strata of the earth exist, is the gas likely to be present in any quantity; and that outside of where these conditions obtain it is useless to expend money in sinking wells.
The busy operations thus inaugurated were watched by scientific men with great interest. A new horizon for the gas was the point which especially attracted their attention, for the fuel came from a stratum far below those belts which had in Pennsylvania and Virginia produced the gas and oil. Besides, to the geologist was promised an opportunity of increasing his knowledge of the arrangement of certain strata beneath the surface, whose course at the surface had long been known. The geologist knew that, even when the attempt to secure gas was unavailing there was a possibility of the dry well revealing to him a new chapter in the story of the rocks.
The practical man, for his part, looked upon the new fuel with an eye to its utilization. By lessening the cost of production, it increased his profits, if indeed increased competition did not keep the price down in proportion. A dry well was to these men a calamity, for it brought them in nothing for their outlay.
With a third class the new fever opened up a field of speculation, of which they were not slow to avail themselves. Theorists are ever ready to thrust upon a patient world their views, even though the chances of formulating a correct theory are small. The origin of the gas has, therefore, formed a fruitful source of speculation with these persons. Some of the causes assigned are so supremely ridiculous as to deserve notice as psychological curiosities. Two or three of these crude theories will occupy but a few moments.
One writer asks whether it is safe to bore the earth too much. He assumes the earth to be a hollow sphere filled with a gaseous substance called by us natural gas, and he thinks that tapping these reservoirs will cause disastrous explosions, resulting from the lighted gas coming in contact with that which is escaping. Earthquakes, he says, are probably caused by vacuums created by the outflowing gas. He compares the earth to a balloon floated and kept distended by the gas in the interior, which, if exhausted, will cause the crust to collapse, affect the motion of the earth in its orbit, cause it to lose its place among the heavenly bodies, and fall in pieces. He thinks man is too inquisitive; he wants to peer into the earth too far. But let him beware. Children should not be allowed to handle explosives, nor should ignorant man meddle with natural gas. "Let the matter be fully investigated by able, God-fearing men—men who believe in the Bible as well as geology"—and all may yet be well.
Another writer thinks that boring should be prohibited by