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IS THE NORTH POLE A YAWNING HOLE?
THE CURIOUS THEORY HELD BY JOHN CLEVE SYMMES, THE ECCENTRIC OHIO SCIENTIST.
THOUGHT THE EARTH HOLLOW AND INHABITED.
To this startling proposition he added an "N. B.," announcing that he had ready for the press a treatise on "the principles of matter" that would prove his theory. He closed with this appeal: "I ask 100 brave companions, well equipped, to start from Siberia in the fall season with reindeer and sleighs on the frozen sea. I engage we find a warm, rich land, stocked with thrifty vegetables and animals, if not men, on reaching one degree northward of latitude 82; we will return in the succeeding spring."
A copy of this circular was sent by Symmes to nearly every learned institution and town of large size in the country, and to many scientific societies in Europe. In accordance with the request of Symmes, Count Volney laid it before the Academy of Science of Paris. That body decided that it was not worthy of consideration. Symmes continued to fire circular after circular at the public and then he started on a lecturing campaign of education. The evident earnestness and enthusiasm of the man attracted large audiences. He made many converts to his opinions, and on one occasion, at the end of an address, it was unanimously resolved that, "We esteem Symmes's theory of the earth deserving of serious examination and worthy of the attention of the American people." But capital for the enterprise failed to materialize and it was not long before Symmes and his theory began to be ridiculed by newspaper editors and the wits of the period. Some one (sic) fastened on the mysterious Polar cavity this epithet: "Symmes's Hole," and it stuck from that day to this.
WHO WAS SYMMES?
Suffolk County, over in Jersey, was the birthplace of Symmes. He was born Nov. 5. 1780. He received only the ordinary education obtainable by country boys at the time, but he was of a studious disposition and read everything that came in his way. Mathematics and the natural sciences possessed very great attractions for him and he lost no opportunity to add to his stock of knowledge on those subjects.
WHAT HIS THEORY WAS.
The theory of Symmes was that the earth is not a solid mass thrown off ages ago from the sun in a molten condition, which has gradually cooled from, the surface inward. He held, on the contrary, that it is a hollow sphere, with an opening at either pole. So certain was he on this point that he fixed the diameter of the Northern cavity at 2,000 miles and estimated that the Southern one was slightly larger.
Reproduced with permission: L.L. Dyche, Explorations (Newspaper Clippings Related to Polar Exploration), Vol. 1 & 2. University Archives, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries, Lawrence, KS.
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