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Via Venus

By Gordon W. Giles
Author of "Via Etherline," "Via Asteroid," etc.


FORTIETH Day.

Hello, Earth! Venus Expedition Number One reporting to Earth via etherline radio. We're on Venus, safe. Our ship cushioned down on soft, muddy soil an hour ago. Operator Gillway speaking.

Karsen, our rocket man, planned the descent expertly. Once we hit the atmosphere of Venus, successive bursts of the retarding jets warped our course into a narrowing spiral. Thus, we eliminated the danger of dropping down through Venus' steamy air-envelope too quickly.

Believe me, that atmosphere is really blinding. Visibility—only twenty-five feet! We felt as though we were sealed off from the rest of the Universe, in a bubble of fog. We all kept strict watch for first signs of terra firma, or rather Venera firma, and finally saw the glint of water. It was the surface of an ocean that extended for about three thousand miles, We were certain Venus was all sea!

But we finally sighted this miniature continent we've landed on. Beyond it stretch other waters, endless. Undoubtedly Venus' total land area is far less than its oceanic surface.

All is excitement right now, among us. We are glad to be on a planet after those forty long days in black, monotonous space.

The Venusian landscape is weird, outside our port-windows. We are on a low plateau, overlooking the ocean. About a half-mile back of us rears a thick, towering jungle of alien vegetation. Above us and all around are the veiling mists, obscuring vision. The sun is absolutely invisible behind this sky-curtain.

"Not much like Mars, eh?" Captain Atwell said to us "veterans" of the Mars Expedition-Markers, Greaves, Parletti and myself. We agreed with him.

But perhaps the strangest thing of all in our surroundings is the pyramid that looms at the highest point of the plateau. Yes, a pyramid similar to any of old Egypt. It either means intelligent life once existed, or exists now. Domberg is already running an archeological fever.

More on that later. Captain Atwell has just ordered us all to bed for a long, hearty sleep. We need it. Somehow, we couldn't rest much in space. Will resume tomorrow, if my batteries recharge successfully from the air-ion generator specially designed for operation in a water-loaded atmosphere like Venus.


FORTY-FIRST Day.

Chemist Greaves tested the air before we made any move outside the ship today. He found it damp and warm, but definitely breathable. So Earth's scientists are wrong, and the atmosphere of Venus does possess oxygen. Their long-range speculations only applied to the Venusian stratosphere. Down here at the surface, oxygen, composes one-fourth of the air content, and its proportion is richer here than on Earth.

Captain Atwell, naturally, had the honor of being the first to step put and plant the flag of Earth in Venusian soil. When the rest of us followed, he said:

"Earth's sister world!" He turned to us. "Maybe we are only the first, men, of thousands of Earth colonists to come!"

We have learned a little about conditions. All the ground that isn't grown with wiry grasses is perpetually muddy. We wear rubber knee-boots. The mud is slippery. Tarnay proved that when he lost his footing and plowed into, the mud face-first, nearly strangling. We laughed, but later, for exercise and in the spirit of fun, we all stripped and ran a relay race down a sloshy stretch. Before we were done, we were covered with mud from head to foot. A convenient rainfall then washed it off.

Venus seems to be a planet of clock-like regularity. The temperature hovers uniformly within a degree of 105 Fahrenheit. Humidity is at saturation. So uncomfortable as it may be, we'll have to tolerate that hot sticky feeling every hour of our stay on this planet.

Periodically, after every five hours, a veritable cloudburst deluges down for about seventy minutes. It is like a hot shower. After each rain spell, a slight but blessed breeze blows for a while. Nothing else varies.

Wilson, our physicist, believes from these observations that Venus keeps this day-side eternally toward the sun, or else rotates very slowly. We won't know until we've had a chance to locate the sun's position, or observe a suntide of the ocean, if any. It is rather a peculiar situation, not knowing if there is to be a night.

Your etherline messages come through with strong echoes. Evidently Venus has an ionic shell, similar to Earth's Heaviside Layer, that reflects certain wave harmonics.


FORTY-SECOND Day.

We took out the folded partitions of light but strong beryl-alloy and set up our "accordion" house, working at it all day. We sealed the edges with vacu-wax, to keep out the rain. It offers far roomier quarters than the ship, thanks to those who designed it on Earth. We moved in our bunks. Tarnay and Markers, our engineering team, are working out a way to install the ship's gyroscope, fitted with vanes, as a huge fan for our comfort.

We have seriously begun to consider our position. We do not have to worry about air and pure water supplies. But the third essential of continued existence in an alien environment—food—may be a problem.

We did not notice it the first two days, but this morning; when we broke open a barrel of flour, the white surface instantly discolored. As fast as Domberg, our official cook as well as archeologist, scooped out the contaminated material, the exposed layer discolored. Swinerton used his microscope and reported it as a mold, an almost incre...

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