Friday, August 24, 2007

Thunder Island and the Smoke of Eternity

In the second Doc Savage story, "The Land of Terror", Doc and his crew travel to Thunder Island where there are dinosaurs, primitive mammals, and other extinct flora and fauna. It is also on this island that the mineral needed to make the "Smoke of Eternity" liquid is located. This liquid is capable of dissolving virtually anything with the exception of an unnamed metal in which it is stored.

Early in the story, Doc developed a theory about what the "Smoke of Eternity" was:

"I am not sure what the Smoke of Eternity is," Doc explained. "But I have
an idea what it could be. When the substance dissolves anything, there is a
weird electrical display. This leads me to believe it operates through the
disintegration of atoms. In other words, the dissolving is simply a disruption
of the atomic structure."

"I thought it was generally believed there would be a great explosion once
the atom was shattered!" Johnny murmured.

"That was largely disproved by recent accomplishments of scientists who
have succeeded in cracking the atom," Doc corrected. "I have experimented
extensively along that line myself. There is no explosion, for the very simple
reason that it takes as much energy to shatter the atom as is released."

This is another bit of obfuscation. Indeed, some early experiments did show that it took as much energy to shatter some atoms as was released in the process. The atoms used were of elements somewhat heavier than Iron. Iron has the most stable nucleus of any element. With elements that are heavier than Iron, breaking up their nuclei (i.e., Nuclear Fission) releases energy. With elements that are lighter than Iron, the process of breaking them apart absorbs energy. For those lighter elements, it is fusing the nuclei together (I.e., Nuclear Fusion) that releases energy. As can be expected, the further away from Iron you get on the periodic table, the more energy can be generated by either fusing light elements or fissioning heavy ones to approach the configuration of Iron.

The nuclear fission experiments that had been done by the 1920s and early 1930s did not succeed in releasing more energy than was put in. It would not be until later in the decade that it was known that heavy atoms of certain Uranium isotopes spontaneously broke down and released thermal neutrons which could catalyse the fission of other uranium atoms releasing further neutrons. This did not require the input of any energy and opened the possibility of creating a spontaneous chain reaction within the Uranium that could propagate fast enough to release an almost inconceivable amount of energy. It was this theoretical possibility that led US Physicists to prompt Albert Einstein to write a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt warning that Germany could develop an atomic bomb. This letter eventually led to the Manhattan Project.

So Doc's theory at that time represented the conventional wisdom in 1933. It sounded plausible, but in retrospect we know it could not be true. The "Smoke of Eternity" destroyed both heavy and light elements equally well. Was this therefore an attempt by Dent or by Doc to confuse the issue and distract people away from what the "Smoke of Eternity" really was? More on this later.

In the story, Thunder Island is on the charts just a few hundred miles from New Zealand. It is described in the story as follows:

Johnny, the geologist, visited various local sources of information and dug
up what he could on Thunder Island.

"It’s a queer place," he reported to Doc. "It’s the cone of a gigantic
active volcano. Not a speck of vegetation grows on the outside of the cone. It’s
solid rock."

Johnny looked mysterious."Here’s the strange part, Doc," he declared. "That
crater is a monster. It must be twenty miles across. And it is always filled
with steam. Great clouds of vapor hang over it. I talked to an airplane pilot
who had flown over it some years ago. He gave me an excellent

"That’s fine." Doc smiled.

"He says there’s another island, a coral atoll, about fifty miles from
Thunder Island," Johnny continued. "This is inhabited by a tribe of half-savage
natives. He recommended that for our headquarters."

This description defies credibility. Volcanic soil is notoriously fertile and it is not credible that there would be no vegetation on the outside of the cone. But if one wanted to conceal the actual identity of the island, then we would expect a bogus description. Considering what Doc and his crew found there, this would not be surprising. They had every reason to want to hide this place from curious explorers and those seeking the secret of the "Smoke of Eternity".

What is especially curious is that there are several different sources that confirm the existence of a volcanic island in the Western Pacific or Eastern Indian Oceans with dinosaurs and other weird creatures. Probably the most famous source of information is the story of King Kong. On an uncharted island way off the shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean, Carl Denham and his associates discover dinosaurs, hostile human natives, and a giant ape over 25 feet tall. This land is known as Skull Island because of a huge rock outcropping that looks like a human skull. Denham and his associates trapped the ape, brought him to New York and precipitated both a tragedy and a catastrophe.

The most recent version of the King Kong story indicated that there were cyclopean ruins on Skull Island built by an unknown civilization. it also showed that the flora and fauna on Skull Island did not exactly conform to the creatures that have been found n the fossil record, but are in fact descendants of them that have evolved substantially from the forms with which paleontologists are familiar. (See the book "The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island" by the WETA Workshop.)

Another famous source came form stories told by American GIs who had fought in the Pacific theater. Many of them claimed to have landed on a place called Dinosaur Island. In at least one case, a giant mosasaur was claimed to have sunk a US Cruiser killing itself in the process. These allegations were documented in the DC Comics series "Star Spangled War Stories":

In 1918, Edgar Rice Burroughs had written a trilogy of stories about an island called Caspak in the far southern Atlantic with dinosaurs, cavemen, and other weird animals. The stories were "The Land that Time Forgot", "The People that Time Forgot", and "Out of Time's Abyss". The rationale that ERB gives for the flora and fauna of the island makes little sense. (Even though it sounded very much like that given in the Super Saga "The Time Terror". But that is another blog.)

There were also innumerable stories and legends during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s depicting such an island in the southern portions of the Oceans.

Most notable was Farou Island which is where the monster Gojira (mispronounced in English as 'Godzilla') originated along with other kaiju monsters such as Rodan, Anguirus, Manda, Minya, Gorosaurus, Spiega, Kamakiras, and Mothra. In the film, "King Kong vs. Godzilla" we are told that Farou island was in fact where King Kong had originated making it identical to Skull Island. (In the several Toho films on Godzilla and other monsters, this same island is identified by various names such as Mondo Island, Ogasawara Island, Infant Island, and Monster Island.) There are ruins on the Island that are claimed to be those of the Mu and Lemuria civilizations which allegedly cultivated and bred dinosaurs. It should be noted that just like Kong, most of these kaiju are singular with no discernible progenitors or progeny. This will be explained below.

So it is clear that there was SOMEPLACE in the southern oceans where dinosaurs and other exotic creatures could be found and that the US government knew about it. We can only speculate as to why and how the exact location of this island has been withheld from the public.

We should also remember that H.P. Lovecraft in his story "The Call of Cthulhu" located the lost island city of R'lyeh where "dead Cthulhu lies dreaming" in the South Pacific at 47°9′S, 126°43′W. August Derleth gave the coordinates for R'lyeh as 49°51′S, 128°34′W in his story "The Black Island". Both of these locations are as isolated from the continents as one can get and --considering what is hidden at R'lyeh -- I am not surprised that this exact location was not given.

But in any case, R'lyeh had cyclopean ruins and exotic flora and fauna. It makes one wonder if there are one or more islands in that southern region that contain mysteries of both biology and prehistory.

The islands in the South Pacific are of various ages. Among the Hawaiian Archipelago, the oldest portion is the central volcano on Suiko which dates to 65 million years ago. The youngest portion is the volcano Manua Kea which is dated to ~400,000 years ago.

What about Thunder Island? How old was it?

My sources indicate that Monk and Johnny had pioneered in radionuclide dating to determine the absolute age of rocks. Samples of rock from Thunder Island analysed by them indicated that it was 15 million years old give or take 1 million years. This presented them with some problems.

First of all, their estimate for the end of the Cretaceous period when the last of the dinosaurs died out was 64.7 ± 1.2 million years. This meant that Thunder Island did not exist until 50 million years after the dinosaurs were extinct. So how did the dinosaurs get there?

Secondly, the flora and fauna on the island came from several different time periods. For example, the Tyrannosaurs and Triceratops were from the Cretaceous whereas the Brontosaurs and Stegosaurs were from the Mesozoic which was 50 million years earlier. Also included were ancient mammals that did not exist until the Pleistocene which was after the demise of the dinosaurs.

Finally, the 'Smoke of Eternity' was a very exotic material that occurred nowhere else on earth.

The only other place on Earth where dinosaurs were still to be found was Maple White Land in the Matta Grosso. (That was true in 1933. Later on Doc would discover dinosaurs in the far north of Canada in "The Time Terror" and deep underground in "The Other World".) I had always been assumed that Maple White Land was the last refuge of the dinosaurs that had somehow escaped the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous. But the mix of flora and fauna there was also a mixture of creatures from several disparate time periods.

There could be only one inescapable conclusion: Thunder Island and Maple White Land were not natural occurrences, but ARTIFACTS created by something no earlier than 15 million years ago.

My sources confirm that Thunder Island was not a mere volcanic cone, but a much larger land mass with large ancient ruins of unfathomable age. They also confirm that this was in fact the same as the "Skull Island" from the King Kong story and the "Farou Island" of the Toho films .

So what was Thunder/Skull/Farou Island designed for? I submit that it was a biological laboratory where different creatures from Earths past were created and then studied in the wild. The exact motives for doing this are unclear but there appears to have been some odd glowing presences in both the island and the central lake in Maple White Land which my sources indicate represented Shoggoths.

Shoggoths were artificial amoeba-like lifeforms created billions of years ago by the Elder Things described by H. P. Lovecraft in his story "At the Mountains of Madness". They are enormous spherical entities at least 15 feet in diameter that can mimic the biological structures of other creatures such as eyes, ears and limbs. They must have been skulking around throughout Earth's History storing the genetic information of all the species that have arisen on Earth. For some reason, liberated Shoggoths in recent eons began creating experimental biological habitats where they created new forms of life and resurrected some old ones. We suspect that they are responsible for some of the weird biological monstrosities that have turned up from time to time around the world such as Kong, Gojira, and Rodan. Exactly why they have done this remains a mystery.

It also appears that they are responsible for the unusual minerals deposited at Thunder/Skull /Farou Island. After all, they were the servants of the Elder Things and they were responsible for constructing and maintaining the great cities in the Antarctic for their masters.

It would not be surprising if the civilizations from Mu and Lemuria did not themselves harvest some of these beasts and experiment with them.

The "Smoke of Eternity" it turns out in not a natural element but actually a kind of nuclear factory. The so-called 'atoms' of the smoke are able to absorb and fuse lighter elements such as hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen to create showers of 'negative matter' particles.

Negative matter is even more exotic than anti-matter. When matter and anti-matter come into contact, they annihilate each other and are converted into pure energy. Both matter and anti-matter have normal mass and so the energy released at their mutual annihilation is governed by the equation E=mc2 in which 'm' is the sum total of the masses of the matter and anti-matter components. Negative matter has negative mass and when it makes contact with either matter or anti-matter, the particles mutually annihilate each other but since the masses are of opposite signs, they cancel each other out and there is no residual energy released.

The shower of negative particles from the "Smoke of Eternity" causes particles and atoms to just vanish. This reaction destroys chemical bonds and matter literally falls apart into dust and vapor. It appears that the reaction can be suppressed by a powerful magnetic field which causes the atom-sized nuclear factories to "shut down". The metal capsules and containers used to contain the "Smoke" were highly magnetic.

Why the Shoggoths manufactured the stuff is still a mystery but it can be used as a devastating weapon.

Contrary to the ending in the story "The Land of Terror" Doc Savage did not destroy the weird habitat of Thunder Island. This was reported in the story to preclude anyone from looking for Thunder Island. He did not learn of the Shoggoth connection until much later. These Shoggoths represent an irreplaceable resource. They contain the entire genetic history of life on Earth. They also are utterly alien and indeed dangerous. No one has been able to communicate with them. For this reason it is safer to remain aloof from them, especially since they have a disintegration weapon of such immense power as the "Smoke of Eternity".

In view of all this, I think we should acknowledge that Thunder Island was in fact the mysterious habitat of the Shoggoths that many others have documented and visited in the last century. And for simplicity sake, I suggest that we adopt the name "Monster Island" for this place.

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