The Symmes Theory of the Earth
THIS theory originated some fifty years ago with Captain John Cleves Symmes of Newport, Kentucky.1 He was a captain in the United States Army, and spent the best part of his life in the service of his country. He was a man of decided ability, and a bold and original thinker.
Dissatisfied with the Newtonian theory of the earth, he promulgated his own, by sundry articles in the press, and by lectures before the faculties and students of colleges in different parts of the country.
The novelty of his theory sometimes occasioned ridicule, and “ Symmes’s Hole,” among the masses, became a by-word ; but, as a general thing, his theory was popular, and the facts and arguments marshalled in its support commanded the attention of the learned and scientific men of the day, and showed much thought and research on his part.
During the winter of 1826 - 27 he lectured before the faculty and students of Union College, and by none was he heard with more profound attention than by the learned and venerable Drs. Nott and Wayland. The writer was a member of the Senior Class of 1827, and in common with other members of his class took copious notes.
From these notes he has prepared the present article, claiming only to present the theory of Captain Symmes as propounded in his lectures at Union, adding, indeed, some new facts from recent explorations, and drawing from them some inferences in accordance with the theory.
According to this, the earth is globular, hollow, and open at the poles. The diameter of the northern opening is about two thousand miles, or four thousand miles from outside to outside. The south opening is somewhat larger. The planes of these openings are parallel to each other, but form an angle of 12° with the equator, so that the highest part of the north plane is directly opposite the lowest part of the south plane. The shell of the earth is about one thousand miles thick, and the edges of this shell at the openings are called verges, and measure, from the regular concavity within to the regular convexity without, about fifteen hundred miles. The verges occupy about 25°, and if delineated on a map would show only the outer half of the verge, while all above or farther from the equator, both north and south, would lie on the apex and within the verge. All the polar regions upon the present map would be out of sight. The meridian lines extend at right angles from the equator to the outer edges of the verges, and then wind round along the surface of the verges, terminating at the points directly under the highest parts of the verges both north and south.
The line which marks the location of the apex of the northern verge begins at a point in Lapland about 68° N. and 20° E. from London on a meridian traversing Spitzbergen, whence it passes southwest across the Atlantic Ocean and the southern part of Greenland, through Hudson’s Bay and over the continent to the Pacific near Cook’s Inlet, thence across the Fox Islands, to a point about 56° N. and 160° W., nearly south of Behring’s Straits. Then it passes over the Pacific, crossing the south part of Kamtchatka, continuing northwest through Siberia, entering Europe across the Ural Mountains, in latitude about 58° N., and passing near the Arctic coast, over the mouth of the White Sea, to the point of starting.
Captain Symmes collated with great labor many isolated facts from his own researches, and from the accounts of Ross, Howe, Parry, McKenzie, and others who had by sea and land explored the polar regions, while similar proofs have been drawn from later explorations, since the promulgation of the theory in 1829.
The explorers who furnish facts for the support of this theory seem, none of them, to have had the remotest conjecture of it. The facts are admitted, and it cannot be urged against its author that he has marshalled in its support fictitious premises. His arguments, drawn from the facts, may be erroneous. Yet it is true that many of them which have not as yet been otherwise satisfactorily explained are easily accounted for upon his theory.
There is a remarkable difference of climate under different meridians upon the same parallel of latitude. It is known that the climate of the eastern coast of North America is much colder than that of Western Europe in the same latitude. The notion that this diversity is produced by the proximity of the ocean or of ranges of mountains is unsatisfactory ; for countries, similar in these respects, in the same latitude, have a great diversity of climate. A theory which would explain the mild climate of France and England from these causes, would not suit the case of New York and New England and the cold regions around the Gulf of St. Lawrence south of 59° north latitude. The topography of these sections of country is similar ; and yet England and France have a mild and genial climate, while New England and Newfoundland are cold and bleak in the winter. Labrador, not so far north as Great Britain, is as cold and bleak as countries in Europe 20° farther north.
The Gulf Stream does not satisfactorily account for this diversity of climate between America and Europe. Sweeping along the coast of the United States northeastwardly from the Gulf of Mexico, with its vast volume of water, why should it not moderate the climate of North America as well as that of Eastern Europe ? After nearing the banks of Newfoundland, it deflects eastwardly across the Atlantic about two thousand miles, and then sends off one branch northeastwardly along the coast of Norway, and another down the western coast of Europe and Africa, till it is lost in the Southern Atlantic. Why, then, does not this mighty river of the ocean affect the climate of the United States as much or even more than that of France and England ? It is claimed that this stream raises the climate of Europe 12° or 15° higher than that of the United States, whereas its effect should be greater upon the United States than upon Europe.
The characteristics of the isothermal belts of both hemispheres throw some light upon this theory. The region of the verges must be the coldest parts of the earth’s surface, because, being more convex, they diverge instead of converging the sun’s rays. The temperature, therefore, of any given part of the earth’s surface depends as well upon its proximity to the verge as to the equator. Europe, under the northern verge in latitude 60° N. would have the same climate with a place 70° west longitude, some six degrees farther south ; and at 160° west longitude the climate would be some twelve degrees colder than that of England. This would be true as a general rule, subject, however, to many local exceptions arising from the elevation and direction of mountain ranges, or the proximity of the ocean or large bodies of water, or from other causes. Paris, 49° N., is about the same distance from the verge as Washington in latitude 30° N., and their climate is nearly alike.
Thus, while this theory does not explain all the phenomena of climatic differences as indicated by the isothermal belts, it affords a general rule for explaining why the climate of Europe is milder than that of North America. The isothermal line of 32° of Fahrenheit, which marks the southern limit of frozen ground, as laid down on climatic charts, corresponds very nearly with the location of the northern verge.
The theory of ocean currents will not explain these climatic differences upon the earth’s surface. If, for instance, the Gulf Stream — having traversed the Atlantic, battling with the cold waters of Baffin’s Bay and the icebergs, which are drifted out of the Arctic Ocean — so modifies the climate of Western Europe, why should not the Brazilian current, flowing southwardly along the east coast of South America, produce the same effect upon Patagonia ? The antarctic currents, sweeping past Cape Horn and uniting with this warm Brazilian current, flow eastwardly across the South Atlantic Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope, into the Indian Ocean. While these antarctic currents might lower the temperature of the west coast of Patagonia, it will not be pretended that they would in like manner affect the east coast of this bleak region, or so counteract the effect of the warm Brazilian current flowing down along the eastern coast of South America as to produce the cold climate of Eastern Patagonia.
It is now generally conceded that a vast open ocean exists in the polar regions, and Professor Maury holds that this open sea results from the flow of warm submarine currents from the equatorial regions of the earth, north and south, causing the counterflow, upon the surface, of mighty currents from the arctic regions. Further discoveries may throw more light upon this mysterious subject, and explain these ocean currents in connection with the interior currents of the earth, across the verges in both directions, and thus demonstrate the truth of Captain Symmes’s theory.
The highest altitude of the sun is not at noon in high latitude, but at some time after, as Captain Parry informs us. The meridian lines on which the sun is at noon come up from the equator at right angles until they reach the outer edge of the verge, where they deflect to the right over and along the surface of the verge to a point underneath the highest part of the same. This deflection, as well as the angularity of the plane of the verge with the equator, would cause the sun, in latitude on and over the verge, to have the highest altitude after midday. Beyond longitude 160° west from London, this deflection of the meridian lines is to the left.
In the Pacific Ocean, in longitude and latitude answering to the lowest part of the verge, or that part of it nearest the equator, navigators have observed opposite the sun a luminous belt or ring, of a crescent form, elevated some 15° above the horizon, which is caused by the reflection of the sun’s rays from the opposite highest part of the verge. The refracted rays, coming from the opposite side of the earth through the dense atmosphere of the verge, would so strike the eye of the observer as to cause this apparent elevation.
But navigators in longitude answering to the highest part of the verge, instead of the bright appearance just noted, observe opposite the sun a dark, opaque space low in the horizon, as though there were no objects to reflect back the rays of the sun. This singular appearance is produced by the fact that the incident rays of light, as they are reflected from the lowest part of the verge, are so refracted that they fall below the eye of the observer, and thus cause this dark appearance, or blank space, in the horizon.
Captain Ross states that in high latitudes there are remarkable changes in the apparent extent of the sensible horizon. From north to south the horizon is so limited that objects can be seen only at very short distances, while in a direction east or west the horizon is greatly extended, and objects can be seen at an immense distance, as if upon a horizontal plane. The direction north and south is directly over the convex surface of the verge, where the horizon is extremely limited ; while along the surface of the verge east and west the view is along upon the plane of the verge, and the horizon is greatly extended. This is precisely what would result from the existence of such a verge. The slight depression of the surface of the earth around the poles is wholly insufficient to produce this effect, which accords so well with this theory.
Another beautiful phenomena, observed by Captain Parry, is the elongated appearance of the sun and moon in high latitude, with the prismatic colors observed on these occasions. According to a simple law of optics, this is due to the dense atmosphere of the verge acting like a prism, and causing this elongated appearance; and the prismatic hues are due to the different refrangibility of the sun’s rays. These beautiful hues may be heightened by particles of frost floating in the atmosphere.
Captain Parry and others speak of the brilliant twilight of the North, as being sufficient to enable them to read ordinary printed matter distinctly. This curious fact is wholly inexplicable upon the Newtonian theory, but is easy of explanation upon this. This twilight coming from the north may be caused by the sun’s rays thrown into the interior through the southern opening, which by two refractions, one at each opening, and two or three reflections from the inner concave surface, would pass out at the north over the verge, and produce there this strong twilight.
Captain Parry states that, when sailing northward in high latitude, the North Star rises over the bow of the ship to the zenith and then declines towards the stern. On the Newtonian theory the ship must have sailed directly under the star, and over and down upon the opposite side of the earth. But this cannot be true, for no navigator has sailed so far north.
From the regular convexity to the interior concavity of the earth across the verge is fifteen hundred miles, — a distance so great that a vessel, in sailing over the verge, would not perceive the change in her direction, except from the apparent change of the heavenly bodies, or from observations of the difference in the expanse of the visible horizon. The ship going north along the deflected meridians upon and over the verge causes these apparent changes in the North Star.
Further confirmation of the Symmes theory is drawn from the variations and dip of the magnetic needle. “ The line of no variation ” is a line coming up through the South Atlantic Ocean over the eastern part of South America, and passing on north-north-west over the equator to a point a little west of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, then through Virginia to Lake Erie east of Cleveland, and on through Lake Huron, terminating at a point in longitude about 90° west from London and in north latitude about 70°.
How do these facts accord with this theory ? It will be remembered that the planes of the verges form an angle each with the equator, but are parallel to each other. Now, midway between the verges lies the magnetic equator cutting the equator of the earth at an angle of twelve degrees, and “ the line of no variation ” crosses this magnetic equator at nearly right angles. The terminus of “ the line of no variation ” is about midway between the highest and lowest parts of the northern verge. This line continued to the southern verge would also terminate about midway between the highest and lowest parts of the southern verge. These are curious facts and are entitled to consideration. If they do not fully explain the variation of the magnetic needle, they present some views which may help to clear up these mysteries of nature.
The dip of the needle is another phenomenon not fully understood. This dip is nearly uniform upon the same latitude, but increases as the needle is carried north, and, in high latitude answering to the location of the verge, the dip is greatly increased and becomes nearly perpendicular.
The true magnetic poles are not at the points where the “ line of nO variation ” terminates, — at the north and south, — but are equidistant from this line and immediately under the highest points of the verges north and south, and " the line of no variation ” lies midway between these magnetic poles. The needle, while it does not vary, along the line, to the right or left, yet, as it goes northward or southward from the magnetic equator, it is attracted towards the true magnetic poles lying under the highest part of the verges ; and so the dip is increased till it reaches the apex of the verge, where it is the greatest.
Thus these general facts in regard to the movement of the magnetic needle correspond with the Symmes theory of the earth. The barometer also illustrates the theory ; for it is well established that, along the region of the verge, the mercury rises the highest, for here the atmosphere is most dense. It would be difficult to show, upon any other hypothesis, why the barometer should rise higher along the locality of the verge than upon the upper side of it to north or south.
The aurora borealis affords a most interesting illustration. If, as Franklin supposed, this is an electrical phenomenon, the question arises, Why is it always exhibited in high latitude ? The electric fluid pervades all nature, and is excited by heat, by cold, and by friction.
The sun in his daily course rarefies the air of the equatorial regions. It therefore rises and falls down towards the poles, causing currents from the equator towards the north and the south, where it is condensed. This process of rarefaction and condensation produces the aurora along the verges, where the greatest condensation takes place. In proof of this view, Captain Parry and other explorers and navigators state that, when in high latitudes upon and beyond the verge, the aurora is almost always seen in a southerly or southwesterly direction.
Navigators in the South Atlantic, while sailing down the coast of South America, observe, low in the horizon, to the east and southeast, several bright, luminous bodies, like clouds in the sky, which become more and more elevated as the vessel goes south, until, in the vicinity of the Straits of Magellan, these clouds appear nearly in the zenith.
The cause of this beautiful appearance is as yet unknown, or is only the subject of vague conjecture. Captain Symmes holds that these bright clouds are produced by the light of the sun reflected from New Zealand and Van Diemen’s Land, and perhaps the south part of New Holland, which lie upon the opposite side of the earth, and which, in the vicinity of Cape Horn, are nearly in the zenith. They are upon the southern verge, between the highest and lowest parts of it, and an observer near Cape Horn is within the southern verge, or upon it, and his zenith is not a radial line drawn from the centre of the earth, but is at right angles to a line equidistant from the outer and inner surfaces of the earth, and nearly at right angles to the plane of the verge, so that the opposite side of the earth would be nearly in the zenith to him, and the light thrown from these islands would present them as bright, luminous bodies, always seen in the same direction, like moons, reflecting the light of the sun. They do not rise and set, as do the sun and moon ; and this fact gives plausibility to the explanation.
Facts attested by good authority prove the existence of a warmer climate beyond the verge. The Indians of the interior of North America, in latitude about 60°, migrate west or northwest on the approach of winter, to seek a milder climate, and find no sea. Hearn establishes this fact. Though these Indians thus migrate far to the northwest, they have, as Hearn informs us, no knowledge of the Pacific Ocean.
From the interior of North America, west of Hudson’s Bay, such emigration would have to be to a great distance to reach the Arctic Ocean in the vicinity of Behring’s Straits. This course would take them through Alaska, and lead over the verge, where they would come to a milder climate.
In 1789 Hearn travelled over this part of the continent. Great changes have since taken place, and much information has been obtained, yet it is interesting to know what were his views at that time. He says, that for a long time he travelled over a bleak, inhospitable country, and found it difficult to sustain existence. At length the character of the country changed, and he found a milder climate, sustaining vegetation, with forests of timber, of various kinds. He found also a variety of animals, and inhabitants whom he calls “strangers,” different from any he had before seen.
From these people he learned there was a vast continent stretching far to the northwest. They had also a tradition of a large river, greater than McKenzie’s River, far to the west and northwest of them. This river was probably the great river Yukon in Alaska, which rises southeast of Mount Elias and flows west and northwest, some twelve hundred miles, into the Pacific Ocean or into Behring’s Straits. Its whole course is along upon the verge, and at its mouth it should be warmer than up the stream six hundred miles, — a fact that could be easily ascertained. The statements of Hearn, so far as relates to climate, are corroborated by other travellers. They concur in stating that, in high latitude, the inhabitants speak of the south as colder than the north in the winter, and that they migrate north in the winter season to a milder climate.
One navigator, Captain Ross, when in high latitude beyond the verge, speaks of the Arctic Sea as being calm and clear of ice, while south of him was a wide belt of ice. He describes the currents of air coming from the north as being so warm as to dissolve the snow and ice around him and far to the south. Captain Parry makes frequent mention of these warm currents of air coming from the north and northeast,— that is, from the interior of the earth.
Now, all these facts are utterly inconsistent with the commonly received opinion of the arctic regions, that the farther we go to the north the colder it becomes. If any reliance can be placed upon the representations of these explorers, it is fully proved that, above and beyond 68° and 70° north latitude, in the interior of North America, there is milder climate than at a lower degree of latitude. According to the common opinion, such a climate could not encircle the poles, for every argument which shows the climate colder at 45° than at 20° north, proves it colder at the poles than at 70° north. Large herds of deer, white bears, foxes, and other animals migrate northward on the approach of winter. They cannot exist upon the cold, icy belt of the earth along the verge, and they instinctively migrate where they can procure subsistence. From the regions around the northern part of the verge they migrate to the north, and from the southern border of the same they migrate south in winter. From Canada and the countries along the same latitude, immense flocks of migrating birds go south on the approach of winter and return in the spring. The reindeer in March or April come down from the north in droves of thousands and return north again in October, in the interior of North America. (See Rees’s Cyclopædia, “ Hudson Bay.”) The same is true of the north of Asia. In these high latitudes the musk-oxen and white bears thus migrate. The cattle are seen retiring north on the ice in autumn, and returning in the spring in great numbers, bringing their young with them. (See Hearn’s Journal, pp. 357, 358.) These are curious facts, and well deserve a candid consideration.
Immense shoals of herrings in good condition, according to Buffon, come down from the polar seas, and are never known to return. This renders the solution of the migration of fishes from the north more difficult. If they return in the spring, why are they never observed as well as when they go south ? Admit the Symmes theory, and the conjecture would not be unreasonable, that they make the annual circuit of the earth, over the exterior and interior surfaces and through both openings at the poles. If, on the present hypothesis of the earth, we allow land enough for the sustenance of the numerous herds of animals which annually migrate to the polar regions, there would hardly remain water sufficient for the immense shoals of fishes which abound there.
The true causes which produced this change of climate in the arctic regions — heretofore supposed to be one vast solitude of eternal ice — may not be fully known. The progress of science and the discoveries of explorers will soon shed more light on this interesting subject.
Spitzbergen, on the south side of the verge, is a bleak, barren country, while, to the northward, plants, flowers, and trees are found. This island is upon or partly within the verge, and the north part would lie within and be warmer than the southern portion of the island.
Driftwood is found in great quantities upon the northern coasts of Iceland, Norway, Spitzbergen, and the arctic borders of Siberia, having every appearance of a tropical production. Trees of large dimensions and of different kinds are found, some in a good state of preservation. Vegetables of singular character, and flowers of peculiar fragrance and color, unknown to botanists, are sometimes found in this drift. These could not be the production of the cold arctic regions, nor is it probable they were drifted thither by the Gulf Stream or by submarine currents, for their specific gravity would make this impossible. Besides, why are they not found along the southern coasts of these localities, if borne north by the Gulf Stream, and why is not this drift seen as it passes along through the Atlantic ?
It is interesting, in this connection, to notice that one of the results of late German exploration in the arctic regions is the discovery of beds of mineral coal ; also mountains higher than Mont Blanc ; and botanical specimens which indicate that Greenland must have been once covered with a rich vegetation ; or, as Captain Symmes might have urged, these deposits were drifted from the interior of the earth.
The winters of Spitzbergen and England alternate in severity ; when it is cold in England, it is comparatively mild in Spitzbergen, and the reverse is true. The explanation is this : the warm winds from the south moderate the winters of England, but, continuing through the ice-bound regions of the verge, fall down on Spitzbergen as cold, bleak winds, and lower the temperature of that island. So, winds out of the interior, which moderate the winter of this island, as they pass over the verge fall down upon England as cold north winds.
McKenzie, who discovered the great river of the North bearing his name, informs us that he found the river near its source clear of ice, but along the location of the verge it was ice-bound, and again open at its mouth. This is what would be expected if this theory be true, but is difficult of explanation upon any other hypothesis.
All these facts being admitted, — and most of them are fully established by incontestible proofs, — the conclusion is legitimate, that, far to the north of the frozen regions of the verge, there exists a milder climate and an open sea, whose existence has never been fully explained, and is inconsistent with the Newtonian theory of the earth.
Little is known of the southern verge, but many of the facts in support of the northern verge are applicable to this also. The unequal distribution of land upon the globe is remarkable, three fourths of it being in the northern hemisphere. This unequal distribution might seem to jeopard the equilibrium of our planet ; but it may be counterpoised by a corresponding inequality of land in the interior ; or the general depth of the ocean in the southern hemisphere may be less, and so compensate this unequal distribution of land surface upon the earth. Future discoveries will demonstrate what now remains unknown. The United States Exploring Expedition, under Commodore Wilkes, discovered a long line of coast in the Antarctic Ocean, of more than fifteen hundred miles in extent, which may be the margin of a vast continent extending into the interior across the southern verge.
Since the promulgation of the Symmes theory of the earth, and only a few years ago, Captain Weddell actually penetrated through this icy region of the southern verge and found an open ocean similar to that around the north pole.
Modern explorers have added much to our knowledge of the arctic regions which corroborates the arguments of Captain Symmes. The most of them have found an open sea. They tell of immense flocks of birds and of migrating animals going north in winter. They speak of warm currents of air and water coming from the north.
Captain Whimper, now or lately exploring Greenland, from Jacob’s Haven, on the west coast, in north latitude 70°, thinks the interior of that vast country is not one ice-bound region of eternal frost and snow, as has been generally supposed ; for he says large numbers of reindeer come in from the interior in good condition, and therefore good pasturage must be found in the interior north and northeast from Jacob’s Haven.
In olden times Archangel, on the river Dwina, near the White Sea, had a considerable commerce, when Sweden held the whole of Finland. It is said that steamers from Archangel can ply down the White Sea and through the Arctic Ocean, around North Cape to the ports of Norway, six months in the year. This is as long as the St. Lawrence is free from ice, and nearly as long as the Erie Canal is navigable.
Captain Symmes maintained that the other planets, like the earth, were each composed of concentric spheres ; but I have not space sufficient to refer to the telescopic appearances which are noticed by him in support of his theory.
The most common objection to his theory is, that, if it were true, the sun could not possibly light and warm the interior of the world. This is easily answered. The rays of light come parallel from the sun to the earth, and, if he were no larger than the earth, they would fall at least twelve degrees upon the concave interior surface, as they passed over the lower part of the verge both north and south. But the earth in her annual revolution, owing to the inclination of the poles to the plane of her orbit, alternately permits the incident rays to fall much more than twelvedegrees upon the interior surface. This inclination is 23° 30‘, which, added to 12°, the angularity of the verges, gives 35° 30‘ of the concave surface upon which the direct incident rays of the sun fall. But these rays, passing over the dense, cold air of the verges, are refracted many degrees, probably at least ten or fifteen degrees, so that by one refraction and one or two reflections the rays of light would be thrown out over the verge opposite to that through which they entered ; and because those rays would converge upon the concave surface instead of diverging, they would produce abundant light and heat throughout the whole interior. As compared with moonlight, the sun’s rays, reflected from one interior surface to the other, would be as much more intense as the square of the diameter of the inner world is less than the square of the distance of the moon from the earth. According to this law, assuming the diameter of the interior to average 4,000 miles, and the moon’s distance 240,000 miles, the light of the interior would be equal to 3,600 moons as large as our sun, and this too without considering the greater intensity of the interior light upon a concave surface over that of the moonlight reflected from and falling upon convex surfaces. These views, which are in accordance with the known laws of light, show that this popular objection has not the slightest force. On the contrary, the strong probability would be, that, on account of intense light and heat, the interior would be uninhabitable, except around the vicinity of the verges both north and south.
Another popular objection is, that the law of gravitation is overturned. How, says the objector, could bodies be attracted alike to both the outer and inner surfaces of the earth ? There is no force in this objection.
We have been so long accustomed to consider the centre of gravity as an indefinite something at the centre of our globe, to which all bodies on the exterior surface tend with an irresistible force, that it is difficult to consider it from any other stand-point. Such a central something would be attracted by everything around it, and would be more likely to be drawn from the centre than to attract to itself all surrounding bodies.
All we know of gravitation is, that a body let fall above the surface of the earth falls towards the centre; but whether the cause exists there or above the surface, or whether some tertium quid rises, and presses down the failing body, we know not.
It would be difficult to prove that bodies in the interior, as well as upon the exterior, surface, when let fall, would not tend to the surface in each case. There is probably a line between the inner and outer surfaces of the earth which may be called the centre of gravity, and to which falling bodies tend with equal force. The matter of the earth, like a great magnet, attracts to itself all bodies coming within its influence, as well upon the concave, as upon the convex, surface.
Yet another popular objection is, that the shadow of the earth appears circular, and not of the form claimed upon this theory.
At first sight this objection is plausible, but really it has no force ; for the extreme density of the atmosphere around the verges increases its refractive power, like a convex lens, and so refracts the sun’s rays that the shadow of th e earth would still appear circular ; for by this refraction an equal number of rays are intercepted as though the regular convexity of the earth were as claimed by the Newtonian theory.
Again it is objected, with some degree of plausibility, that, if the earth be hollow, the relative attraction of the heavenly bodies which compose the solar system is disturbed, and the great laws discovered by Newton, which regulate the motion of the system, are destroyed.
A little reflection, however, will show that, if the Newtonian theory be correct in relation to the attraction of the solar system, we have only to concede that, if the quantity of matter in the earth be less than was assumed upon that theory, the same relative differences obtain in the other heavenly bodies, or that the attraction of hollow bodies may somehow be greater in proportion to their quantity of matter than that of solid spheres.
The visible heavens would be seen by refracted rays in the inner world.
From both surfaces the same polar stars would be seen at each extreme, while a wide belt of the starry heavens, over the heads of observers upon the exterior world, would be invisible upon a corresponding zone of the interior.
The extent of the visible horizon, to the inhabitants of the interior, would be largest immediately around the verges, and it would contract as the observer receded from the verges towards the equatorial regions of the interior surface.
The inhabitants upon the exterior surface would be antipodes to those immediately under them, upon the interior surface, as well as to those upon the opposite side of the earth ; while the inhabitants of the inner world would be antipodal only to those immediately opposite to them upon the outer side, that is to say, the external inhabitants would have two sets of antipodes, while those of the interior would have only one.
There are many other facts and arguments which were from time to time urged by Captain Symmes in support of his theory. The writer has lately seen a small anonymous book written in 1824 " by a citizen of the United States,” and published in Cincinnati, which has great interest. It enlarges the arguments drawn from the telescopic appearances of the planets, the laws of gravitation, and the doctrine of midplane spaces between the concentric spheres of the planets. It is stated in this work that Captain Symmes maintained that there were openings through the crust of the earth from the interior to the exterior surface through which the water flowed, and facts are given in support of this idea. It is one of great interest, however, as connected with the phenomena of subterranean rivers, submarine currents, earthquakes and volcanoes, artesian wells, springs on high mountains, etc. In this little book it is also stated that Captain Symmes held that our earth had at least five concentric spheres. Such might have been his views as early as 1823 and 1824, at and prior to the time when this work was published, but such were not the views expressed in his lectures at Union College in 1827. Doubtless his views were modified more or less between 1827 and 1829, when he died.
Since this theory was promulgated by its author, enough has come to light to prove that he was correct in his views of the existence of a warmer climate at the north, and of an open polar sea. And it is believed that, if his theory had been fully made public long ago, much hardship, suffering, and expense would or might have been avoided in the futile attempts to find a passage through the bleak and desolate regions around Baffin’s Bay. That Behring’s Straits offer the best route into the arctic regions admits of little or no doubt, and an expedition for this purpose from the Pacific coast is well worth the consideration of the government.
Time, the great revealer of secrets, will soon determine whether this startling theory is true, in whole or in part, and whether its author was a visionary enthusiast, or a profound philosopher whose name will be honored among men, like that of Franklin or Newton, as a benefactor of his race, and an honor to the country which gave him birth.
- “ John Cleves Symmes, the author of the Theory of Concentric Spheres, was born in New Jersey about 1780, and died at Hamilton, Ohio, 1829.”↩
- “ During the early part of his life he received what was then considered a common English education, which in after-life he improved by having access to tolerably well-selected libraries; and, being endued by nature with an insatiable desire for knowledge of all kinds, he thus had, during the greater part of his life, ample opportunities to indulge it. In the year 1802, Mr. Symmes entered the army of the United States in the office of ensign, from which he afterwards rose to that of captain. He continued in service until after the close of the war with Great Britain. While attached to the army he was universally esteemed a brave soldier and a zealous and faithful officer. He was in the memorable battle of Bridgewater, and was senior captain in the regiment to which he belonged. The company under his immediate command that day discharged seventy rounds of cartridges and repelled three desperate charges of the bayonet.”↩
- “ Afterwards, in the sortie from Fort Erie, Captain Symmes with his command captured the enemy’s battery number two, and with his own hand spiked the cannon it contained.”↩
- “During the period of about three years after the war, and after Captain Symmes had left the army, he was engaged in the difficult and laborious task of furnishing supplies to the troops stationed on the Upper Mississippi. Since that time he has resided at Newport, Kentucky, devoting, almost exclusively, the whole of his time and attention to the investigation and perfection of his favorite Theory of Concentric Spheres. In a short circular, dated St. Louis, 1818, Captain Symmes first promulgated the fundamental principles of this theory to the world.”↩
- “Captain Symmes published two other numbers at St. Louis in the year 1818. His two next aunt* bers, marked four and five, treated, the one of the original formation of the Alleghany Mountains, and the other claiming the discovery of open poles. His sixth number dates at Cincinnati, in January, 1819. His seventh number, entitled Arctic Memoir, is dated at Cincinnati in February, 1819. And another number, entitled Light between the Spheres, dated at Cincinnati in August, 1819, was published in the National Intelligencer. Afterwards, numerous pieces from the pen of Captain Symmes appeared in different newspapers.”↩
- Independent of his written publications, he has delivered a number of lectures on the theory, first at Cincinnati in 1820, and afterwards at various other places.↩
- “ In 1822, Captain Symmes petitioned Congress, setting forth in the first place, his belief of the existence of a habitable and accessible concave to this globe ; his desire to embark on a voyage of discovery to one or other of the polar regions ; his belief in the great profit and honor his country would derive from such a discovery ; and prayed that Congress would equip and fit out for the expedition two vessels of two hundred and fifty or three hundred tons’ burden. This petition was presented by Richard M. Johnson, on the 7th March, 1822, when, after a few remarks, it was laid on the table. In December, 1823, he forwarded similar petitions to both houses of Congress, which met with a similar fate.”↩
- That Captain Symmes was a high-minded, honorable man is attested by all who knew him. He has devised a theory whereby to account for various singular and interesting phenomena, and most satisfactorily to explain a great variety of acknowledged facts.” — Extracts from a Biographical Sketch of Captain Symmes, written in 1824, and published in 1826 in Cincinnati, Ohio. ” By a Citizen of the United States.”↩