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1864 __ « Voyage au Centre de la Terre » — (A Journey to the Centre of the Earth / Journey to the Interior of the Earth) » '''— Whispering gallery
Jules Verne (1828-1905)
Comment : Jules Verne used the whispering gallery effect in an episode of the classic tale Journey to the Centre of the Earth.Continuing an interest in voice, technology, language and the built environment, ‘Voices Falling Through the Air’ presents the whispering gallery effect as part of a prehistory of the electronically transmitted voice. Certain features of the physical world, from air to architecture, have always played a part in the distribution or displacement of our spoken word. When Marconi’s first radio signals crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1902, they were guided by radio waves that traversed the parallel conducting surfaces formed by the earth and the ionosphere. This guiding action is connected to the way sound clings to a curved wall.the mechanism responsible for the ‘whispering gallery’ effect in St Paul’s Cathedral and the ‘echo wall’ at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. St John the Evangelist is said to have heard the Book of Revelation spoken to him in a cave on the Greek island of Patmos. In Apollinaire’s short story ‘The Moon King’, a device allows sounds from locations all over the world to be heard in the subterranean passages of a mountain. Jules Verne used the whispering gallery effect in an episode of the classic tale Journey to the Centre of the Earth. At Lade near Folkestone on the English south coast a set of concrete listening ears, experimental acoustic radar devices used to give advance warning of enemy aircraft, survive from the First World War. (Paul Elliman & Avigail Moss for the Architectural Association, 2007)
Original excerpt 1 : « Chapter 25. The Whispering Gallery.When at last I came back to a sense of life and being, my face was wet, but wet, as I soon knew, with tears. How long this state of insensibility lasted, it is quite impossible for me now to say. I had no means left to me of taking any account of time. Never since the creation of the world had such a solitude as mine existed. I was completely abandoned. After my fall I lost much blood. I felt myself flooded with the life-giving liquid. My first sensation was perhaps a natural one. Why was I not dead? Because I was alive, there was something left to do. I tried to make up my mind to think no longer. As far as I was able, I drove away all ideas, and utterly overcome by pain and grief, I crouched against the granite wall. I just commenced to feel the fainting coming on again, and the sensation that this was the last struggle before complete annihilation--when, on a sudden, a violent uproar reached my ears. It had some resemblance to the prolonged rumbling voice of thunder, and I clearly distinguished sonorous voices, lost one after the other, in the distant depths of the gulf. Whence came this noise? Naturally, it was to be supposed from new phenomena which were taking place in the bosom of the solid mass of Mother Earth! The explosion of some gaseous vapors, or the fall of some solid, of the granitic or other rock. Again I listened with deep attention. I was extremely anxious to hear if this strange and inexplicable sound was likely to be renewed! A whole quarter of an hour elapsed in painful expectation. Deep and solemn silence reigned in the tunnel. So still that I could hear the beatings of my own heart! I waited, waited with a strange kind of hopefulness. Suddenly my ear, which leaned accidentally against the wall, appeared to catch, as it were, the faintest echo of a sound. I thought that I heard vague, incoherent and distant voices. I quivered all over with excitement and hope! "It must be hallucination," I cried. "It cannot be! it is not true!" But no! By listening more attentively, I really did convince myself that what I heard was truly the sound of human voices. To make any meaning out of the sound, however, was beyond my power. I was too weak even to hear distinctly. Still it was a positive fact that someone was speaking. Of that I was quite certain. There was a moment of fear. A dread fell upon my soul that it might be my own words brought back to me by a distant echo. Perhaps without knowing it, I might have been crying aloud. I resolutely closed my lips, and once more placed my ear to the huge granite wall. Yes, for certain. It was in truth the sound of human voices. I now by the exercise of great determination dragged myself along the sides of the cavern, until I reached a point where I could hear more distinctly. But though I could detect the sound, I could only make out uncertain, strange, and incomprehensible words. They reached my ear as if they had been spoken in a low tone--murmured, as it were, afar off. At last, I made out the word forlorad repeated several times in a tone betokening great mental anguish and sorrow. What could this word mean, and who was speaking it? It must be either my uncle or the guide Hans! If, therefore, I could hear them, they must surely be able to hear me. "Help," I cried at the top of my voice; "help, I am dying!" I then listened with scarcely a breath; I panted for the slightest sound in the darkness--a cry, a sigh, a question! But silence reigned supreme. No answer came! In this way some minutes passed. A whole flood of ideas flashed through my mind. I began to fear that my voice, weakened by sickness and suffering, could not reach my companions who were in search of me. "It must be they," I cried; "who else could by any possibility be buried a hundred miles below the level of the earth?" The mere supposition was preposterous. I began, therefore, to listen again with the most breathless attention. As I moved my ears along the side of the place I was in, I found a mathematical point as it were, where the voices appeared to attain their maximum of intensity. The word forlorad again distinctly reached my ear. Then came again that rolling noise like thunder which had awakened me out of torpor. "I begin to understand," I said to myself after some little time devoted to reflection; "it is not through the solid mass that the sound reaches my ears. The walls of my cavernous retreat are of solid granite, and the most fearful explosion would not make uproar enough to penetrate them. The sound must come along the gallery itself. The place I was in must possess some peculiar acoustic properties of its own." Again I listened; and this time--yes, this time--I heard my name distinctly pronounced: cast as it were into space. It was my uncle, the Professor, who was speaking. He was in conversation with the guide, and the word which had so often reached my ears, forlorad, was a Danish expression. Then I understood it all. In order to make myself heard, I too must speak as it were along the side of the gallery, which would carry the sound of my voice just as the wire carries the electric fluid from point to point. But there was no time to lose. If my companions were only to remove a few feet from where they stood, the acoustic effect would be over, my Whispering Gallery would be destroyed. I again therefore crawled towards the wall, and said as clearly and distinctly as I could: "Uncle Hardwigg [Liedenbrock]." I then awaited a reply. Sound does not possess the property of traveling with such extreme rapidity. Besides the density of the air at that depth from light and motion was very far from adding to the rapidity of circulation. Several seconds elapsed, which to my excited imagination, appeared ages; and these words reached my eager ears, and moved my wildly beating heart: "Harry [Axel], my boy, is that you?" A short delay between question and answer. "Yes--yes." .......... [...] "You have your chronometer at hand?" I asked. .......... "Certainly." .......... "Well, take it into your hand. Pronounce my name, noting exactly the second at which you speak. I will reply as soon as I hear your words - -and you will then note exactly the moment at which my reply reaches you." .......... "Very good; and the mean time between my question and your answer will be the time occupied by my voice in reaching you." .......... "That is exactly what I mean, Uncle," was my eager reply. .......... "Are you ready?" .......... "Yes." .......... "Well, make ready, I am about to pronounce your name," said the Professor. I applied my ear close to the sides of the cavernous gallery, and as soon as the word "Harry" [Axel] reached my ear, I turned round and, placing my lips to the wall, repeated the sound. .......... "Forty seconds," said my uncle. "There has elapsed forty seconds between the two words. The sound, therefore, takes twenty seconds to ascend. Now, allowing a thousand and twenty feet for every second--we have twenty thousand four hundred feet -- a league and a half and one-eighth." These words fell on my soul like a kind of death knell. "A league and a half," I muttered in a low and despairing voice. [...] This wonderful and surprising conversation which took place through the vast mass of the earth's labyrinth, these words exchanged, the speakers being about five miles apart -- ended with hopeful and pleasant expressions. I breathed one more prayer to Heaven, I sent up words of thanksgiving -- believing in my inmost heart that He had led me to the only place where the voices of my friends could reach my ears. This apparently astounding acoustic mystery is easily explainable by simple natural laws; it arose from the conductibility of the rock. There are many instances of this singular propagation of sound which are not perceptible in its less mediate positions. In the interior gallery of St. Paul's, and amid the curious caverns in Sicily, these phenomena are observable. The most marvelous of them all is known as the Ear of Dionysius. These memories of the past, of my early reading and studies, came fresh to my thoughts. Moreover, I began to reason that if my uncle and I could communicate at so great a distance, no serious obstacle could exist between us. All I had to do was to follow the direction whence the sound had reached me; and logically putting it, I must reach him if my strength did not fail. [...] »
Original excerpt 2 : « Chapitre XXVIII.Quand je revins à la vie, mon visage était mouillé, mais mouillé de larmes. Combien dura cet état d'insensibilité, je ne saurais le dire. Je n'avais plus aucun moyen de me rendre compte du temps. Jamais solitude ne fut semblable à la mienne, jamais abandon si complet ! Après ma chute, j'avais perdu beaucoup de sang. Je m'en sentais inondé ! Ah! combien je regrettai de n'être pas mort << et que ce fut encore à faire! >> Je ne voulais plus penser. Je chassai toute idée et, vaincu par la douleur, je me roulai près de la paroi opposée. Déjà je sentais l'évanouissement me reprendre, et, avec lui, l'anéantissement suprême, quand un bruit violent vint frapper mon oreille. Il ressemblait au roulement prolongé du tonnerre, et j'entendis les ondes sonores se perdre peu à peu dans les lointaines profondeurs du gouffre. D'où provenait ce bruit? de quelque phénomène sans doute, qui s'accomplissait au sein du massif terrestre. L'explosion d'un gaz, ou la chute de quelque puissante assise du globe. J'écoutai encore. Je voulus savoir si ce bruit se renouvellerait. Un quart d'heure se passa. Le silence régnait dans la galerie, Je n'entendais même plus les battements de mon coeur. Tout a coup mon oreille, appliquée par hasard sur la muraille, crut surprendre des paroles vagues, insaisissables, lointaines. Je tressaillis. << C'est une hallucination! >> pensais-je. Mais non. En écoutant avec plus d'attention, j'entendis réellement un murmure de voix. Mais de comprendre ce qui se disait, c'est ce que ma faiblesse ne me permit pas. Cependant on parlait. J'en étais certain. J'eus un instant la crainte que ces paroles ne fussent les miennes, rapportées par un écho. Peut-être avais-je crié à mon insu? Je fermai fortement les lèvres et j'appliquai de nouveau mon oreille à la paroi. << Oui, certes, on parle! on parle! >> En me portant même à quelques pieds plus loin, le long de la muraille, j'entendis plus distinctement. Je parvins à saisir des mots incertains, bizarres, incompréhensibles. Ils m'arrivaient comme des paroles prononcées à voix basse, murmurées, pour ainsi dire. Le mot << forlorad >> était plusieurs fois répété, et avec un accent de douleur. Que signifiait-il? Qui le prononçait? Mon oncle ou Hans, évidemment. Mais si je les entendais, ils pouvaient donc m'entendre. << A moi! criai-je de toutes mes forces, à moi! >> J'écoutai, j'épiai dans l'ombre une réponse, un cri, un soupir. Rien ne se fit entendre. Quelques minutes se passèrent. Tout un monde d'idées avait éclos dans mon esprit. Je pensai que ma voix affaiblie ne pouvait arriver jusqu'à mes compagnons. << Car ce sont eux, répétai-je. Quels autres hommes seraient enfouis à trente lieues sous terre? >> Je me remis à écouter. En promenant mon oreille sur la paroi, je trouvai un point mathématique où les voix paraissaient atteindre leur maximum d'intensité. Le mot << forlorad >> revint encore à mon oreille, puis ce roulement de tonnerre qui m'avait tiré de ma torpeur. << Non, dis-je, non. Ce n'est point à travers le massif que ces voix se font entendre. La paroi est faite de granit; elle ne permettrait pas à la plus forte détonation de la traverser! Ce bruit arrive par la galerie même! Il faut qu'il y ait là un effet d'acoustique tout particulier! >> J'écoutai de nouveau, et cette fois, oui! cette fois, j'entendis mon nom distinctement jeté à travers l'espace! C'etait mon oncle qui le prononçait? Il causait avec le guide, et le mot << forlorad >> était un mot danois! Alors je compris tout. Pour me faire entendre il fallait précisement parler le long de cette muraille qui servirait à conduire ma voix comme le fil de fer conduit l'électricité. Mais je n'avais pas de temps a perdre. Que mes compagnons se fussent éloignés de quelques pas et le phénomène d'acoustique eut été détruit. Je m'approchai donc de la muraille, et je prononçai ces mots, aussi distinctement que possible: << Mon oncle Lidenbrock! >> J'attendis dans la plus vive anxiété. Le son n'a pas une rapidité extrême. La densité des couches d'air n'accroît même pas sa vitesse; elle n'augmente que son intensité. Quelques secondes, des siècles, se passèrent, et enfin ces paroles arrivèrent à mon oreille. << Axel, Axel! est-ce toi? >> ............................. << Oui! oui! >> repondis-je! [...] ............................. << II faut d'abord savoir quelle distance nous sépare. >> ............................. << Cela est facile. >> ............................. << Vous avez votre chronomètre? >> ............................. << Oui. >> ............................. << Eh bien, prenez-le. Prononcez mon nom en notant exactement la seconde où vous parlerez. Je le répéterai, et vous observerez également le moment précis auquel vous arrivera ma réponse. >> ............................. << Bien, et la moitié du temps compris entre ma demande et ta réponse indiquera celui que ma voix emploie pour arriver jusqu'à toi .>> ............................. << C'est cela, mon oncle >> ............................. << Es-tu prêt? >> ............................. << Oui. >> ............................. << Eh bien, fais attention, je vais prononcer ton nom. >> ............................. J'appliquai mon oreille sur la paroi, et dès que le mot <> me parvint, je repondis immédiatement << Axel, >> puis j'attendis. ............................. << Quarante secondes,>> dit alors mon oncle; il s'est écoulé quarante secondes entre les deux mots; le son met donc vingt secondes à monter. Or, à mille vingt pieds par seconde, cela fait vingt mille quatre cents pieds, ou une lieue et demie et un huitième. >> ............................. << Une lieue et demie! >> murmurai-je. [...] Telles furent les dernières paroles que j'entendis. Cette surprenante conversation faite au travers de la masse terrestre, échangée à plus d'une lieue de distance, se termina sur ces paroles d'espoir! Je fis une prière de reconnaissance à Dieu, car il m'avait conduit parmi ces immensités sombres au seul point peut-être où la voix de mes compagnons pouvait me parvenir. Cet effet d'acoustique très etonnant s'expliquait facilement par les seules lois physiques; il provenait de la forme du couloir et de la conductibilité de la roche; il y a bien des exemples de cette propagation de sons non perceptibles aux espaces intermédiaires. Je me souvins qu'en maint endroit ce phénomène fut observé, entre autres, dans la galerie intérieure du dome de Saint-Paul a Londres, et surtout au milieu de curieuses cavernes de Sicile, ces latomies situées près de Syracuse, dont la plus merveilleuse en ce genre est connue sous le nom d'Oreille de Denys. Ces souvenirs me revinrent à l'esprit, et je vis clairement que, puisque la voix de mon oncle arrivait jusqu'à moi, aucun obstacle n'existait entre nous. En suivant le chemin du son, je devais logiquement arriver comme lui, si les forces ne me trahissaient pas en route. »
Source : Verne, Jules (1864), “Voyage au Centre de la Terre”, Hetzel, 1867.
Source : Verne, Jules (1864), “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, in "Boys Journal", 12 monthly installments, 1870, Henry Vickers, London.
Urls : http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4791 (last visited ) http://www.readbookonline.net/read/12058/29608/ (last visited ) http://classicauthors.net/Verne/Interior/Interior28.html (last visited )

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