Page:Mars - Lowell.djvu/239

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salt-water seas. General considerations warrant us in believing that the Martian seas, like our own, would contain salts in solution, while irrigation ditches, there as here, should flow fresh water to be most effective, and we seem committed to the erection of distilleries upon a gigantic scale. But if, on the contrary, the seas be not seas, but areas of vegetation, the difficulty vanishes at once; for, if the planet be dependent upon the melting of its polar snows for its spring freshet, the water thus produced must necessarily be fresh, and the canals be directly provided with the water they want. The polar sea is a temporary body of water, formed anew each year, not a permanent ocean; consequently there is no chance for saline matter to collect in it. From it, therefore, fresh water flows, and, like our rivers, gathers nothing to speak of in the way of salt before it is drawn off into the canals.

We now come to some phenomena connected with the canals, of the utmost suggestiveness. I have said that the junctions held, in a twofold way, the key to the unlocking of the mystery of the canals: in the first place, in the fact that such junctions exist. The second and more important reason remains to be given, for it consists in what we find at those junctions. This we shall see in the next chapter.