A Visit to Mars (concluded)

This, the third and last part of this strange account, is a follow up to an earlier jot.

January 15th. For the sake of those who, in spite of my gloomy experience on the whole, wish to make this voyage too, I should like to make the following observations on the equipment required for the expedition. A large quantity of provisions, as for an Arctic or Antarctic expedition for many years is a first requirement. It is quite easy to keep the provisions here owing to the permanently low temperature in the ground. If economically used, sufficient water can be obtained by melting hoar-frost.

      As for clothes---summer clothes are needed, if the tropics are to be visited, for the few hot hours in the afternoon when the sun may really be very hot. For the rest, the very thickest winter clothes are an imperative necessity. And also cooking apparatus, and so on and so forth, just as for a Polar expedition. Fuel is found on Mars in sufficient quantities. The dead, dried plants burn well, and give a fair amount of heat. There is enough oxygen to allow of combustion.
    For breathing purposes a number of first-rate apparatus are needed. It is quite impossible, even in the fine perihelion days in the tropics, to breathe freely in the open air. I tried to do so several times but was invariably within suffocation in a very short time. A good diving suit, with an apparatus to condense the air to the right degree, is a necessity. I constructed an electrical apparatus that has given me great satisfaction. It works with the aid of an accumulator battery that I carry along with me (it is quite easy to carry a weight that would be a cumbersome load on Earth) and that is filled by the engine of my aeroplane. An aeroplane is the only practical means of travelling long distances here. There are excellent, bare landing grounds almost everywhere. Of course, one’s entire stock of petrol and oil must be taken from the Earth.
    It is no good having a compass here. On different points on Mars the needle points in different directions. Apparently there is no magnetism on Mars, or else it is too weak for an ordinary compass to respond to it.
   As regards the measurement of time, I serious advise you not to take an ordinary clock from the Earth, or perhaps just one (of course not one with a pendulum) for the sake of comparison. After I had been here for some months I altered my watch ( I am a bit of a mechanic). It is most unpractical to measure time by terrestrial clocks and by terrestrial hours. The Martian hours shift every day and give rise to more and more difficulties. So, a la Mars comme a la Mars. It’s best to divide one’s day so that it corresponds with the Martian day. So the watch must be altered so as to make the hour hand travel round once in 12 hours and 19 ½ minutes ( half a mean solar day on Mars). And the minute hand and seconds hand accordingly. One then count by days, hours, minutes and seconds that are about 3 per cent longer that those on Earth; there are only advantages but no drawbacks. One does not even notice the fact, and the great benefit of it is that it tallies with the sun as seen from Mars. One’s pulse then makes a few beats more per minute, but that really does not matter. The only thing that I found to be very odd, was that, when I was once watching the Earth’s rotation through my telescope, I found that a complete rotation lasted less than 23 ½ hours. I first attributed this to a miscalculation on my part, until I remembered that I was using too long hours and minutes!

With respect to the calendar, I also advise you to adapt it. If one holds on to terrestrial months it leads to the greatest confusion, especially if one uses Martian days. Hence, after some experience on the subject I arranged things as follows: the Martian year has 668 days (not counting the leap years). It has corresponding seasons, but with a considerably longer, be it  much less hot, summer half-year( this applies to the Northern hemisphere. On Earth, we inhabitants of the Northern hemisphere associated winter with January, summer with July. Therefore I chose the following calendar, keeping the terrestrial names of the months.

Southern hemisphere     Northern hemisphere DaysDaysDaysTotal
Autumn Spring April 64May 64June 63191
Winter Summer July 61Aug 60Sept 60181
Spring Autumn O 50Nov 50Dec 49149
Summer Winter Jan 49FebMarch147

This calendar, though it certainly does not satisfy all technical and scientific requirements, proved to be quite useful in practice. When finding the date by it I always knew at once what season it was and that is the chief point in every calendar.
   Most strange are the things that happen when…
(The rest of the diary was unfortunately destroyed.)

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on StumbleUpon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.