The White Ship and the Effect of Gravitational Time Dilation

the_white_ship_by_sleepwalkerx51                                                                        The White Ship by Sleepwalkerx51 (

When Basil Elton crosses the bridge of moonbeams to reach the White Ship, he is leaving our Universe and entering that of the Dreamlands. While the fundamental forces of nature in the Dreamlands are very similar to ours, there do appear to be some very minor differences. Such differences, however slight, could explain the strange ways (at least to us) how things operate in the Dreamlands.

Once on the White Ship, Elton and the bearded travel past many lands with the first being the land of Zar, where “dwell all the dreams and thoughts of beauty that come to men once and then are forgotten.” The ship sailed past the splendid terraces and phosphorescence oceans of Zar; the Captain says those who go to Zar never return to their homeland. Zar may be an inter-dimensional connection or bridge to another Universe, neither ours or the Dreamlands. Entering Zar may led one to a Universe where life as we know it cannot exist.

After Zar were the mighty spires of Thalarion, City of a Thousand Wonders. According to the Captain “only daemons and mad things that are no longer men” live in the City Thalarion and it is ruled by the eidolon Lathi. Obviously, while Thalarion appears wondrous, something in the City either kills people or drives them insane. It should also be noted that through this voyage the White Ship is following a bird with glossy plumage that “matched the sky.”

thalarion_by_hecatonchir314-d46487g Thalarion by Hecatonchir314 (

After Thalarion came Xura, the Land of Pleasures Unattained. While the shores of this land was composed of lovely groves and woodlands and beautiful singing and laughter could be heard, the wind from Xura brought a horrible odor “…with the lethal, charnel odor of plague-stricken towns and uncovered cemeteries.” Xura may be a City of ghouls that have somehow created an optical illusion to lure unsuspecting sailors to the shore.

Finally, following the azure bird the White Ship finally comes to the harbor of Sona-Nyl where “…there is neither time nor space, neither suffering nor death…” If this is to be taken literally, then Space-Time as we know may not operate either specifically in Sona-Nyl or possibly in the entire Dreamlands Universe. This will be discussed in more detail when we cover the Dreamlands in the future; however, this idea is an important component to the conclusion of this tale. It should be noted that Elton lived in Sona-Nyl for many years.

sona_nyl-2011-02-15-tws-001-864 The harbor of Sona-Nyl by Jason Thompson (

While in Sona-Nyl Elton becomes restless and he starts to see the azure bird and hears tales about Cathuria, the Land of Hope. Elton convinces the Captain of the White Ship to take him to the Cathuria, which lies beyond the basalt pillars of the West. Even though Elton is very content in Sona-Nyl, he feels he would experience unheard of delights in Cathuria and that it is far more beautiful than Sona-Nyl. Was this yearning of Elton’s, to go to Cathuria his subconscious telling him that he did not belong in the Dreamlands? The Captain warns Elton that the seas are perilous where the Cathuria lies but yet he still agrees to take him to the Land of Hope.

the_white_ship_by_verreaux-d33gbo6                     The White Ship by Verreaux (

After 31 days on the sea the crew of the White Ship beheld the basalt pillars of the West and Elton began to hear signing the closer the came to the pillars. The pillars were enshrouded in mist and once the ship sailed between them the mist lifted and the singing ceased. Beyond the pillars there was no Cathuria. Instead what they found was “…the distant thunder of falling waters, and to our eyes appears on the far horizon ahead the titanic spray of a monstrous cataract, wherein the oceans of the world drop down to abysmal nothingness.” The White Ship fell over the massive falls and amidst the crashing Elton could hear the shrieks of men and things that were not men. Later, after the crash, Elton realized he was on the platform of his lighthouse. He climbed into the lighthouse and determined that based on calendar of the wall and the time of night he was only gone for about an hour. All of the years Elton spent in the Dreamlands translated to only less than an hour in our Space-Time. The next morning Elton found some wreckage on the rocks, a single shattered of white spar (mast of a ship), at the base of the lighthouse as well as a strange dead azure bird. Elton never saw the White Ship or any other visitor from the Dreamlands ever again.

pillars_maija_pietikainen_www-epilogue-net                                                     The Basalt Pillars of the West by Maija Pietikainen (

The large difference in time, where years pass in the Dreamlands but only less than an hour elapsed in our Universe, may be due to a multiverse version of gravitational time dilation. First described by Albert Einstein in the early 20th century as a result of his Theories of Relativity, gravitational time dilation is essentially the fact that the weaker the gravitational potential (or the farther away from a source of gravitation), the faster time passes. In turn, the stronger the gravitational field (or the closer one is a source of gravitation), the slower time passes. This has actually been demonstrated to occur. For example, time differences in nanoseconds have been measured between atomic clocks at varying altitudes. More impressive, due to its large gravitational effects, the earth’s core is approximately 2.5 years younger relative to its surface ( Is it possible that the gravitational field in the Dreamlands in general is weaker compared to our Universe, resulting in a multiverse version of gravitational time dilation? We will talk more about time and gravity in the Dreamlands in future articles; however, it would be an interesting experiment to have a set of ghouls each with an atomic clock, have one enter the Dreamlands and come back and then compare their atomic clocks.

thewhiteashipillustratedbyjason-eckhardt565                               The White Ship, illustrated by Jason Eckhardt

Finally, when the White Ship goes over the edge of the massive waterfalls, this gives the impression that the Dreamlands is a “flat planet.” Indeed, most of the exoplanets discovered over the last 10 years that are located within the proposed “habitable zone” are larger than Earth, so the Dreamlands world may be substantially larger than our planet. I hypothesize that the Dreamlands is not a “flat world” but instead may be substantially larger than Earth and/or has not yet been explored the way we have explored and mapped our planet. Additionally, I hypothesize that the Dreamlands continent may be an incredibly larger plateau and the “edge of the world” may be a larger oceanic version of the African Rift Valley Falls found on our world.

main_africa_air_great_rift_valley1_www-easternafrica-wordpress-com       African Great Rift Valley (

If the Dreamlands world is moderately to substantially larger than Earth, then it’s gravitational time dilation should be slower than ours, not faster as documented in “The White Ship.” However, as previously mentioned slight differences in the fundamental forces in the Dreamlands compared to ours could explain these large differences in time. Thus, even though the Dreamlands world could be more mass relative to the Earth (and so all things being equal time would run slower in the Dreamlands), differences in the basic properties of the mass, energy and forces may alter the Space-Time of the Dreamlands relative to our Universe. Of course as previously suggested, the Dreamlands world may be a similar size as the Earth and just hasn’t yet been completed mapped.

CaptainoftheWhiteShip_Skeelar_dev.jpg                     Captain of the White Ship by Skeelar (

Obviously, some comparative investigations, simultaneously run in both our Universe and the Dreamlands, would help to support or disprove these proposed hypotheses of the Dreamlands. Next time we further explore time and the Dreamlands in H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Silver Key.” Thank you – Fred.


2 thoughts on “The White Ship and the Effect of Gravitational Time Dilation

  1. Interesting to note that in “Some Notes on Interplanetary Fiction” HPL would later note:

    “Equal scientific care must be given to our representation of events on the alien planet. Everything must be in strict accord with the known or assumed nature of the orb in question—surface gravity, axial inclination, length of day and year, aspect of sky, etc.—and the atmosphere must be built up with significant details conducing to verisimilitude and realism.”

    Since White Ship came out only a few years after Einstein’s theory of relativity I’m not sure if HPL would have read it yet (I’m sure it’s mentioned in one of his letters somewhere) but if he had known about general relativity I’m sure it would have been on his mind when thinking of time differences and it would have been in line with his own views on more materialistic speculative fiction settings.

    Actually on the very loose subject of science applied to trips to HPL’s other worlds: have you ever come across any reference HPL made to Robert Goddard and his rocket work? I assume that he would have been interested in a fellow New Englander’s space advocacy, but at least in the various letters and writings of HPL’s I’ve been able to gone through, I’ve never seen anything on Goddard, or any type of rocketry at all.

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