Yes, we have only employed known quantities of science. We lacked experience. Why did we fail? Perhaps we may never know.”
“Well,” said the Secretary of the Gun Club, “we will commence all over again.” “And the money then which has been spent for this operation is a dead loss,” observed Capt. Nicholl.
“But public opinion,” said Evangelina Scorbitt, “would not allow you a second trial.”
“What will become of our Arctic region?” said Capt. Nicholl.” “Where will the stock of the N.P.P.A. fall to?” said President Barbicane. Well, it had already fallen so far that the stock was offered at the price of old paper.
This, then, was the result of the gigantic operation. This was the memorable fiasco to which the superhuman projects of Barbicane & Co. had led.
If ever engineers, unlucky engineers were laughed at in public, if ever the newspaper made drawings, songs, and paragraphs not at all flattering to the people mentioned in them, this occasion exceeded them all. President Barbicane, the Directors of the new Society and their associates of the Gun Club were universally sneered at. In every language they were made ridiculous, and to make it easier to the whole population of the world to read the scornful articles were printed in “Volapuk.” In Europe, especially, all the remarks and songs to make the persons of the N.P.P.A. ridiculous were spread broadcast. The greatest hit was made by a Frenchman, who composed a ballad which was sung in every concert hall of France and America. But will we never know to what the failure of this enterprise was due? Did this failure prove that the operation was impossible of realization; that the powers at the disposal of mankind would never be sufficient to bring about a change in the earth’s movement? Did it prove that the country around the North Pole would never be removed to those regions where the sun and heat would melt the ice without human help?
Information on this subject came a few days after the return of President Barbicane and Capt. Nicholl to the United States. A very simple paragraph appeared in the Times of the 17th of October. Here is the article:
“We all know that the result of the operation to create a new axis has been nothing. However, the calculations of J.T. Maston, founded on established facts, would have produced the desired result if through an unexplainable slip an error had not been embraced in them from the beginning. When the celebrated secretary of the Gun Club took for a basis of his calculations the circumference of the earth’s sphere, he figured it at 40,000 metres in place of 40,000,000 metres, and to which the failing of the operation is due. “Where could such an error come from? Who could have provoked it?... How could such a remarkable calculator commit such an error? “It is certain that had the problem of the modification of the earth’s axis been correctly figured, it would have had been exactly solved. But this forgetting of three zeros has made a change at the end of the calculation of twelve naughts. “It is not a cannon one million times larger than that of twenty-seven centimetres, which was necessary. A trillion of these cannons throwing a trillion projectiles of 80,000 tons each would be necessary to displace the North Pole, admitting that the melimelonite had the expansive power which had been attributed to it by Capt. Nicholl. “Therefore the whole shock under the conditions under which it was produced has displaced the North Pole only three-thousandths of a milimeter, and has only changed the level of the ocean at the most nine-thousandths of three-thousandths of a milimetre. In regard to the projectile fired, it will be a small planet, and will belong in future to the solar system, sustained by solar attraction. ALCIDE PIERDEUX ”. So this want of attention on the part of J.T. Maston at the beginning of his calculations had produced such a humiliating result for his Company.
But even if his associates were very angry against him, if everybody laughed and joked at him, it is only fair to state in his favor that this mistake which had wrecked the operation had spared the world a terrible catastrophe.