Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/72

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The Centaurians

the eye reached were vast plains of ice and snow, a blinding whiteness in soft, downy hollows and smooth mounds, the earth shrouded in a widening sheet of white velvet; and vividly in the distance with a blue, misty veil, shielding their peaks, was the circular range of ice mountains, that has been declared naught but an optical illusion. All polar explorers have viewed these strange mountains, whose distance is beyond speculation, having always that illusive appearance even at the highest altitudes. Scientists claim this mystic range to be a reflection cast by the heavy, frozen atmosphere. Sheldon was the only one with time to argue about the matter, he agreed with me the illusive range was a solid fact all right, but he went further, declaring they were not polar mountains, and that his great body of fresh water rested——etc. When he reached this stage in his argument my interest flagged. Sheldon and his body of water became very tedious sometimes.

Saxe. was occupied entirely with the Propellier, and Saunders altogether absorbed making atmospheric observations. These observations he takes every seven hours, making us lose much valuable time, and rousing Saxe. to caustic remarks; he puts in the rest of the time studying a chart of the heavens and peering at the stars.

Our first mishap occurred at 74-5° north latitude. The Propellier was speeding, when suddenly the feeler vibrated, then followed a jarring, crushing sound, and the Propellier plunged into a thin layer of ice and snow, and was washed by the swiftly