
30. Llana of Gathol, op cit. book 1, ch. 4, pp. 16-17.
31. Oberon Zell, “The Doom of Barsoom,” ERBzine Volume 4851

Larger  |  Largest (300 dpi)
A new map of Barsoom by Oberon Zell.

A New Map of Barsoom
John Carter, Warlord of Mars!

Just one hundred years ago, in 1911, Edgar Rice Burroughs (the creator of Tarzan) introduced an astonished readership to the adventures of John Carter, a Civil War soldier who found himself transported to the planet Mars. Or, as the natives called it, Barsoom. The first novel was A Princess of Mars, and it was followed by ten more books over the next 30 years; plus countless comic books, and in 2012, a spectacular Disney movie, John Carter.

Enthralled readers encountered the incomparable Martian Princess Dejah Thoris; four-armed giant Green Men; hideous blue Plant Men; Thoats, Calots, Banths, Apts, White Apes and other multi-legged beasts. Burroughs' Barsoom was a dying world of ancient ruined cities, dry seabeds, desert-spanning canals, towering mountains, polar ice caps, dense forests, and underground rivers. 

These were the first sci-fi adventure tales ever written that took place on another world, with alien races, civilizations, and creatures -- and they preceded and inspired every subsequent extra-planetary series from Flash Gordon to Star Trek and Star Wars.

But despite locating the adventures of John Carter on the canal-covered Mars depicted by Victorian astronomers, Burroughs never provided a map showing the locations of his Barsoomian cities and other features. Over the past century, many fans have tried to compile such a map, but none have truly succeeded. Until now. 

Painstakingly referencing clues in all eleven books, noted historian and cartographer Oberon Zell (Lost Civilizations and Secrets of the Past, New Page 2012) has created the definitive map of Burroughs' Barsoom as a gorgeous 18"x24" full-color poster, accompanied by a 52-page color-illustrated booklet (in PDF format).

Place your order for this limited printing to ensure you get one of the first copies! Only $10 for the map and booklet! (NOTE: You must provide an email address to receive the booklet, which will be emailed to you as a downloadable PDF.)


OZ with Crystal Ball Mysterious

Oberon Zell is a renowned Wizard and elder in the worldwide magickal community. In 1962 he founded the Church of All Worlds (, inspired by Heinlein’s Martian sci-fi novel Stranger in a Strange Land. In 1970, he published the earliest version of “The Gaea Thesis.” Through his publication of Green Egg magazine ( (1968-present), Oberon helped catalyze the modern Earth-centered spirituality movement.

Oberon has traveled throughout the world, celebrated Solar eclipses at ancient stone circles, raised living Unicorns, and swam with Mermaids. 

His love of historical and fantasy cartography may be seen in his chapter, “Paradises Lost,” with nine original maps, in Lost Civilizations and Secrets of the Past (New Page, 2012).

 Oberon is also Founder and Headmaster of the online Grey School of Wizardry, ( which currently offers more than 450 classes in 16 Departments. 

 Oberon lives in Sonoma County, California with his beloved lifemate, the incomparable Morning Glory. He is the primary artist of The Mythic Images Collection of which the centerpiece is his revelatory sculpture of Mother Earth as “The Millennial Gaia.” 

A New Map of Barsoom :: ERBzine 3937
Clues to Barsoomian locations in the Chronicles :: ERBzine 3938
The Fall of Ancient Barsoom by Steven A. Warner and Oberon Zell :: ERBzine 4497
The Doom of Barsoom :: ERBzine 485

Books by Oberon Zell
Grimoire for the Apprentice Wizard (Introduced by Raymond Buckland) (New Page, 2004)
 Companion for the Apprentice Wizard (Introduced by Jesse Wolf Hardin) (New Page, 2006)
 Creating Circles & Ceremonies (with Morning Glory Zell) (New Page, 2006)
 A Wizard's Bestiary (with Ash DeKirk; introduced by Jacques Vallee) (New Page, 2007)
 Green Egg Omelette (Introduced by Christopher Penczak & Chas Clifton) (New Page, 2009)
 Prophecy and the End of the World (as we know it): Apocalypse or Solartopia? (with Harvey Wasserman) (TheaGenesis, 2012)
 Barsoom: A New Map of the Mars of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars” Novels (TheaGenesis 2012)
The Wizard and The Witch (with Morning Glory Zell and John Sulak) (Llewellyn 2014)

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