UP IN THE AIR AND DOWN IN THE SEA (1863) – Written by William S Hayward, this story was originally serialized in The Boy’s Journal from February to August of 1863. In 1865 it was published in novel form as The Cloud King.
The main character of the tale is scientific adventurer Victor Volans, who has been obsessed with ballooning all his life. During his childhood he would spend untold amounts of time sending up balloons and noting how long they would stay aloft and how far they would travel.
Eventually he moved on to an experiment in which he sent kittens up with a larger balloon, but unfortunately the kittens died from the cold air at the altitude their balloon reached. Little Victor followed up that tragedy by sending up his little brother. The brother survived his balloon trip but the horrified Volans parents angrily forbade Victor from conducting any further experiments.
Years later, when Volans was a teenager, his parents moved the entire family to California to try to cash in on the Gold Rush. Victor took jobs to earn his own money and returned to his ballooning experiments.
On a test flight in his brand-new balloon, Volans loses control to intense winds which blow him and his aircraft over the Pacific Ocean. Eventually Victor winds up encountering two Lost Worlds somewhere in the Pacific. The first of these is the Region of Eternal Night, where our hero must fend off flying fire beings whose touch can burn humans to death.
(This place is called the Region of Eternal Night because it is always cloaked in darkness due to the smoke and ash filling the skies from its abundance of volcanoes.)
Next, Volans winds up landing in the Enchanted Valley, filled with fertile plains, deep lakes and jewel-bestudded mansions. This valley is inhabited by uniformly beautiful male and female humanoids.
When our hero takes to the air again in his balloon, he finds the odd nature of the valley prevents his compass from working. Even more, some of the inhabitants leap up twenty feet to seize his craft and drag it back down to the ground.
It turns out that gravity is lighter in the valley than it is in the rest of the Earth. The pseudo-scientific explanation for that is that beneath the ground of the Enchanted Valley is nothing but a chasm that extends to the center of the planet, hence the lesser gravity. The aging process is incredibly slow in the valley due to the weak gravity.
Victor learns he can make prodigious leaps just like the native inhabitants of the valley. He also learns he can breathe under the waters of this lost world’s lakes, enabling him to explore the lake beds at will. The countryside is rich with precious metals and gems, our hero discovers.
For the next two years Volans lives in the valley, learning the language and customs of this hidden land. The government is an absolute monarchy and Victor begins a romance with the Enchanted Valley’s princess.
While trying to flee the valley, taking the Princess with him in his balloon, Volans is captured and put on trial. His lady love pleads for his life to her father, who settles for exiling our main character instead of putting him to death. However, he tells Victor that if he ever succeeds in finding their Lost World again, he is free to stay.
The banished balloonist drifts through the skies until landing in Sydney, Australia. Putting to use the sub-aquatic exploring skills he picked up in the Enchanted Valley, Volans makes a fortune by discovering sunken treasure.
Plying this same trade in the waters surrounding Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon), Victor finds even more sunken loot but must fight for it against a spike-headed sea monster. Naturally our hero emerges triumphant.
Deciding to quit his deep-sea “treasure prospecting” while he’s ahead, Victor Volans cashes in his findings for 170,000 British Pounds. He plans to use this fortune to finance an expedition to rediscover the Enchanted Valley so he can marry his beloved Princess of the “glorious golden hair.”
There’s almost a Gulliver’s Travels feel to Up in the Air and Down in the Sea. If not for the story’s rational approach to the Lost Worlds discovered by Victor and the sea monster he encounters it would count as a supernatural tale rather than science fiction.
Like so many of these vintage works, this tale is fun to read despite how flawed the science is. Still, it’s not as thought-provoking as other “ancient” sci-fi books I’ve covered. Younger readers might be the best audience for Up in the Air and Down in the Sea.
FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here: https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/
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