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Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg

Whose bulb unfortunately was blackened


On

rising, I completed the circuit which filled my vessel with brilliant light emitted from an electric lamp at the upper part of the stern, and reflected by the polished metallic walls. I then proceeded to get my breakfast, for which, as I had tasted nothing since some hours before the start, I had a hearty appetite. I had anticipated some trouble from the diminished action of gravity, doubting whether the boiling-point at this immense height above the Earth might not be affected; but I found that this depends upon the pressure of the atmosphere alone, and that this pressure was in nowise affected by the absence of gravity. My atmosphere being somewhat denser than that of the Earth, the boiling-point was not 100 deg., but 101 deg. Cent. The temperature of the interior of the vessel, taken at a point equidistant from the stove and from the walls, was about 5 deg. C.; unpleasantly cool, but still, with the help of a greatcoat, not inconveniently so. I found it absolutely impossible to measure by means of the thermometers I had placed outside the windows the cold of space; but that it falls far short of the extreme supposed by some writers, I confidently believe. It is, however, cold enough to freeze mercury, and to reduce every other substance employed as a test of atmospheric or laboratory temperatures to a solidity which admits of no further contraction. I had filled one outside thermometer with spirit, but this was broken before I looked at it; and in another, whose bulb unfortunately
was blackened, and which was filled with carbonic acid gas, an apparent vacuum had been created. Was it that the gas had been frozen, and had sunk into the lower part of the bulb, where it would, of course, be invisible? When I had completed my meal and smoked the very small cigar which alone a prudent consideration for the state of the atmosphere would allow me, the chronometer showed 10 A.M. It was not surprising that by this time weight had become almost non-existent. My twelve stone had dwindled to the weight of a small fowl, and hooking my little finger into the loop of a string hung from a peg fixed near the top of the stern wall, I found myself able thus to support my weight without any sense of fatigue for a quarter of an hour or more; in fact, I felt during that time absolutely no sense of muscular weariness. This state of things entailed only one inconvenience. Nothing had any stability; so that the slightest push or jerk would upset everything that was not fixed. However, I had so far anticipated this that nothing of any material consequence was unfixed, and except that a touch with my spoon upset the egg-cup and egg on which I was about to breakfast, and that this, falling against a breakfast cup full of coffee, overturned that, I was not incommoded. I managed to save the greater part of the beverage, since, the atmospheric pressure being the same though the weight was so changed, lead, and still more china or liquid, fell in the Astronaut as slowly as feathers in the immediate vicinity of the Earth. Still it was a novel experience to find myself able to lean in any direction, and rest in almost any posture, with but the slightest support for the body's centre of gravity; and further to find on experiment that it was possible to remain for a couple of hours with my heels above my head, in the favourite position of a Yankee's lower limbs, without any perceptible congestion of blood or confusion of brain.

I was occupied all day with abstract calculations; and knowing that for some time I could see nothing of the Earth--her dark side being opposite me and wholly obscuring the Sun, while I was as yet far from having entered within the sphere where any novel celestial phenomena might be expected--I only gave an occasional glance at the discometer and metacompass, suppressing of course the electric glare within my vessel, till I awoke


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