The Silver Key (www.redhorsewebdesign.com)
This will be the last article for “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” written by H.P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price, at least for a while. In this concluding article, we review the last stint of Carter’s journey back to Earth from dying Yaddith. We previously discussed his travels past Kynarth and Yuggoth, where Kynarth may actually be a trans-Neptunian Object called Charon and thought of as a moon for the dwarf-planet Yuggoth (called Pluto by most humans). Here we focus on some of the main planets Carter passes by on his way home to Earth. Again, the specific planets are cited in this passage:
“He saw Kynarth and Yuggoth on the rim, passed close to Neptune and glimpsed the hellish white fungi that spot it, learned an untellable secrete from the close-glimpsed mists of Jupiter and saw the horror on one of the satellites, and gazed at the Cyclopean ruins that sprawl over Mars’ ruddy disc.”
Neptune is the outermost planet of our solar system and is one of the two ice giants (the other being Uranus). It is 2.8 billion miles or 30.07 A.U. away from the sun. It takes Neptune 165 Earth years to make a complete orbit around the sun and a “day” on Neptune is approximately 16 hours (solarsystem.nasa.gov). As we have previously cited, Lovecraft called the discovery of Neptune “…one of the most remarkable achievements of astronomical science, being no mere accident, but the result of long and extremely precise calculation” (Collected Essays: Science, Volume 3 by S.T. Joshi, 2005) and he was correct. Before the planet was actually discovered, its existence was theoretically predicted by “reverse calculating” the irregularities in the motion of Uranus.
In the passage above Lovecraft specifically mentions “…the hellish white fungi that spot it…” What is particularly interesting about this is that more than half a century later, in the summer of 1989, the Voyager 2 spacecraft conducted a flyby of Neptune and its moon Triton. Voyager 2 passed by Neptune’s north pole at a distance of about 3,000 miles (4,950 kilometers), which is the closest humanity or its technology has gotten to this icy, outer world.
During the Voyager 2 mission the Great Dark Spot was identified on Neptune. Such Great Dark Spots are thought to form and dissipate over the course of several years. Indeed in 2016, another Great Dark Spot was identified on Neptune with the Hubble Space Telescope. These Dark Spots are high-pressure systems of anticyclonic storms and what is particularly interesting is that they are typically accompanied by bright companion clouds.
The Great Dark Spot is thought to be a high-pressure hole in the methane-cloud atmosphere is Neptune. The bright companion clouds are higher in the atmosphere, at or just below the tropopause layer, while the Darks Spots are in the lower altitudes of the troposphere. The high-pressure hole of the Great Dark Spots may concentrate the methane along the edges of the Spots, possibly also generating heat. Is it possible that these atmospheric ecotones of higher concentrations of slightly warmer methane form a habitat conducive for the hellish white fungi? In addition, why is the fungi called “hellish?” Is it possible the hellish conditions are in reference to these storms having winds of up to 1,500 miles per hour (2,400 kilometers per hour), which are some of the fastest winds in the Solar System? Or does it have to do with something related to the white fungus itself? Maybe it was something Carter witnessed as he passed by Neptune.
Are Neptunian fungi similar to Earth fungi such as this one?
As Carter passed Jupiter he “…learned an untellable secrete from the close-glimpsed mists of Jupiter…” The atmosphere if Jupiter is composed primarily of hydrogen (90%) with helium accounting for almost 10% and other gases making up the remaining < 1%, including ammonia, sulfur, methane and water vapor. What untellable secrete the mists of Jupiter held only Carter knows; however, maybe Carter passed through the mists, down into the lower portions of the planet’s atmosphere to discover this untellable secret.
In addition to Jupiter itself, Carter also “…saw the horror on one of the satellites…” This may have been in reference to the insect philosophers that crawl proudly over the fourth moon of Jupiter, as cited in “Beyond the Walls of Sleep.” The “fourth moon” may be in reference to Jupiter’s moon Callisto, the fourth of the Galilean moons. However, of the four Galilean moons, Europa has the highest potential for harboring life. It has a thick crust of ice covering a liquid ocean that may possess life. With that said, the horror may be on either of these moons or even on one of the other 65 satellites of Jupiter.
One of Jupiter’s moons – Europa
Finally, as Carter approached Earth and passed Mars he “…gazed at the Cyclopean ruins that sprawl over Mars’ ruddy disc.” In general, Lovecraft was somewhat skeptical of life on Mars but he did not think it was out of the realm of possibility. However, other than Carter’s flyby Mars, Lovecraft makes no other reference to this planet in his tales. Thus, the Cyclopean ruins may be the remnants of an ancient civilization. Additionally, the cyclopean aspect of the ruins may indicate that they are spread over a large portion of land, similar to the Antarctician city of the Elder Things in At the Mountains of Madness. Thus, these Martian ruins may be spread over the largest volcano on Mars, Olympus Mons, which is also the Solar System’s tallest planetary mountain with a diameter of 374 miles and a total height of 15.5 miles. This makes Olympus Mons three time larger than Mount Everest and most of the peaks at the Mountains of Madness. Thus, the ancient, Cyclopean ruins that Carter observed on Mars may have been scattered over the Olympus Mons.
An insect philosopher from one of the moons of Jupiter by Michael Bukowski (www.yog-blogsoth.blogspot.com)
Again, this is last article on “Through the Gates of the Silver Key.” At least for a while. Next time we will discuss World War I submarine technology in H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Temple.” Thank you – Fred.