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The Great Moon Hoax of 1835 (text)
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Day Four: Friday, August 28, 1835
Lately Made
At The Cape of Good Hope.
[From Supplement to the Edinburgh Journal of Science]
[Continued from yesterday's Sun]

"After a short delay in advancing the observatory upon the levers, and in regulating the lens, we found our object and surveyed it. It was a dark narrow lake seventy miles long, bounded, on the east, north, and west, by red mountains of the same character as those surrounding the Valley of the Unicorn, from which it is distant to the south-west about 160 miles. This lake, like that valley, opens to the south upon a plain not more than ten miles wide, which is here encircled by a truly magnificent amphitheater of the loftiest order of lunar hills. For a semicircle of six miles these hills are riven, from their brow to their base, as perpendicularly as the outer walls of the Colosseum at Rome; but here exhibiting the sublime altitude of at least two thousand feet, in one smooth unbroken surface. How nature disposed of the large mass which she thus prodigally carved out, I know not; but certain it is that there are no fragments of it left upon the plain, which is a declivity without a single prominence except a billowly tract of woodland that runs in many a will vagary of breadth and course to the margin of the lake. The tremendous height and expansion of this perpendicular mountain, with its bright crimson front contrasted with the fringe of forest on its brow, and the verdure of the open plain beneath, filled out canvass with a landscape unsurpassed in unique grandeur by any we had beheld. Our twenty-five miles perspective included this remarkable mountain, the plain, a part of the lake, and the last graduated summits of the range of hills by which the latter is nearly surrounded. We ardently wished that all the world could view a scene so strangely grand, and our pulse beat high with the hope of one day exhibiting it to our countrymen in some part of our native land. But we were at length compelled to destroy our picture, as a while, for the purpose of magnifying its parts for scientific inspection. Our plain was of course immediately covered with the ruby front of this mighty amphitheater, its tall figures, leaping cascades, and rugged caverns. As its almost interminable sweep was measured off on the canvass, we frequently saw long lines of some yellow metal hanging from the crevices of the horizontal strata in will net-work, or straight pendant branches. We of course concluded that this was virgin gold, and we had no assay-master to prove to the contrary. On searching the plain, over which we had observed the woods roving in all the shapes of clouds in the sky, we were again delighted with the discovery of animals. The first observed was a quadruped with an amazingly long neck, head like a sheep, bearing two long spiral horns, white as polished ivory, and standing in a perpendicular parallel to each other. Its body was like that of a deer, but its fore-legs were most disproportionally long, and its tail, which was very busy and of a snowy whiteness, curled high over its rump, and hung two or three feet by its side. Its colors were bright bay and white in brindled parches, clearly defined, but of no regular form. It was found only in pairs, in spaces between the woods, and we had no opportunity of witnessing its speed or habits. But a few minutes only elapsed before three specimens of another animal appeared, so well known to us all that we fairly laughed at the recognition of so familiar an acquaintance in so distant a land. They were neither more nor less than three good large sheep, which would not have disgraced the farms of Leicestershire, or the shambles of Leanenhall-market. With the utmost scrutiny, we could find no mark of distinction between these and those of our native soil; they had not even the appendage over the eyes, which I have described as common to lunar quadrupeds. Presently they appeared in great numbers, and on reducing the lenses, we found them in flocks over a great part of the valley. I need not say how desirous we were of finding shepherds to these flocks, and even a man with blue apron and rolled up sleeves would have been a welcome sight to us, if not to the sheep; but they fed in peace, lords of their own pastures, without either protector or destroyer in human shape.

"We at length approached the level opening to the lake, where the valley narrows to a mile in width, and displays scenery on both sides picturesque and romantic beyond the powers of prose description. Imagination, borne on the wings of poetry, could alone gather similes to portray the wild sublimity of this landscape, where dark behometh crags stood over the brows of lofty precipices, as if a rampart in the sky; and forests seemed suspended in mid air. On the eastern side there was one soaring crag, crested with trees, which hung over in a curve like three-fourths of a Gothic arch, and being of a rich crimson color, its effect was most strange upon minds unaccustomed to the association of such grandeur with such beauty. "But whilst gazing upon them in a perspective of about half a mile, we were thrilled with astonishment to perceive four successive flocks of large winged creatures, wholly unlike any kind of birds, descend with a slow even motion from the cliffs on the western side, and alight upon the plain. They were first noted by Dr. Herschel, who exclaimed, `Now, gentlemen, my theories against your proofs, which you have often found a pretty even bet, we have here something worth looking at: I was confident that if we ever found beings in human shape, it would be in this longitude, and that they would be provided by their Creator with some extraordinary powers of locomotion: first exchange for my number D.' This lense being soon introduced, gave us a fine half-mile distance, and we counted three parties of these creatures, of twelve, none, and fifteen in each, walking erect towards a small wood near the base of the eastern precipices. Certainly the were like human beings, for their wings had now disappeared, and their attitude in walking was both erect and dignified. Having observed them at this distance for some minutes, we introduced lens Hz which brought them to the apparent proximity of eighty yards; the highest clear magnitude we possessed until the latter end of March, when we effected an improvement in the gas-burners. About half of the first party had passed beyond our canvass; but of all the others we had a perfect distinct and deliberate view. They averaged four feet in height, were covered, except on the face, with short and glossy copper-colored hair, and had wings composed of a thin membrane, without hair, lying snugly upon their backs, from the top of their shoulders to the calves of their legs. The face, which was of a yellowish flesh color, was a slight improvement upon that of the large orang outang, being more open and intelligent in its expression, and having a much greater expansion of forehead. The mouth, however, was very prominent, though somewhat relieved by a thick beard upon the lower jaw, and by lips far more human than those of any species of simia genus. In general symmetry of body and limbs they were infinitely superior to the orang outang; so much so, that, but for their long wings, Lieut. Drummond said they would look as well on a parade ground as some of the old cockney militia! The hair on the head was a darker color than that of the body, closely curled, but apparently not wooly, and arranged in two curious semicircles over the temples of the forehead. Their feet could only bee seen as they were alternately lifted in walking; but, from what we could see of them in so transient a view, they appeared thin, and very protuberant at the heel.

"Whilst passing across the canvas, and whenever we afterwards saw them, these creatures were evidently engaged in conversation; their gesticulation, more particularly the varied action of their hands and arms, appeared impassioned and emphatic. We hence inferred that they were rational beings, and although not perhaps of so high an order as others which we discovered the next month on the shores of the Bay of Rainbows, they were capable of producing works of art and contrivance. The next view we obtained of them was still more favorable. It was on the borders of a little lake, or expanded stream, which we then for the first time perceived running down the valley to a large lake, and having on its eastern margin a small wood. "Some of these creatures had crossed this water and were lying like spread eagles on the skirts of the wood. We could then perceive that they possessed wings of great expansion, and were similar in structure to this of the bat, being a semi-transparent membrane expanded in curvilineal divisions by means of straight radii, united at the back by the dorsal integuments. But what astonished us very much was the circumstance of this membrane being continued, from the shoulders to the legs, united all the way down, though gradually decreasing in width. The wings seemed completely under the command of volition, for those of the creatures whom we saw bathing in the water, spread them instantly to their full width, waved them as ducks do their to shake off the water, and then as instantly closed them again in a compact form. Our further observation of the habits of these creatures, who were of both sexes, led to results to very remarkable, that I prefer they should first be laid before the public in Dr. Herschel's own work, where I have reason to know they are fully and faithfully stated, however incredulously they may be received. -- * * * * * The three families then almost simultaneously spread their wings, and were lost in the dark confines of the canvass before we had time to breathe from our paralyzing astonishment. We scientifically denominated them as Vespertilio-homo, or man-bat; and they are doubtless innocent and happy creatures, notwithstanding that some of their amusements would but ill comport with our terrestrial notions of decorum. The valley itself we called the Ruby Coloseum, in compliment to its stupendous southern boundary, the six mile sweep of precipices two thousand feet high. And the night, or rather morning, being far advanced, we postponed our tour to Petavius (No. 20), until another opportunity."

We have, of course, faithfully obeyed Dr. Grant's private injunction to omit those highly curious passages in his correspondence which he wished us to suppress, although we do not perceive the force of the reason assigned for it. It is true, the omitted paragraphs contain facts which would be wholly incredible to readers who do not carefully examine the principles and capacity of the instrument with which these marvellous discoveries have been made; but so will nearly all those which he has kindly permitted us to publish; and it was for this reason we considered the explicit description which we have given of the telescope so important a preliminary. From these, however, and other prohibited passages, which will be published by Dr. Herschel, with the certificates of the civil and military authorities of the colony, and of several Episcopal, Wesleyan, and other ministers, who, in the month of March last, were permitted, under the stipulation of temporary secrecy, to visit the laboratory, and become eye-witnesses of the wonders which they were requested to attest, we are confident his forthcoming volumes will be at once the most sublime in science, and the most intense in general interest, that ever issued from the press.

The night of the 14th displayed the moon in her mean libration, or full; but the somewhat humid state of the atmosphere being for several hours less favorable to a minute inspection than to a general survey of her surface, they were chiefly devoted to the latter purpose. But shortly after midnight the last veil of mist was dissipated, and the sky being as lucid as on the former evenings, the attention of the astronomers was arrested by the remarkable outlines of the spot marked Tycho, No. 18, in Blunt's lunar chart; and in this region they added treasures to human knowledge which angels might well desire to win. Many parts of the following extract will remain forever in the chronicles of time:-
[To be continued.]

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.